South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier shouts instructions to his players during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. South Carolina won the game 28-25.(AP Photo/John Raoux)The Associated Press
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) makes a move to get to the ball past Central Florida tight end Justin Tukes during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)The Associated Press
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw walks the sidelines after he was injured on a play against Central Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)The Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Whenever Steve Spurrier and No. 13 South Carolina need to get back on track, Kentucky's usually there to point the way.
The Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) will look to return to form Saturday night, again against the struggling Wildcats (1-3, 0-1).
South Carolina started the season in the top 10 and figured to contend for the SEC and national championships behind a fearsome defense led by All-American Jadeveon Clowney. Instead, the Gamecocks are two games behind Georgia in the league title chase and questioning the defenders nearly every week after squandering big leads the past two games.
Spurrier's hoping Kentucky once more gets his team heading in the right direction.
"We have some coaching to do if we are going to turn around this season," Spurrier said. "We have been on the verge of really blowing a couple games, and we know that, us coaches know that. We are going to try to coach a whole bunch better and see if we can't be fundamentally sound if we get in position to put a team away."
Facing Kentucky could be a good start.
The Gamecocks have won 12 of the past 13 in the series and Spurrier is 19-1 all-time against the Wildcats. In Spurrier's South Carolina's debut season of 2005, the Gamecocks were 1-3 when a 44-16 win over Kentucky began a five-game win streak in what was their best-ever showing in the SEC with a -5-3 conference mark.
Two years ago the last time Kentucky came to Williams-Brice Stadium, Connor Shaw took over as starting quarterback on a fulltime basis and led South Carolina to a 54-3 pile-on over the Wildcats a week after the Gamecocks fell to Auburn — the team's last loss at home the past two seasons.
The Gamecocks used a second-rally to rush past Kentucky 38-17 and continue its second straight 11-win season.
And it sounds like first-year Kentucky coach Mark Stoops isn't too confident about his team's chances this season. He was angered about his players' showing after Wednesday's practice, criticizing their effort, attitude and approach toward their third straight ranked opponent.
"If's effort, it's mental, it's preparation, it's everything," Stoops said.
"This is about as frustrated as I've been probably, because we're in a tough stretch getting ready to play a tough game on the road in a hostile environment and with that attitude, we're going to get rolled," the coach continued. "That happened the last time we were down there, right?"
5 THINGS TO WATCH WHEN No. 13 SOUTH CAROLINA PLAYS KENTUCKY
SHAW HEALTHY: Quarterback Connor Shaw was in so much pain when he left with a shoulder injury early in the UCF game that Spurrier thought he was finished for the season. Trainers told Spurrier the QB would certainly miss two, maybe three games. Instead, Shaw was throwing deep balls Monday and has been cleared to start. Shaw's had his way with Kentucky, too. He's completed 41 of 57 passes for 459 yards and six TDs with zero interceptions. Shaw's also rushed for 127 yards in three Kentucky games.
KENTUCKY D: Kentucky has tightened things up on defense, especially against the pass. The Wildcats are second in the SEC and eighth nationally in pass defense, allowing 175 yards a game. Linebacker Avery Williamson leads the league with 42 tackles while defensive end Za'Darius Smith is second in the SEC with 4 ½ sacks.
SC DAVIS ON THE RUN: South Carolina sophomore Mike Davis has put to rest any fears the Gamecocks would struggle in the run game without Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles, the teams' leading rushers the past four seasons. Davis has had three 100-yard games this fall and leads the SEC with 127 yards a game. He's also shown the speed neither Lattimore nor Miles had, breaking off four runs of 50 yards or more already this season.
KENTUCKY'S TOUGH STRETCH: The Wildcats are trying to hang on as they go through one of the most difficult monthlong stretches in college football. They fell to then No. 7 Louisville 27-13 and followed that with a 24-7 defeat by No. 20 Florida. Up next after South Carolina? Top-ranked Alabama. The Wildcats haven't beaten a ranked team on the road since 2002 when they topped then-No. 17 Louisville 22-17.
THE OL' NICE COACH?: Spurrier apparently wants to be nicer to his players and assistants. Spurrier pulled his televised coaching show last week because he said he was "too negative" toward the team after defeating UCF. Spurrier said Wednesday his younger players were doing plenty of good things and he'll focus on that going forward.