COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Steve Spurrier still loves to beat North Carolina. He'll get another chance when the sixth-ranked Gamecocks open the season against the Tar Heels on Thursday night.
Spurrier got his college football coaching start at Duke in 1987 and won all three meetings with rival North Carolina before moving on to become Florida's head coach. The Blue Devils have gone 2-21 in the series since Spurrier left to coach his alma mater after the 1989 season.
Spurrier has always been grateful that Duke gave him the chance to coach and said Sunday that it's still special when he faces the Tar Heels.
"Us Dukies back then, that was our big game. I doubt if it was for North Carolina because we did not beat them that much," Spurrier said. "But when I was there we were fortunate enough to actually beat them more than they beat us."
Spurrier's continued that touch the only time the two state schools have played since he joined South Carolina, a 21-15 Gamecock victory at Chapel Hill in 2006.
"Yeah, it is a little special when you are coaching against a team like" North Carolina, Spurrier said.
Spurrier wouldn't mind creating more special moments this season. The Gamecocks are coming off two straight 11-2 seasons — something that had never been done in program history — and feature one of the country's most talked-about players in All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
It's been nearly impossible to ignore the 6-foot-6, 274-pound junior since he sent runner Vincent Smith's helmet flying in South Carolina's Outback Bowl victory over Michigan last New Year's Day.
The Heisman Trophy talk (Clowney finished sixth in last year's balloting) began soon after and hasn't slowed up. Like former North Carolina coach Dean Smith and Tar Heel Michael Jordan, Spurrier's tried to slow down the outsized expectations surrounding the reigning Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year.
Spurrier closed public practices, in part to keep autograph hounds from pestering the good-natured Clowney on his way to and from the practice field. Clowney hasn't spoken to media since Aug. 4 and won't, by Spurrier's direction, until after Thursday night's contest.
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