NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Steve Spurrier has a chance at his 202nd win as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference when his 14th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks visit Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
Derek Mason just got his first at Vanderbilt, needing a missed 22-yard field goal to start celebrating.
A win in the Gamecocks' first road game this season would push Spurrier out of a tie with former Georgia coach Vince Dooley and into sole possession of second behind only Paul "Bear" Bryant (292). Yet the old ball coach has been busy trying to keep his Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1) from getting too confident after edging Georgia last week 38-35.
"We've got a lot of room for improvement if we're going to have a chance to have a big year," Spurrier said. "So hopefully our guys know that. I think they do."
Mason has had his own hands full at Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1) where he's played 31 combined freshmen — most in the nation — and 21 first-time starters taking over a program coming off consecutive 9-4 seasons capped by bowl wins. Spurrier has praised Mason as a defensive coach both with the Commodores and at his old job as defensive coordinator at Stanford.
"Those guys are well coached and in position," Spurrier said of the Commodores. "They don't make mental mistakes on defense. I haven't watched their offense that much, but their defense looks tough. It looks like a real good one."
That's Spurrier being kind to an SEC opponent. Vanderbilt didn't score its first offensive touchdown until the second quarter of its third game, and the Commodores had to rally from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Massachusetts 34-31 last week.
Mason said Spurrier now is using a two-back offense this season focused on running over defenses, not that old Fun-n-Gun passing attack. Mason said he appreciates the kind words from Spurrier, a coach he respects but is busy with his own very young team.
"No one really cares about how young you are when they line up against you," Mason said. "They're looking to beat you. We have to continue to look at our team and say we're going to grow and we're going to make mistakes. But if you make them, make them physical and make them fast and don't make the same mistakes."