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October 12, 2010
The problem of beating the next opponent starts between the ears and flows between the lines.
Tenth-ranked South Carolina thinks it can physically handle Kentucky on Saturday, but mentally, some of the Gamecocks know they have to get over their last game before they can begin thinking about the next.
"We got something special going on right now that we're trying to work on," defensive tackle Travian Robertson said on Monday. "I think everybody knows that we've got to put this behind us."
No, Kentucky (3-3, 0-3 SEC) isn't No. 1 Alabama. But the Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1) know the Wildcats are the home team, are thinking that it may be their turn after 10 straight losses to USC and have the same kind of mobile athlete/quarterback (Randall Cobb) that was responsible for their only loss (Auburn's Cameron Newton).
So the first day of practice after the historic upset of the Crimson Tide was mostly spent on the other facets of the game. The X's and O's can wait for a minute -- Monday was the time to get the minds right.
As in, re-enforce the notion of a 24-hour after-game period. You get one day to grieve or celebrate. After that, you have another game.
"We beat the No. 1 team in the nation," free safety D.J. Swearinger said. "We just got to forget about it, but know we still have a certain amount of confidence that we can beat a lot of people, we can go forward. We just got to forget about that win and just move on."
The right statement, but one has to wonder if every one of the players on the team will be able to truly follow it. Legions of fans and students starved for football success may make that a hurdle this week.
Many players on Monday said they had already begun living the notoriety of being college football's latest giant-killer. Class on Monday featured many more handshakes, fist-bumps, pats on the back and breathless requests to have pictures taken.
It's easy to sit in a non-participatory seat and say the players simply have to flush it and move on, but these are 18-to-22-year-old kids, for the most part. Who wouldn't be enjoying the adulation of an entire campus after the biggest win in school history?
Robertson, who's been around for a while, admitted that it may be a problem. But he was already working on a plan to limit it if he saw it.
"If anybody on our team had that, we're just going to have to get them out of it," he said, flexing his pipes. "We'll see on the field, at practice, who's got the big head, because they'll start slacking. But we'll see it and we'll just correct it."
Kentucky represents a serious challenge, its offense one that has given the Gamecocks headaches for the past two years. The Wildcats are winless in SEC play, but their offense has been wonderful -- a stop or two on defense may have won two of those three losses, including one over the same Auburn team that bulldozed USC.
Got to flush Alabama. That win means nothing at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
"We don't want to look bad, in that we won a big game and then go and blow a game like this," linebacker Tony Straughter said. "Every game is a big game, but we really want to pull this out."
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