COLUMBIA -- University of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier not only heard the boos as the sixth-ranked Gamecocks struggled on offense against Vanderbilt, but they surprised him.
The boos came early as the Gamecocks committed two turnovers in their first five plays as the Commodores took a 17-0 first-quarter lead en route to a 17-6 victory Saturday.
"That's the first time that's happened, isn't it?" Spurrier said Sunday. "I just assumed they were booing me and the coaches for a bad play call."
Spurrier said he hoped the fans weren't booing the players, which he feels is out of line.
"I've always sort of gone under the thought that professional players get paid. So you can boo them all you want, and they accept that," he said. "But college kids are amateurs, and I don't think you should boo them."
Not that Spurrier was trying to say the fans didn't have a right to be upset.
"We had some sporadic play there, and that's just the way it happened," he said. "But I would hope the booing would cease, and hopefully we won't give them a lot of reasons to boo. But I hope that doesn't continue."
Third and punt -- For the second straight week USC was one for 12 on third down. But in a 21-15 win over North Carolina most of USC's failures came on third-and-short. Against VU, the Gamecocks faced third-and-long time and again.
"It seems like we had third-and-15 all day," Spurrier said.
Not quite, but close. Of USC's 13 third downs, 10 were for seven yards or more, with USC needing 11 yards or more on five third downs.
USC had made 42.7 percent of its third downs before the last two games and had punted 27 times. USC has punted 15 times in its last two games - exactly half its total number a year ago.
Dropping in polls -- USC fell from sixth to 15th in The Associated Press poll and eighth to 17th in the USA TODAY poll by the coaches. The Gamecocks also fell from sixth to 17th in this week's BCS rankings.
"That's fair," Spurrier said. "One of our goals is to finish in the top 25 this year, and we've got to play a lot better if we hope to do that."
Scoring drought -- USC has scored just six points in its last six quarters, managing just two field goals in its last 23 possessions.
How does that stack up in Spurrier's career? In 217 games, Spurrier's teams have failed to score at least 10 points just 10 times.
Not an option -- Spurrier said he hasn't considered taking the red shirt off freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia given the team's offensive woes.
"He doesn't really know enough right now to go play," Spurrier said. "He needs a good full spring practice and all that kind of stuff to see what he can do."
Briefly -- The Volunteers had a rare Sunday night practice in hopes of quickly putting their 41-17 loss at Alabama behind them. "Just get it washed and get the corrections made," UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. ... The 17 points were a season-low for UT. ... Fulmer said WR Josh Briscoe (concussion) would be re-evaluated later in the week while WR Lucas Taylor (sore toe) should be able to play. Taylor went into the weekend leading the SEC in receiving yards per game (103.0). He had just two catches for 15 yards.
The Greenville News