Fulmer not thinking of Spurrier pay back

October 28th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Fulmer not thinking of Spurrier pay back


COLUMBIA, S.C. - If any college coach should be sick of hearing about Steve Spurrier, you'd bet it'd be Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer.
Spurrier has made a big part of his reputation - both for pointed barbs and championship football - at the Vols' expense. While at Florida, Spurrier came up with gems like, "You can't spell Citrus without U-T," and backed up those words by winning seven of 10 matchups with Fulmer.
And when Vols fans figured payback was near with Spurrier's return to college at South Carolina a season ago, the ball coach did it again. The Gamecocks broke a 12-game losing streak and won for the first time in Knoxville, 16-15, last fall.
Still, Fulmer's not focused on revenge Saturday night when his No. 8 Vols (6-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) take on Spurrier's Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2).
"I don't know about payback games," he said. "Each year you try to get ready to play the best you can. It's worked pretty well for us trying to do it that way."
But wouldn't it be extra nice to beat Spurrier?
"He's not going to play any, you know," Fulmer said.
Spurrier has spent the week downplaying any rivalry between himself and Fulmer. Their games during Spurrier's Florida days attracted attention and typically decided the Eastern Division race. But when the game ended, so did the back-and-forth between the teams, Spurrier said.
This week, it's "not so much personal," Spurrier said. It is "just for the entire team to try and get a big win."
But it's hard to keep Spurrier from being Spurrier.
He said earlier this week his one-liners were just good-natured, not critical jabs. But he couldn't help but remind people that since the winners made the jokes, the Vols "weren't telling too many up there."
On Thursday, Spurrier explained to his radio call-in audience why Tennessee was perennially strong. Along with its large stadium and good recruiters, Spurrier wryly added, "I've never heard of anybody flunking out of Tennessee, have you?"
The Vols understand a victory over South Carolina would keep them in the hunt for the conference title, but they also need someone to knock off Florida in the SEC East. Tennessee has won four straight since its 21-20 loss to the Gators last month and Erik Ainge has played like one of the league's best quarterbacks.
Ainge leads the conference in passing yards and total offense, a season after he and the Vols struggled to a 5-6 mark. He says the difference is knowing the position is yours, no matter what happens on the field.
"It makes it easier when you know you're going back in there, even after you throw an interception or do something else, and you're going right back in to make an impact," Ainge said. "You have no choice but to forget about it, otherwise you won't be successful."
Ainge showed that a week ago. He shook off a three-interception performance against Alabama and led the Vols back with 10 fourth-quarter points in a 16-13 victory. He said he probably couldn't have started that comeback last year.
South Carolina lost two fumbles, threw an interception and started inside its 5-yard line three times during its victory at Tennessee last season. The Vols couldn't take advantage and Josh Brown nailed a 49-yard field goal late in the game for the Gamecocks.
There are some who'll swear the difference last year was Spurrier on the opposite sideline and expect he'll be in Fulmer's headset again Saturday night.
Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo doesn't agree. The coaches "have so much confidence, and I have so much confidence in them getting the job done that I'm not worried at all," Mayo said.

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