Just as he was leaving the podium at his postgame press conference at Vanderbilt Thursday night Steve Spurrier took a swipe at his defensive coordinator. Spurrier told reporters he didn’t like Lorenzo Ward’s decision to blitz Vandy on a 4th& 7play on the Commodores final drive.
“It looked like that last one that Vandy kid had a chance to catch it, Spurrier said. I’m not sure Coach Ward called the right defense there. I had a little conversation after that one. Zero blitz on 4th& 7? But if it works it’s a good call.”
The play Spurrier is referring to ended up as an incomplete pass, but it was a close call. Ward sent the house, but they didn’t get to Vandy quarterback Jordan Rogers before he sailed a pass down the sideline to Jordan Matthews. Defensive back D.J. Swearinger was in single coverage and Matthews had a step on him when the pass was in the air, but Swearinger managed to recover to make a play on the ball. It looked like a bang-bang play in real speed, but replays show Swearinger may have gotten away with pass interference. Regardless, the play ended in a Vandy turnover and win for the USC defense.
After the game Ward, in his first season running the Gamecock defense, took Spurrier’s public critique of the call in stride.
“I respect the boss and he’s probably correct, but I want our guys to know that we’re going to be aggressive. I wasn’t going to sit back there and let (Rodgers) scramble and make some plays like he had done…so we called zero blitz. But I respect the boss and understand what he’s talking about.”
Despite a few busted plays in the secondary, (mainly just the 78 yard touchdown pass in the second quarter) almost everything Ward’s unit did Thursday night worked. They flipped first quarter momentum and set up the Gamecocks first score with a Shaq Wilson’s interception and return. They held Vanderbilt to 13 points, this despite the fact the Commodores had great field position most of the game. Vandy also only averaged 1.7 yards on 36 rushing attempts. They finished with just 276 yards of total offense, four more than Spurrier’s offense managed that night.
Spurrier calling out a player or coach is nothing new. Those entertaining, blatantly honest and unfiltered observations are what makes Spurrier one of a kind. Also, it should be noted the HBC took time to say some good things about his defense during his postgame comments. It was the fact he publicly questioned the play call of his coordinator that raised a few eyebrows. Of course as the head coach he is certainly entitled to question any play call he wishes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s right or that it’s a good idea.
So, was Spurrier correct in calling out Ward’s fourth down defensive call? You can listen to Spurrier’s comment and Ward’s response below. Leave your thoughts in the comments.
AUDIO: Steve Spurrier questions Ward’s play call [:24]
AUDIO: Lorenzo Ward responds to Spurrier [:17]