By PETE IACOBELLI
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The fireworks between No. 3 South Carolina and No. 9 LSU on Saturday won’t just take place on the field.
Expect a show on the sidelines, too, featuring the Gamecocks’ Steve Spurrier and the Tigers’ Les Miles, two of game’s most colorful leaders.
Count on Spurrier to throw a headset or his visor if things don’t go his way. Miles might be munching on a few blades of grass at LSU’s Death Valley. Their antics aside, both know what it’s like to win it all — something they are again chasing this season.
South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) is off to its best start since 1984 after a dominant, 35-7 win over Georgia. LSU (5-1, 1-1) fell to No. 4 Florida 14-6 last Saturday, its first regular-season defeat since 2010.
In an era where more and more coach’s keep their personalities inside the locker room, neither Spurrier or Miles is afraid to ruffle feathers.
The two joined forces on Spurrier’s idea that only games against divisional opponents should count toward who wins the SEC East and West divisions. The proposal fell flat at league meetings. Still, Spurrier appreciated Miles’ backing.
“I like Les,” Spurrier said this week. “I really do.”
Though that hasn’t kept Spurrier from throwing a few verbal jabs at Miles in the past.
After LSU’s mismanagement of the game clock nearly cost them a loss to Tennessee in 2010, Spurrier spoke about coaches who lose games in the SEC are considered dummies.
“And of course, sometimes you can win and still be a dummy,” Spurrier said with a grin, his needle stuck right at Miles.
Then again, Spurrier can’t laugh too loud. He, too, got beat by the Mad Hatter’s tricks on LSU’s fake field goal in 2007, holder Matt Flynn flipping the ball to kicker Colt David for an easy touchdown in the Tigers 28-16 victory.
Miles has gotten his digs in as well against South Carolina. In 2008, Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia was stopped cold after running into the referee, a play that gained national attention because it appeared official Wilbur Hackett Jr. put his shoulder into the player.
Miles joked that Hackett needed some coaching. “He didn’t wrap up,” he said.
Miles, 58, doesn’t know the 67-year-old Spurrier too well, but has enjoyed following his career. “He’s one of those guys you enjoy seeing at the SEC meetings,” Miles said.
There are few who don’t marvel at what Spurrier and Miles have accomplished through the years.
Spurrier turned the SEC on its ear with his “Fun-n-Gun” passing attack at Florida, earning his national title with the Gators in 1996.
Miles may have kept LSU fans on edge with his go-for-broke nature, but it paid off in 2007 when the Tigers went 12-2 and won the national championship.
Spurrier hopes to keep his team on track for another title run this year. The Gamecocks have an FBS-best 10-game win streak that got their coach in an upbeat mood.
This week, Spurrier poked fun at LSU’s tiger mascot and even got in a dig at state rival Clemson, who’s stadium is also nicknamed Death Valley.
Clemson administrative coach Brad Scott says the barbs are vintage Spurrier, something Scott’s learned from his time as offensive coordinator at Florida State and at Clemson. Scott also owns South Carolina’s last head coaching win at LSU, with a surprising, 18-17, nighttime victory there in 1994.
“Steve likes to make those kinds of comments when he’s got the team to back it up,” Scott said. “They have played really well.”
Miles has no time for jokes this week. The Tigers lost for the first time in 18 regular-season games with a 14-6 defeat at Florida a week ago. Miles promised it would be all business as the Tigers prepared for one of their most difficult tests.
“It’s been a long time since this program has lost a game in the regular season,” Miles said. “I think that is a natural sting felt and a real want to redirect and get back on track.”