Tide Struggles In Losing, 20-3, To Gamecocks

A week ago Alabama lost a football game to a mediocre Arkansas team and the reasonable excuse was that Bama was on the road with its back-up quarterback. This Saturday Bama was home, but the Crimson Tide was no match for a mediocre South Carolina team playing primarily with its own back-up quarterback.

South Carolina took advantage of Alabama miscues, particularly a pair of third quarter interceptions that set up touchdowns, and defeated the Crimson Tide, 20-3, in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama now appears to be in serious trouble. The loss was Bama's second in a row and dropped the Tide's record to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in Southeastern Conference play. Bama's next two SEC games will be on the road, including next Saturday at Kentucky. Kickoff in Lexington will be at 11:30 a.m. CDT (12:30 EDT) with regional television coverage by Jefferson-Pilot.

Both Marc Guillon, who was thrust into the starting quarterback job two weeks ago, and Spencer Pennington, in his second season as back-up quarterback, threw costly interceptions that enabled the Gamecocks to extend a 6-3 halftime lead to 20-3 going to the fourth quarter.

And while Bama complains about its quarterback woes, South Carolina has managed to get two quarterbacks ready to play. When starter Dondrial Pinkins had to leave the game with a shoulder injury before halftime, the Gamecocks turned to Syvelle Newton, a converted wide receiver, who ran in the two third quarter touchdowns.

The first South Carolina touchdown came after Guillon had thrown an interception that set the Gamecocks up at Bama's 22. The interception came one play after Alabama's Anthony Madison had turned in an interception to stop a Gamecocks drive.

That interception brought on Pennington at quarterback for Alabama, but Pennington threw an interception on his first attempt, a turnover that set South Carolina up at the Alabama eight for Newton's second eight-yard touchdown run of the game.

Pennington, who finished the game at quarterback after taking over with just under eight minutes to play in the third period, threw another interception in the fourth quarter after Alabama had gotten a fumble recovery from Todd Bates deep in Bama territory. The Gamecocks appeared set to tack on additional points but another South Carolina fumble gave Bama hope. Rudy Griffin picked up the bobble inside the 10-yard line and returned it to the Alabama 28. With under four minutes to play Bama misfired on a fourth down pass with a yard to go, and Bama's slimmest of chances was gone.

Alabama never led in the game and was tied only briefly. The Gamecocks had a blast of offense, notably a 39-yard run by Demetris Summers, and got a 29-yard field goal from Josh Brown.

Tim Castille, operating out of the halfback position, had a 40-yard run to set up a 29-yard Brian Bostick field goal early in the second quarter.

The Gamecocks got all the points the visitors would need five minutes later. As has frequently been the case this year, Alabama penalties were important. Bama got a personal foul penalty and an offsides on a second-and-seven to help the South Carolina drive along. When it stalled at the Alabama 11, Brown kicked a 28-yard field goal for a 6-3 lead.

Alabama drove deep into South Carolina territory just before halftime, but an incomplete pass to freshman wide receiver Keith Brown in the end zone ended the touchdown chance. More important, Brown slammed into a fencepost and was down for sometime before being stretchered to the lockerroom.

After a long delay for the injury, Bostick was called on for a 36-yard field goal. He missed, his first failure of the season after five consecutive successes.

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said, "We did not feel good about how we finished the first half. We wanted a touchdown and didn't get the touchdown or the field goal and trailed 6-3. We told our players we couldn't turn the ball over and we couldn't make penalties, that that wasn't us."

He said, "We're a better team than we played today. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again. We can't have penalties. We've got to punt the ball better. We've got to find a way to get it done. When things aren't going good, you have to be mentally tough. You have to find a way."

Obviously, he said, the quarterbacks did not play well. And, of course, he said it was too early to ask who would start next week.

He said that it appears Keith Brown will be okay after injuring his shoulder on the play near the end of the first half. But he said linebacker Juwan Garth, who went out early in the game, would likely miss two weeks or so.

Alabama's offense managed only nine first downs, six rushing and three passing. A measure of Bama's offensive ineptness came on a third-and-three situation when the Tide managed to complete a two-yard pass. It would seem unlikely any football team would have a two-yard pass in its playbook. That is part of the reason Alabama failed to convert a third down opportunity into a first down. Alabama was zero for 11 on third down tries and also failed on its one fourth down attempt.

South Carolina dominated statistically. The Game cocks had 15 first downs, 11 rushing, two passing, and two by penalty. South Carolina rushed 54 times for 203 yards, Alabama only 28 for 143. The Gamecocks completed four of 11 passes for 46 yards, Bama 10 of 24 for 67 yards. South Carolina had more yardage off the four passes the Gamecocks intercepted than Bama had off its completions as the visitors ran them back for 90 yards.

South Carolina had 65 plays for 249 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per play. As anemic as that is, Bama had only 52 plays for total offense of only 210 yards (4.0 per play).

Alabama was guilty of seven penalties for 74 yards. South Carolina was not penalized. In the past two weeks, Alabama's SEC opponents have had one penalty for five yards.

South Carolina was good on five of 15 possession down opportunities.

The Gamecocks had 34 minutes of possession time, Bama 26 minutes.

Ray Hudson was Bama's offensive leader. He had 15 carries for 74 yards and three pass receptions for 15 yards.

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