Gamecocks Host Dangerous Troy Squad Saturday

Columbia, S.C. - The South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1/1-1) close out their three-game September homestand by hosting the Troy Trojans (2-1/0-1), Saturday, Sept. 25 at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250). Kickoff is set for 7:03 p.m. There is live television, including a pay-per-view telecast available throughout the state of South Carolina. Fans should contact their local cable companies to order the game ...

ESPN Regional will also televise the game back to the state of Alabama and it will also be available on ESPN's GamePlan.

A QUICK LOOK

It will be Parents Weekend on the USC Campus ... Troy is the second non-conference opponent for the Gamecocks. Carolina defeated South Florida 34-3 last Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. Clemson is the third and final non-conference foe on USC's slate (Nov. 20).

SERIES NOTES

South Carolina and Troy meet for the first time. Troy begins its first season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. Over the years, South Carolina is 3-0 vs. teams currently in that conference (2-0 vs. New Mexico State and 1-0 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette. South Carolina and Troy are scheduled to meet again in 2005 on Sept. 24 in Columbia.

A CLOSER LOOK

South Carolina returns 16 starters (nine offense/six defense/one specialist) ... For the first time since 1995, USC opened its season with two straight SEC games. The Gamecocks defeated Vanderbilt 31-6 in the season opener before dropping a 20-16 decision to #3 Georgia on 9/11 ... USC bounced back to defeat South Florida 34-3 on 9/18 ... Now in his 33rd season as a collegiate head coach, USC's Lou Holtz ranks third among active head coaches and eighth all-time with 245 career victories. His 245 career wins trail only Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden among active coaches. Coach Holtz is the only coach in the history of college football to lead six different programs (William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina) to post-season bowl games (all by the second season) and is likewise the only coach in history to have four different programs (NC State, Arkansas, Notre Dame and South Carolina) finish the season ranked in the top 20 ... Carolina features two players on its roster from the state of Alabama, the Lindsey twins, Dustin and Jordin. The pair of linebackers are from Mobile ... Troy head coach Larry Blakeney is in his 14th season with the school. Blakeney, who was an assistant coach at Auburn from 1977-90), has recorded a sterling 110-49-1 record with the Trojans. He led Troy to seven NCAA Division 1-AA playoff appearances and three Soutland Conference championships. In Troy's inaugural Division 1-A season (2001), Coach Blakeney led the Trojans to a 21-9 victory over Mississippi State in Starkville ... Troy offensive coordinator Mark Fleetwood is a former placekicking and punting standout for South Carolina (1979-83). Fleetwood was a 1982 All-South Independent selection and led the Gamecocks in scoring for three straight years (1981-82-83). He holds the school record for field goal percentage during his career, having connected on 39 of 53 field goals for 73.6%. Fleetwood made 17 of 18 field goals in 1982. He played for Coaches Jim Carlen, Richard Bell and Joe Morrison at Carolina. Two of the Gamecock teams he was on (1979-80) advanced to bowl games -- the 1979 hall of Fame Bowl and the 1980 Gator Bowl. Fleetwood served as a graduate assistant under Joe Morrison at Carolina in 1984, the season the Gamecocks won a school-record 10 games ... Troy should be a familiar opponent for Gamecock defensive coordinator Rick Minter and USC assistant head coach Skip Holtz. While Minter was the head coach at Cincinnati, he faced Troy in 1999, with the Trojans winning 31-24 ... In Skip Holtz's first game as head coach at Connecticut (9/10/94), Troy defeated the Huskies 31-21.

CAROLINA CLOSE UP

In each of the past two seasons, the Gamecocks have come up one victory short in their attempt to become bowl eligible. Carolina had the best two-year run in school history from 2000-01, posting 8-4 and 9-3 records and winning consecutive Outback Bowl championships against Ohio State ... Dondrial Pinkins started the first two games of 2004 at quarterback, before missing the South Florida game with a bruised shoulder. That snapped a 16-game starting streak for Pinkins. The fifth-year senior threw for 2,127 yards a year ago - the ninth best single-season total in school history. For his career, Pinkins has thrown for 2,947 yards (10th all-time) with 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, while completing .508 percent of his passes ... Center John Strickland is on the pre-season watch list for the Rimington Award ... USC's starting offense line averages 310 pounds across the front ... ... Season ticket sales for Carolina home games are once again on a steady pace. The Gamecocks are expected to sell nearly 60,000 season tickets in 2004 ... A record $11.9 million was raised by the Gamecock Club, USC's athletic fund-raising arm, last year ... The Gamecock football team had its best academic semester ever, posting a 2.592 grade point average last spring ... Receivers Troy Williamson and Matthew Thomas own the two longest touchdown receptions in USC history. Williamson had a school-record 99-yard catch and run vs. Virginia last season. Thomas was on the receiving end of a 98-yard touchdown bomb also last season. Both touchdown passes were thrown by Dondrial Pinkins ... Williamson is currently leading the SEC in receiving yards per game (146.7), an average that ranks 2nd nationally. Williamson had a school-record 210 yards receiving in the win over South Florida ... Syvelle Newton made his first career start at quarterback on 9/18 vs. South Florida. Newton, who played wide receiver in 2003 and had 22 receptions for 277 yards, put on a performance to remember against the Bulls. The sophomore threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 39 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 56, 55 and 73 yards to Williamson. Newton was an all-state quarterback in high school at Marlboro County (S.C.) ... USC returns its top four rushers from a year ago. Daccus Turman led the way with 646 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. Demetris Summers tallied 638 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns and Pinkins picked up 254 yards and five TDs. Cory Boyd rushed for 232 yards and three scores. Summers missed the South Florida game while recovering from an ankle sprain ... Four of the five offensive line starters from last season return. Only Travelle Wharton, the all-star left tackle who was a third-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers, is gone. Jabari Levey (LT), John Strickland (C), Jonathan Alston (RG) and Na'Shan Goddard (RT) all started at least seven games a year ago ... Tight end Brian Brownlee has three touchdown receptions during his career -- two in last year's season finale vs. Clemson and one in this year's opener vs. Vanderbilt ... Moe Thompson and George Gause are regarded to be among the top pair of defensive ends in the SEC. Thompson was a pre-season All-SEC selection. The two combined for 10 quarterback sacks and nine tackles for loss last season ... Jason Capers has proven to be a versatile defender for the Gamecocks. Capers can play both the tackle and end positions in USC's four-man front ... Darrell Shropshire had four tackles for loss last year as a junior college transfer and started all 12 games at tackle ... Linebacker Ricardo Hurley appears to be healthy this season. The junior was hobbled with an ankle injury throughout much of the 2003 campaign. Two seniors -- Marcus Lawrence and Rodriques Wilson -- are slated to start at the other linebacker slots. Wilson started four games at safety last season, but was moved to outside linebacker during spring drills ... The Gamecocks will feature some new faces in the secondary this fall. Gone is cornerback Dunta Robinson, the #1 draft pick of the Houston Texans, but there seem to be four solid performers who are up to the task. Tremaine Tyler and Fred Bennett are listed as the starters, backed up by Johnathan Joseph and Taqiy Muhammad. Joseph is expected to be out the remainder of the season with a broken foot ... A true freshman, Ko Simpson, is the starter at free safety. Simpson returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown against Georgia on Sept. 11 and had another interception vs. South Florida ... Simpson signed with Carolina in 2003, but did not enroll until last spring semester. He did go through spring practice. Another true freshman, Chris Hampton, is listed as his back-up. Two seniors are battling for the starting berth at strong safety -- Jamacia Jackson and Jermaine Harris. Both had interceptions in the opening win over Vanderbilt. Jackson's 98-yard interception return for a touchdown ranks as the 4th longest interception return in USC history. It is also the longest interception return since 1982, when Harry Skipper returned an interception 101 yards for a touchdown ... Josh Brown is likely to handle the punting chores. Joey Bowers will kick off and also punt in certain situations. The placekicking duties should be handled by Brown ... Three members of the Gamecock squad earned their bachelor's degree last May -- LB Rodriques Wilson, DT Preston Thorne, and OG Jonathan Alston.

SEASON RECAP

South Carolina opened its 2004 campaign with a 31-6 victory over Vanderbilt Sept. 4 in Nashville. The Gamecocks came out in impressive fashion, scoring points on their first three offensive drives. Dondrial Pinkins hurt the Commodore defense with both his legs and his arm, as the senior quarterback rushed for 77 yards and one touchdown and threw for 168 yards and one TD. Offensively, Carolina made good use of its abundance of quality runnng backs, racking up 269 yards rushing, averaging 4.7 yards per rush. Demetris Summers picked up a game-high 87 yards on 11 carries, while fellow backs Gonzie Gray (26 yards), Andrea Gause (25 yards), Daccus Turman (21 yards), and Cory Boyd (16 yards) also were factors in the running game ... Receiver Troy Williamson was Pinkins' favorite target, as the junior had five catches for 99 yards receiving ... Noah Whiteside turned in a career-high 43-yard punt return in the win over Vanderbilt ... Defensively, Carolina limited Vanderbilt to just the one touchdown. Cornerback Fred Bennett, making his first career start, led the way with eight tackles (six solo) and one tackle for loss. Safety Jamacia Jackson had the 98-yard interception return for a touchdown to go along with seven tackles and one forced fumble. Tackle Darrell Shropshire had two tackles for loss, as did tackle Stanley Doughty ... Free safety Ko Simpson, likewise making his first career start, broke up two passes. End Moe Thompson recovered his sixth career fumble in the win over Vanderbilt ... The stage was set for a "big-game" atmosphere in Columbia, as the Gamecocks prepared to battle #3 Georgia on 9-11 at Williams-Brice Stadium. ESPN's GameDay crew was in town and the game was being televised nationally by ESPN. The third largest crowd in school history (84,300) was on hand to witness a hard-hitting affair, as the Bulldogs erased a 16-0 lead to come back and win 20-16 ... Carolina, wearing its all black attire (black helmets, black jerseys, black pants) for the first time in school history, jumped out on top 2-0 in the first quarter, thanks to a safety by linebacker Marcus Lawrence. The lead grew to 9-0 when Troy Williamson took a slant pass from quarterback Dondrial Pinkins, shook off a defensive back, and raced 65 yards for a touchdown at the 54 second mark of the opening period. Freshman Ko Simpson got the crowd really hyped up when he picked off an errant David Greene pass and brought it back 57 yards for a touchdown. It marked the second straight game that USC had returned an interception for a touchdown ... Georgia tacked on a pair of Andy Bailey field goals before halftime and the Gamecocks took a 16-6 lead into the locker room. UGA did all the scoring in the second half, however, as Greene tossed touchdown passes of 12 yards to Tyson Browning and 22 yards to Reggie Brown. The Bulldog defense stiffened down the stretch, halting three potential go-ahead touchdown drives by the Gamecocks -- one on a jarring hit by Greg Blue which forced a Pinkins fumble; another on a tackle by DeMario Minter which stopped Pinkins on a fourth down try; and the final one on an interception by Paul Oliver, which finally put the Gamecocks away ... Carolina found itself playing a little short-handed as the game went along. Receivers Noah Whiteside and Travis Lee were serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules. Whiteside is a starter at receiver and also is the starting punt returner. Starting tailback Demetris Summers suffered an ankle sprain on the first play of the game and was able to return for only one other play in the second half, before leaving the game for good with the injury. Cornerback and backup punt returner Johnathan Joseph fractured his right foot in the first half, while starting receiver and return specialist Troy Williamson was out for most of the fourth quarter with leg cramps. Finally, receiver Sidney Rice suffered a hyperextended left knee during pregame warmups and was unable to play ... South Carolina shook off any lingering effects of the narrow loss to Georgia by responding the next week with a convincing 34-3 victory over South Florida. Making his first career start at quarterback, Syvelle Newton came through with flying colors. Starter Dondrial Pinkins was sidelined with a shoulder bruise and threw very little during practice the week leading up to the game. Newton completed 13 of 23 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns. His 324 yards passing are the most ever by a Gamecock quarterback making his first start. That total is also the most passing yards by a Carolina quarterback since Anthony Wright threw for 351 yards against Mississippi State in 1996 ... Receiver Troy Williamson likewise had a night to remember. The junior speedster set a single-game school record with 210 yards receiving and also had three touchdown receptions, which tied a school record and was the most by a Gamecock since Zola Davis caught three TD passes vs. Kent in 1995 ... Running back Cory Boyd led the Gamecock rushing attack with 46 yards on eight carries and one touchdown -- a 14-yard run in the third quarter ... Carolina racked up 530 yards of total offense, its most productive output since the 2001 victory over Vanderbilt, when the Gamecocks rang up a school-record 656 total yards ... Josh Brown nailed both of his field goal attempts -- a 32-yarder and a 22-yarder ... Defensively, USC kept South Florida out of the end zone, yielding just a 47 yard field goal by Santiago Gramatica on the final play of the first half. That is the fewest points allowed by USC since the 2000 season opener vs. New Mexico State, in which the Gamecocks posted a 31-0 shutout ... Linebacker Rodriques Wilson had six total tackles, as did defensive end George Gause. Ko Simpson came up with his second interception of the season. Carolina's defenders also broke up eight passes on the evening ... The 191 total yards by South Florida is the lowest total offense number by a Gamecock opponent since the 2003 season when Virginia managed just 170 total yards.

SCOUTING TROY

* Troy returns a veteran team, with 17 returning starters and 25 seniors on this year's club.

* Troy has two impressive wins under its belt already this season. The Trojans won 17-15 at Marshall to open the season and knocked off nationally ranked Missouri 24-14 Sept. 9 on national television. Marshall took Ohio State to the wire and was narrowly defeated at Georgia (13-3) this past weekend. Missouri was a preseason favorite to win its division in the Big 12 Conference this year.

* Head coach Larry Blakeney begins his 14th season at Troy and has fashioned a strong record of 110-49-1 at the school. Since Blakeney became head coach at Troy in 1991, the Trojans are the winningest program in the state of Alabama, winning nearly 70 percent of their games (winning percentage exceeds Alabama and Auburn). Blakeney was previously an assistant at Auburn (1977-90), including five seasons as the offensive coordinator, a period during which the Tigers won three SEC championships and were 3-1-1 in bowl games.

o Heading into this season, Troy had seven of its former players still active in the NFL

o Quarterback Aaron Leak is a fifth-year senior and two-year starter. Leak has thrown for 455 yards and two touchdowns thus far this season.

* Tailback DeWhitt Betterson is a three-year starter and rushed for 1,161 yards in 2003. He currently is averaging 85.3 yards rushing per game.

* The offensive line returns four of five starters. Wide receiver Jason Samples caught 48 passes for 620 yards in 2003 and is a big-play threat. The leading receiver so far this year is James Earl Cray, who has 11 catches for 178 yards and one touchdown.

o Defensively, Troy has built a solid reputation for itself. The Trojans ranked fourth in the nation in total defense in 2002 and were 26th in rushing defense last season.

o Along the defensive front, Troy returns seven of its top eight players. End Demarcus Ware and Cedric (SEE-drick) Sullivan are all-star caliber performers.

o Fifth-year senior safety Derrick Ansley anchors the secondary. Troy finished third in the nation in interceptions per game last season. Through three games, the Trojans have five interceptions this season.

WHAT'S NEXT

* South Carolina returns to SEC action by traveling to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. Start time at Bryant-Denny Stadium is set for 6:00 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.

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