SETTING THE STAGE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1 SEC) play game three of their four-game homestand as they host the Florida Atlantic Owls (0-3) out of the Sunbelt Conference on Saturday, Sept. 23. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia. The game will be available throughout the Palmetto State on a pay-per-view basis. Mike Morgan, Josh Brown and George Rogers have the call. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs will be in the booth for the Carolina Gamecocks Sports Network, with Rob DeBoer on the sidelines. The game can also be heard on SIRIUS satellite channel 147.
A LITTLE HISTORY: This is the 113th season of college football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. The university did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. This is the 100th consecutive year in which USC has competed on the gridiron. Carolina owns an all-time record of 509-513-44. The school's only league title came in 1969 when it posted a 6-0 record to win the ACC crown in Paul Dietzel's fourth year.
GAMECOCKS AND OWLS: This is the first meeting ever between the Gamecocks and the upstart Owls.
200 FOR THE HEAD BALL COACH: This week's game marks the 200th game as a collegiate head coach for Steve Spurrier. He owns a 151-46-2 mark through the first 199 contests. That's a .764 winning percentage. SPURRIER AND THE OWLS: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has not faced FAU previously in his 17-year collegiate coaching career. It's the second week in a row that Coach Spurrier has faced a new foe.
SPURRIER VS. TEAMS FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE: Steve Spurrier, formerly the head coach at the University of Florida, is 8-9-1 all-time against teams from the state of Florida. He is 2-0 against Central Florida, 1-0 versus Florida, 5-8-1 against Florida State and 0-1 against Miami (Fla.).
MORE ON FAU: The Owls, under head coach Howard Schnellenberger, have put together a difficult non-conference schedule with road dates at Clemson (L, 54-6), Kansas State (L, 45-0) and Oklahoma State (L, 48-8) prior to their trip to Columbia. They enter this week's contest ranked 111th in the nation in scoring offense (4.7 ppg) and 119th in scoring defense (49.0 ppg). They have not scored a point in the first half this season.The Owls began playing football in 2001. They finished the 2005 season with a 2-9 record after going 9-3 in 2004.
MATCHING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS: This week's game features a pair of coaches who have won national championships. USC's Steve Spurrier led the 1996 Florida Gators to the national championship with a 52-20 win over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, avenging the Gators only loss of the season in a 12-1 campaign. Schnellenberger led the 1983 Miami Hurricanes to the school's first title, defeating Nebraska, 31-30 in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes lone loss that season in an 11-1 campaign was in the season-opener to Florida (pre-Spurrier) by a 28-3 score.
THE DIRTY DOZEN: Here are the 12 active collegiate coaches who have won national titles: Joe Paterno (Penn State - 1982, 1986) Howard Schnellenberger (Miami - 1983) Dennis Erickson (Miami - 1989, 1991) Bobby Bowden (Florida State - 1993, 1999) Steve Spurrier (Florida - 1996) Lloyd Carr (Michigan - 1997) Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee - 1998) Bobby Stoops (Oklahoma - 2000) Larry Coker (Miami - 2001) Jim Tressel (Ohio State - 2002) Pete Carroll (Southern California - 2004) Mack Brown (Texas - 2005)
PLAYING THE SUNBELT CONFERENCE: This is the fifth straight year and the sixth time in the last seven years that Carolina has faced a team out of the Sunbelt Conference. The Gamecocks are a perfect 5-0 when facing teams out of that league. They shutout New Mexico State, 31-0 to open the 2000 season and defeated the Aggies again to open the 2002 campaign, 34-24. USC opened the 2003 season with a 14-7 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. They faced Troy in both the 2004 and 2005 campaigns, winning by 17-7 and 45-20 scores.
OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE: The Gamecocks are 1-0 in non-conference action this season, were 2-2 in non-league action in 2005 (wins over UCF and Troy and losses to Clemson and Missouri) and have finished with a .500 or better mark in games outside the SEC each year since the start of the 2000 season. They are 17-7 in non-conference games since the 2000 campaign, including a perfect 4-0 record in 2001 (Boise State, Wofford, Clemson and Ohio State).
LUCKY FOUR: The Gamecocks have had recent success in game 4 of the season. Beginning with the 2000 season, USC has won its fourth game of the year every year, defeating Mississippi State, Alabama, Temple, UAB, Troy and Troy again in successive years.
SEASON-ENDERS: Safeties Brandon Isaac (left shoulder) and Nick Prochak (left shoulder), defensive tackle Marque Hall (left knee), offensive guard Kevin Young (left shoulder) and defensive end Terrence Campbell (left knee) are out for the season with injuries.
THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks opened up a comfortable 24-10 halftime lead then held off a furious comeback as they defeated Division I-AA Wofford, 27-20 at Williams-Brice Stadium last Saturday. Syvelle Newton, starting at quarterback for the first time since the end of the 2004 season, completed 12-of-18 passes for 196 yards and rushed 13 times for 67 yards. Tailback Cory Boyd carried 11 times for a team-high 74 yards and tied the school record with three rushing touchdowns. Sophomore All-America candidate Sidney Rice caught seven passes for 151 yards. Defensive end Dakota Walker made the play of the game when, with Wofford at the USC 10-yard line with just seconds remaining, batted a pitch into the air that was recovered by Cody Wells, preserving the Gamecock victory. It was the first fumble recovery for Carolina this season.
THAT TIES A RECORD: Tailback Cory Boyd, starting for the first time since the 2004 season, scored three rushing touchdowns in USC's 27-20 win over Wofford. In finding paydirt from 10, 1 and 40 yards out, Boyd tied the school record (set many times previously) with three rushing TDs. The last player to do so was Dondrial Pinkins versus Vanderbilt on Oct. 25, 2003.
MORE BOYD BITS: Cory Boyd rushed for 74 yards and the three touchdowns before injuring his right ankle against Wofford. They were the first three rushing TDs for USC this season. The 40-yard burst was the longest run of his career. He had his first multi-touchdown game and scored a rushing touchdown for the first time since Sept. 25, 2004 against Troy. He now has nine career rushing TDs - three each in 2003, 2004 and 2006. MAKING A POINT: Cory Boyd (four touchdowns for 24 points) and Ryan Succop (five field goals and three PATs for 18 points) are the only two Gamecocks to scratch the scoring column this season.
WELCOME TO THE BIG TIME: The Gamecocks had several changes in their starting lineup last week against Wofford. True freshmen Hutch Eckerson, Garrett Anderson and Rodney Paulk each made their first collegiate start. Redshirt freshman Jared Cook and senior Seth Edwards also earned their first career starts. Overall, the Gamecocks started four true freshmen (Eckerson, Anderson, Paulk and safety Emanuel Cook) and one redshirt freshman (Cook) against the Terriers.
MAYBE BY LAND, BUT NOT BY AIR: The Gamecock defense has been stout against the pass this season. Opponents have completed just 23-of-56 passes (41.1 percent) for 338 yards (112.7 yards per game) with five interceptions through three games. Here's where the Gamecocks rank nationally in both pass defense and pass defense efficiency: PASS DEFENSE Rk. Team YPG 1. Texas A&M 93.67 2. LSU 96.67 3. Army 97.00 4. UConn 102.50 5. South Carolina 112.67
PASS DEFENSE EFFICIENCY Team Rating 1. LSU 63.53 2. Texas A&M 67.77 3. South Carolina 79.84 4. Wisconsin 81.09 5. Virginia Tech 82.06
PICK FIVE: The Gamecocks intercepted three passes against Georgia and have recorded five picks in the first three games. Fred Bennett and Chris Hampton lead the way with two apiece. Carolina is tied for eighth in the nation with five interceptions. No team has more than six interceptions. Carolina intercepted 12 passes in the 2005 campaign. The school single-season record is 23 interceptions, accomplished in 1981, 1984 and 1987.
TWO IN THE LAST 21: When Wofford hit a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, it was just the second TD pass USC has allowed in its last 21 quarters, dating back to last season. The only other touchdown through the air in that stretch was a 5-yard TD pass by Missouri in the Independence Bowl.
NOT LAST YEAR'S DEFENSE: The USC defense has allowed just three touchdowns and 36 points (2 were scored on a safety) through the season's first three games. That comes on the heels of allowing 38 points in the final three quarters in the 2005 Independence Bowl loss to Missouri. Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has done it with basically 10 new starters on the defensive side of the ball. The Gamecocks rank 23rd in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 12.7 points per game.
EARLY OFFENSE: The USC offense showed some signs of life against Wofford. After being shut out against Georgia (the first for a Coach Spurrier-led collegiate team in 193 games), the Gamecocks scored on four of their first five possessions against the Terriers (three touchdowns and a field goal).
SUCCOP SUCCESS: Sophomore punter Ryan Succop has proven to be a worthy weapon in the special teams arena. Succop is 11th in the country in punting, averaging 45.45 yards per punt, while the Gamecocks are second in the nation in net punting, averaging 44.09 yards per punt. They rank behind only Michigan State (45.17). Succop owns a long punt of 58 yards.
MORE SUCCOP SUCCESS: Ryan Succop also handles the placekicking chores for the Gamecocks. He has hit on 5-of-6 field goal attempts, missing only from 51 yards when he bounced it off the left upright against Georgia. He was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week following his effort in the season-opening win at Mississippi State.
AND FINALLY: Ryan Succop also handles the kickoff chores for the Gamecocks. Seven of his 13 kicks (54 percent) have been touchbacks. 29 of his 59 kickoffs (49 percent) a year ago were touchbacks.
NEWTON'S LAWS: Senior Syvelle Newton moved into the quarterback position for the Gamecocks against Wofford. It was his first start at that position since the final game of the 2004 campaign against Clemson. Newton started five games at quarterback that season, getting the nod against South Florida, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Florida and Clemson. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 196 yards in last week's win over the Terriers. He owns a 3-3 record as a starter. For his career, Newton has completed 88-of-157 passes (56.1 percent) for 1,408 yards and nine touchdowns. Since Coach Spurrier took over the program, Newton has completed 17-of-24 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns.
WITH HIS ARM OR HIS LEGS: In addition to completing 12-of-18 passes against Wofford, Syvelle Newton rushed 13 times for 67 yards. For his career, the senior from Wallace, S.C. has carried 145 times for 512 yards with seven touchdowns.
RARE TRIFECTA: Syvelle Newton has passed for 1,408 yards, rushed 145 times for 512 yards and has caught 59 passes for 644 yards. He has accounted for 18 touchdowns in his career - nine passing, seven rushing and two receiving.
RICE HEATS UP: After being held to just five catches for 44 yards in the season's first two games, All-America candidate Sidney Rice returned to form against Wofford. Rice caught a game-high seven passes for a season-high 151 yards, including a 46- and a 45-yard reception. It was the 16th game of 150+ receiving yards in USC history. It was Rice's seventh career game (out of 14) of 100 or more yards receiving. Only Sterling Sharpe (10) and Zola Davis (8) have more 100-yard receiving games in school history. Here are his 100-yard performances:
Rice's 100-Yard Receiving Games:
Date Opponent Yards
12/31/05 Missouri 191
09/16/06 Wofford 151
10/21/05 Vanderbilt 132
10/07/05 Kentucky 125
11/25/05 Clemson 122
10/28/05 Tennessee 112
11/11/05 Florida 112
MORE RICE PLEASE: Sidney Rice set the school's single-season record for receiving yards (1,143) and touchdown catches (13) in 2005. He has caught a touchdown pass in nine of his 14 career games. After just 14 games, he is quickly moving up the USC charts for career yards (he has 1,338, just 136 yards from Jim Mitchell's 10th place total of 1,474) and for career receptions. Here is the receptions list: Carolina Career Receptions Leaders No. Player Years Rec. 1. Sterling Sharpe 1983, 85-87 169 10. Harold Green 1986-89 94 11. Brian Scott 1998-02 93 12. Troy Williamson 2002-04 91 13. Jim Mitchell 1969-71 90 Ira Hillary 1981-84 90 15. Toby Cates 1991-94 89 16. Sidney Rice 2005-06 82
BREAKING DOWN BENNETT: All-America cornerback candidate Fred Bennett serves as the leader on the defense. With 24 starts under his belt, Bennett has made more starts than the next two defensive players (Stanley Doughty and Jordin Lindsey with 10 each) have combined. In fact, the other 10 starters on defense combined for just 13 starts on that side of the ball (Hampton-5; Hall-4; Wells-2; Brown-1; Sapp-1) entering the 2006 season.
NEXT IN LINE: Fred Bennett has recorded an interception in two of the first three games. The senior from Manning, S.C. who picked off three passes a year ago has nine career interceptions. With a big year, he could push for the school record of 14 career interceptions, held by Bo Davies (1969-71). Bennett is looking to follow in the footsteps of other recent standout USC defensive backs, including Dunta Robinson, Sheldon Brown, Ko Simpson and Johnathan Joseph, who took their skills to the NFL.
WELCOME BACK: Wide receiver Noah Whiteside and safety Ty Erving are eligible this week after sitting out the first three games of the season per university policy.
TWO FOR HAMPTON: Junior safety Chris Hampton is trying to fill the bill vacated by ball-hawk Ko Simpson. The Memphis product has responded with a pair of interceptions in the first three games, his first two career picks.
TWIN KILLINGS: The Brinkley brothers, linebacker Jasper and defensive end Casper, have made their presence felt in the first three games. Jasper is the team leader with 23 tackles, including 15 solo stops, while Casper is tied for sixth on the squad with nine tackles, including six solos. Both are junior college transfers from Georgia Military College. Jasper arrived at South Carolina in January, while Casper was a summer arrival.
NO AARP CARDS NEEDED HERE: The Gamecocks have just six seniors on the squad that came into the program as scholarship players. Only two - center Chris White and tight end Andy Boyd - are in their fifth-year in the program. The four-year players are wide receivers Syvelle Newton and Noah Whiteside and cornerback Fred Bennett, while safety Brandon Isaac came to USC via the junior college route. Only White, Newton and Bennett have seen action this season.
SECOND TO NONE: Gamecock fans are hoping that history will repeat itself. The second year of Steve Spurrier's collegiate stops have been better than the first. After winning five games at Duke in 1987 he led the Blue Devils to a seven-win season in 1988. After winning nine games in 1990 at Florida, the Gators posted a 10-win campaign in 1991. Carolina posted seven victories in 2005. An eight-win season would be their best since the Gamecocks logged a 9-3 mark in 2001.
NEW FACES: Head coach Steve Spurrier made several changes on his coaching staff, both in personnel and in their duties heading into the 2006 campaign. Fred Chatham was hired to take over the tight ends and special teams. Chatham, who spent the past 17 years at Duke, was originally hired by Coach Spurrier for the Blue Devils in 1989. Brad Lawing is the Gamecocks' new defensive line coach. Lawing is very familiar with USC, having coached in Columbia from 1989-98 under Sparky Woods and Brad Scott. Robert Gillespie begins his first season as the running backs coach after serving as a GA in 2005. Gillespie played for Coach Spurrier at Florida and with the Washington Redskins. Ron Cooper has been given the title of assistant head coach and works with the secondary. Tyrone Nix is the sole defensive coordinator after sharing that title last year, and works with the inside linebackers. Dave Wommack takes over the duties with the outside linebackers. David Reaves continues to assist the head coach with the quarterbacks and also assumes the recruiting coordinator position. John Hunt (offensive line) and Steve Spurrier, Jr. (wide receivers) retain their same positions from the 2005 staff.
EARNING THEIR KEEP: Prior to the start of the season, Head Coach Steve Spurrier placed five former walk-ons on scholarship. They include quarterback Brett Nichols, snapper Scott Morgan, offensive guard Thomas Coleman, offensive guard Seth Edwards and linebacker Greg Wright. Over the past two seasons, Coach Spurrier has rewarded nine walk-on players with scholarships.
WE'll TAKE THE BALL: Since Head Coach Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina, the Gamecocks have opened the game on offense in all but one contest. In only the Alabama game of 2005 did USC win the toss and defer to the second half. The Crimson Tide scored a touchdown on that opening possession. The Gamecocks have started each of the last 12 games and 14 of the last 15 on offense. They have scored on the opening drive twice - putting seven points on the board via touchdown passes versus Central Florida and against Missouri in 2005.
BUILDING BLOCKS: The Gamecocks are coming off a 7-5 season in 2005, including a 5-3 mark in the Southeastern Conference that put them in second place in the SEC East Division. The Gamecocks won a school record five-straight SEC games to bounce back from an 0-3 start in league play. The winning streak including USC's first win ever in Knoxville against Tennessee and its first win over Florida since 1939.
SECOND BEST: With a 5-3 conference record and a win over Florida, Carolina finished in second place in the SEC Eastern Division in 2005. It matched the Gamecocks' highest league finish, as they also went 5-3 and tied for second in the 2000 season. That year there was a three-way tie for second (Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee) behind 7-1 Florida.
GOING BOWLING: The Gamecocks earned their way to the 2005 Independence Bowl where they suffered a 38-31 loss to the Missouri Tigers. It was USC's first bowl appearance since the 2001 season, which ended in an Outback Bowl win over Ohio State. It was also just the 12th bowl game in 112 years of intercollegiate football for Carolina. Steve Spurrier joined Jim Carlen (1975) and Brad Scott (1994) as the only coaches who have led the Gamecocks to a bowl game in their first season as USC's head coach. No head coach has led the Gamecocks to back-to-back bowl appearances in his first two seasons at Carolina.
BETTER OF LATE: After the 1998 and `99 seasons saw South Carolina win just once in 22 tries, the Gamecocks have turned the corner. Since the start of the 2000 season, USC has logged an overall record of 42-32. The 40 wins from 2000-2005 was just one win shy of the best six-year stretch in school history. The Gamecocks won 41 times from 1979-1984.
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have posted a 42-32 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 42 wins from 2000-2006 is one more than the 41 victories posted in the entire decade of the `90s. Carolina's most victories in any decade is 63, set from 1980-89.
KEEPING IT ALIVE: Head Coach Steve Spurrier has said that the minimum goal this season is to win more games than they lose. If that would happen, it would be the Gamecocks their third straight winning campaign (6-5 in 2004 and 7-5 in 2005). The last time they turned in three consecutive winning seasons was 1988-90 when they went 8-4, 6-4-1 and 6-5 in consecutive years.
THE PIPELINE: The Gamecocks roster features four players who competed at Georgia Military College prior to the their arrival in Columbia. Both Jasper and Casper Brinkley, Joel Reaves and Brandon Isaac played for the Bulldogs, located in Milledgeville, Ga. WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?: They may wear garnet, black and white, but the Gamecocks are well-stocked with Brown.The roster features six players - none of whom are related - with the last name of Brown, including Freddie, Marquise, Moe, Ryan, Seaver and William.
PLAYING OT: The Gamecocks have played just one overtime game in its history, falling to Tennessee by a 23-20 margin in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003. Every other SEC team has played at least three overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.
BOWL TIE-INS: The SEC has arrangements to send eight teams to post-season bowls. They include: BCS, Capital One, AT&T, Cotton, Chick-fil-A, Outback, Autozone Liberty, Gaylord Hotels Music City and PetroSun Independence.
GAME CAPTAINS: Seniors Chris White (center), Thomas Coleman (right guard) and Fred Bennett (cornerback) served as team captains in the opening game at Mississippi State. Cory Boyd (tailback), Jasper Brinkley (linebacker) and Scott Morgan (deep snapper) served as captains against Georgia. Syvelle Newton (quarterback), Ryan Brown (linebacker) and Ryan Succop (kicker) earned the nod against Wofford.
BIG CHECK: Head Coach Steve Spurrier announced just prior to the start of the season that he and his wife, Jerri, would pledge $250,000 over the next five years to help the Carolina athletic department's capital campaign. The Athletics Department is working on a master plan of facilities expected to be unveiled in October. The silent phase of a capital campaign is underway. The proceeds from the campaign will help underwrite new and improved facilities for the entire department.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks return to SEC action when they host the Auburn Tigers in a Thursday night special at Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 28. The ESPN cameras will be on hand for that contest. Auburn defeated USC by a 48-7 score last season and own a 5-1-1 record in seven previous meetings with the Gamecocks.
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