Gamecocks Travel To The Music City
SETTING THE STAGE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (4-2, 2-2 SEC) are on the road for the second straight game as they travel to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-4, 1-3 SEC) in an SEC Eastern Division match up. Game time is set for 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. CT) at Vanderbilt Stadium (39,773). The game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis throughout the Palmetto State and in Tennessee, with Mike Morgan calling the action. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs will be in the radio booth for the Carolina Gamecocks Sports Network, with Rob DeBoer on the sidelines. The game can also be heard on SIRIUS satellite radio channel 110.
ABOUT THE GAMECOCKS: South Carolina is 4-2 on the season, including a 2-2 mark in Southeastern Conference play. They are 2-0 on the road (wins at Mississippi State and Kentucky) and 2-2 at home, with non-conference wins over Wofford and Florida Atlantic and losses to nationally-ranked Georgia and Auburn. The Gamecocks have won their last four SEC road games (a school record), returning home with victories at Tennessee (16-15) and Arkansas (14-10) last season before winning at Mississippi State (15-0) and Kentucky (24-17) this year. The Gamecocks rank 10th in the SEC in scoring offense (21.3 ppg) and are fourth in scoring defense (14.2 ppg).
AND FOR THE COMMODORES: Vanderbilt is 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. The Commodores are coming off a 24-22 last-second upset win at No. 14 Georgia and have won three of their last four games after dropping their first three contests. Vandy is ninth in the SEC in scoring offense (21.6 ppg) and tied for sixth in scoring defense (17.6 ppg).
A WIN OVER VANDERBILT WOULD...:
* Be the fifth-straight SEC road win for South Carolina, extending its school record.
* Improve Head Coach Steve Spurrier's record to 14-0 against Vanderbilt, matching his mark against Kentucky as his best record against any opponent.
* Be the Gamecocks seventh straight win in the series.
* Improve USC's record to 14-2 all-time against the Commodores.
* Give the Gamecocks five wins on the season - one shy of the minimum necessary to become bowl-eligible - with five games remaining.
SERIES NOTES: This is the 16th meeting on the gridiron between Carolina and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series, 13-2. The teams have played every year since 1992. USC won each of the first seven tilts before Vandy broke through with back-to-back wins in 1998 and `99. Carolina has won the last six meetings, including a 31-6 rout in the 2004 season opener in Nashville and a hard-fought 35-28 win last season in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won seven of eight contests in Nashville and six of the seven meetings in Columbia. The Gamecocks have scored 30 or more points in each of the last three meetings and in five of the last six contests, while holding Vanderbilt to 14 points or fewer in eight of the last 11 and in 11 of the previous 15 contests.
FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED: Since Steve Spurrier's arrival, the Gamecocks are 7-0 in SEC action when they score first and 0-5 when the opponents score first. Overall, they are 11-2 when tallying the game's first points and are 0-5 when the opponents score first.
BICENTENNIAL MAN: Steve Spurrier recorded his 200th career win as a head coach in his last outing at Kentucky. He owns a 200-86-2 mark in all games, including stints in college - Duke (20-13-1), Florida (122-27-1) and South Carolina (11-7); the USFL - Tampa Bay (35-19); and the NFL - Washington (12-20). The win over FAU earlier this season marked the 200th game as a collegiate head coach for the head ball coach. He owns a 153-47-2 mark through the first 202 collegiate contests, a .762 winning clip. He ranks ninth among active coaches in wins and eighth in winning percentage.
SPURRIER VS. VANDERBILT: South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier has never lost to Vanderbilt in 13 previous meetings, winning twice while at Duke, 10 times while coaching at Florida and last season as the Gamecocks' head coach. Five of the 13 decisions have been by seven points or less. A win this week would give him a 14-0 mark against the Commodores, matching his 14-0 record against Kentucky as his best mark against any school. He also has double-digit wins over Georgia (11), LSU (11), Auburn (10), Tennessee (10) and South Carolina (10).
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Sidney Rice's third touchdown catch - a 3-yard reception with 1:41 to go - lifted South Carolina to a 35-28 victory over Vanderbilt on Oct 22, 2005. Vanderbilt had one last chance, driving to the USC 30 with 20 seconds to go. But Jay Cutler, who finished with a career-high 339 yards passing, threw four straight incompletions. The Gamecocks had rallied behind versatile star Syvelle Newton, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third as the Gamecocks rallied to take a 28-14 lead in the final period. But Newton, who lined up at quarterback, wide receiver and tailback, injured his left achilles on his 11-yard scoring run. Without Newton, Blake Mitchell took control on the winning drive. He completed passes of 32 and 14 yards to Kris Clark, then connected with Rice for 18 yards. Two plays later, Rice cut across the middle of the end zone, catching Mitchell's winning touchdown pass.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Safeties Brandon Isaac (left shoulder) and Nick Prochak (left shoulder), defensive tackle Marque Hall (left knee), offensive guard Kevin Young (left shoulder), offensive tackle Gurminder Thind (right foot) and defensive end Terrence Campbell (left knee) have been lost for the season due to injuries.
OTHER BUMPS & BRUISES: Offensive guard William Brown suffered a sprained left knee against FAU and has not played in the last two games. Safety Emanuel Cook has missed the last three games with a sprained left knee but is expected to be back in action this week. Tight end Andy Boyd reaggravated his right shoulder injury against Auburn (one that sidelined him for the first three games of the season) and did not play at Kentucky.
FOR STARTERS: The Gamecocks have started six true freshmen (offensive tackle Hutch Eckerson, offensive guard Garrett Anderson, linebacker Rodney Paulk, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, safety Emanuel Cook, wide receiver Moe Brown) and two redshirt freshmen (tight end Jared Cook and tailback Taylor Rank) this season. Overall, 16 players have made their first collegiate start in 2006 for USC.
FRESH FISH: The Gamecocks have played 11 of the 18 true freshmen scholarship players who joined the team in the fall. Those who have seen action include: Garrett Anderson (4 starts), Moe Brown (1 start), Emanuel Cook (3 starts), Hutch Eckerson (4 starts), Chris Hail, Captain Munnerlyn (1 start), Eric Norwood, Rodney Paulk (2 starts), Vandaral Shackleford, Chris Smelley and Darian Stewart. Those headed for a redshirt include Pierre Andrews, Heath Batchelor, Seaver Brown, Terrence Campbell, Kenrick Ellis, Nick Prochak, and Kevin Young.
THE LAST TIME OUT: Syvelle Newton threw for 171 yards, rushed for 77 and a score and caught the game-winning TD pass as USC held off a late charge from Kentucky in a 24-17 win in Lexington on Oct. 7. The Gamecocks opened up a 17-0 lead in the third quarter on the play of Newton and running back Cory Boyd, who had a career-best day with 25 carries for 113 yards.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Gamecocks have won a school-record four straight conference road games. They have had their share of success winning on the road in the SEC over the past three seasons, boasting an impressive 7-3 record in that time (3-1 in 2004, 2-2 in 2005 and 2-0 in 2006). They trail only Auburn (9-1), Georgia (9-2) and Tennessee (7-2) in conference road success since the start of the 2004 season.
SOLID DEFENSE: The Gamecock defense has been solid for the most part all season. Carolina has allowed just nine TDs and 85 points through six games, an average of 14.2 points per game, which ranks 18th in the nation. After six games a season ago, USC had surrendered 153 points, an average of 25.5 points per game. They are allowing their opposition to convert 33 percent of its third down attempts, down from 41 percent a year ago.
NEWTON'S FIRST LAW: Senior Syvelle Newton has established himself as the leader of the Gamecock offense. He moved into the quarterback position for the first time this season against Wofford in game 3. 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 owns a career mark of 5-4 as a starter.
NEWTON'S SECOND LAW: Syvelle Newton has been a pleasant surprise when passing the ball. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 196 yards in the win over the Terriers, came back with a 216-yard passing day on 13-of-20 efficiency and five TDs against FAU, hit 21-of-35 passes for 240 yards and two TDs versus Auburn then completed 14-of-22 passes for 171 yards at Kentucky. For the season, he is 61-of-96 (63.5 percent) for 877 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 161.53, the third-best mark in the SEC. For his career, Newton has completed 136-of-234 passes (58.2 percent) for 2,035 yards and 16 touchdowns. Since Coach Spurrier took over the program, Newton has completed 65-of-101 passes (64.4 percent) for 924 yards and 10 touchdowns.
RARE TRIFECTA: Syvelle Newton has passed for 2,035 yards, rushed 186 times for 646 yards and has caught 60 passes for 666 yards. He has accounted for 27 touchdowns in his career - 16 passing, eight rushing and three receiving. Research from other SID's around the country has turned up just three names who have surpassed the 600-600-600 mark in the history of college football - Georgia's Hines Ward (1063 rushing, 918 passing, 1965 receiving), former SMU great Kyle Rote (2049 rushing, 648 passing, 734 receiving) and University of Ohio's Dave Juenger (770 rushing, 1,207 passing and 1,111 receiving).
MCKINLEY BREAKS OUT: True sophomore wide receiver Kenny McKinley had a breakout game against Auburn. With the Tigers focused on stopping Sidney Rice, McKinley responded with a career high eight receptions for a career-high 110 yards and a touchdown. It was the first 100-yard receiving game of his career. He came back with three catches for a team-high 63 yards against Kentucky, including a 44-yard reception. He is second on the team in receptions with 20 for 347 yards this season, while averaging 17.4 yards per catch.
A HELPING OF RICE: After being held to just five catches for 44 yards in the season's first two games, All-America candidate Sidney Rice turned it up a notch in wins over Wofford and FAU. Rice caught seven passes for a 151 yards, against the Terriers, then caught nine passes for 161 yards and five touchdowns in just over a half against the Owls. Rice has gone over the century mark in receiving yards in eight of his last 13 games. Only Sterling Sharpe (10) has more 100-yard receiving games in school history.
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 10 of his 17 career games. He ranks ninth in the SEC in receptions per game (4.3) and in receiving yards per game (69.8).
RE-WRITING THE RECORD BOOK: The Syvelle Newton to Sidney Rice combination hit paydirt a school record five times against FAU. Rice became the first player in Carolina history to score five TDs in a game, surpassing the old mark of four, held by Mike Dingle and Stanley Pritchett. The five touchdown catches in a game also tied the SEC record, set by Carlos Carson of LSU against Rice in 1977. The 30-point scored by Rice ties for the fourth-highest single game total in SEC history.
BOYD CARRIES THE LOAD: Junior Cory Boyd established career highs in both carries (25) and yards rushing (113) in the Gamecocks' win at Kentucky. It was the first 100-yard rushing day of his career. His previous highs were 15 carries and 93 yards. In a rare feat, only Boyd and quarterback Syvelle Newton carried the pigskin for Carolina in that contest. Boyd is sixth in the SEC in rushing, averaging 65.0 yards per game.
THREE REACH THE CENTURY MARK: Cory Boyd became the third player on the Gamecocks' roster to rush for 100 yards in a game when he eclipsed the mark with his 113-yard effort against Kentucky. Sophomore Mike Davis went over the 100-yard plateau twice last season (125 yards versus Missouri and 111 against Clemson). His high this season is 92 against Florida Atlantic. Redshirt freshman Taylor Rank rushed for 101 yards against FAU earlier this season. Syvelle Newton's top rushing game is 94 yards against Ole Miss in 2004. The last USC quarterback to rush for 100 yards in a game was Corey Jenkins (101) against Georgia on Sept. 14, 2002.
STABILITY ALONG THE LINE: The Gamecocks have used the same five starting offensive linemen (LT Hutch Eckerson, LG Thomas Coleman, C Chris White, RG Garrett Anderson and RT Jamon Meredith) in each of the last two games. Should the same five start against Vanderbilt this week, it would mark the first time in the Steve Spurrier era that the same quintet would all start in three consecutive games.
MAYBE BY LAND, BUT NOT BY AIR: The Gamecock defense has been stout against the pass this season. Opponents have completed just 62-of-132 passes (47.0 percent) for 912 yards (152.0 yards per game) with seven interceptions.
BREAKING DOWN BENNETT: All-America cornerback candidate Fred Bennett serves as the leader on the defense. With 27 starts under his belt, Bennett has made more starts than the next two defensive players (Stanley Doughty and Chris Hampton with 11 each) have combined. Of the four returning defensive starters, Bennett is the lone starter this year. Mike West has moved to receiver, Doughty has been a part-time starter, making two startsw this season and Jordin Lindsey is working with the second team.
BENNETT BREAK-UPS: Fred Bennett is tied for first in the SEC in passes defended with eight, including a pair of interceptions. The senior from Manning, S.C. who picked off three passes a year ago has nine career interceptions. With a big finish, 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.
TWO TIMES THREE: Fred Bennett is just one of three defensive backs with a pair of interceptions this season. Safeties Chris Hampton and Stoney Woodson each have picked off two passes as well. Linebacker Curtis Rice also has intercepted a pass. Neither Hampton, Woodson or Rice had an interception prior to the 2006 season.
FRESHMAN RUSH: True freshman Eric Norwood is quickly making a name for himself as a pass rusher. He has a team highs in both tackles for loss (5.5) and sacks (4.0). No other Gamecock has recorded more than 1.5 sacks. He has the most sacks for Carolina since George Gause had 5.0 in 2004. He is the only freshman in the SEC's top 10 in sacks this season.
TWIN KILLINGS: The Brinkley brothers, linebacker Jasper and defensive end Casper, have made their presence felt this season. Jasper is the team leader with 44 tackles, including 36 solo stops, while Casper is tied for fourth on the squad with 18 tackles, including eight solos. They have combined for 62 tackles. Jasper ranks eighths in the SEC with an average of 7.3 tackles per game. Both are junior college transfers from Georgia Military College. Jasper arrived at South Carolina in January, while Casper was a summer arrival.
SUCCOP SUCCESS: Sophomore punter Ryan Succop has proven to be a worthy weapon in the special teams arena. He is averaging 45.1 yards per punt, with four of his 17 punts inside the 20. He would rank first in the SEC and eighth in the country in individual punting if he had enough attempts to qualify for the national statistics. The Gamecocks are second in the nation in net punting, averaging 42.24 yards per punt, ranking behind New Mexico State (43.31). He owns a long punt of 58 yards.
HERE'S THE KICKER: Ryan Succop also handles the placekicking chores for the Gamecocks. He has hit on 8-of-9 field goal attempts, missing only from 51 yards when he bounced it off the left upright against Georgia. He hit on a career-long 49-yard attempt versus Auburn. He was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week following his effort in the season-opening win at Mississippi State.
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have posted a 44-33 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 44 wins from 2000-2006 is three 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.
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 quarterback Syvelle Newton, wide receiver Noah Whiteside and cornerback Fred Bennett, while safety Brandon Isaac came to USC via the junior college route. Of those six, Boyd has been sidelined most of the year with a shoulder injury, Whiteside has seen very limited duty and Isaac is redshirting while recovering from shoulder surgery. Only Kentucky and Florida State have as few of seniors that entered their programs on scholarship.
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.
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, short 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 15 and 17 of the last 18 games on offense. They have scored on the opening drive three times - putting seven points on the board via touchdown passes versus Central Florida and against Missouri in 2005 and against Florida Atlantic in 2006.
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 44-33. 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.
A LITTLE HISTORY: This is the 113th season of college football at the USC, 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 511-514-44. The school's only league title came in 1969 when it went 6-0 to win the ACC crown.
GAME CAPTAINS: Carolina selects game captains for each contest. Here are those game captains: Mississippi State: Chris White (center), Thomas Coleman (right guard) and Fred Bennett (cornerback). Georgia: Cory Boyd (tailback), Jasper Brinkley (linebacker) and Scott Morgan (deep snapper). Wofford: Syvelle Newton (quarterback), Ryan Brown (linebacker) and Ryan Succop (kicker). Florida Atlantic: Sidney Rice (wide receiver), Casper Brinkley (defensive end) and Yvan Banag (safety). Auburn: Sidney Rice (wide receiver), Fred Bennett (cornerback) and Jasper Brinkley (linebacker). Kentucky: Syvelle Newton (quarterback), Ryan Succop (kicker), Jordin Lindsey (defensive end).
UP NEXT: Carolina returns home for the first time in a month as they host the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, Oct. 28 at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Vols lead the all-time series, 19-3-2, but USC won for the first time ever in Knoxville last season, squeaking out a 16-15 victory, snapping a 12-game losing streak to Tennessee. Carolina's last win at home came in the 1992 season.
LOOKING AHEAD SHORT TERM: Things get prettytough schedule-wise for the Gamecocks during the second half of the 2006 season. After playing at Vanderbilt this weekend, four of Carolina's remaining five games are against opponents currently ranked among the nation's top 15 teams according to the Associated Press. Tennessee (No. 7 AP), Arkansas (No. 15 AP), Florida (No. 9 AP) and Clemson (No. 12 AP) have combined for a 22-4 record so far this season. Overall, USC's 2006 opponents have combined for a 48-31 record, a .608 winning percentage.
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.
BOWL AGREEMENTS: The Southeastern Conference has agreements to send eight of its member institutions to postseason bowl games following the 2006 season. The winner of the SEC Championships Game will automatically participate in the Bowl Championship Series comprised of the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta Bowls. The Capital One will then make its pick. The Outback, Chick-fil-A and AT&T Cotton Bowls will work with the conference office to determine picks 3-5. In selections 6-7, the AutoZone Liberty and Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowls will make their selections, not in any specific order, but in consultation with the SEC Office. The PetroSun Independence Bowl will receive the eight selection of available SEC teams.
NEWS & NOTES:
* The Gamecocks have converted 41 percent (31-of-76) of their third down opportunities, up from the 34 percent (48-of-142) of a year ago.
* The Gamecocks rank fourth in the SEC in opponents third down conversions, allowing just 32.9 percent (26-of-79). They allowed 41 percent (77-of-186) to be converted a year ago.
* Kenny McKinley ranks third in the league in punt returns, averaging 7.9 yards per return. He averaged just 4.6 yards per return last season.
* Carlos Thomas is fifth in the league in kick return average with a mark of 23.8 yards per return. He averaged 23.9 yards per kick return in 2005.
* South Carolina is averaging the most fourth-down conversion attempts in the SEC with two per game (12 in 6 games). They have been successful in six of those 12 opportunities.
* The Gamecocks have outscored their opponents in every quarter this season except the fourth, where they trail by one point (27-26).
* 42 percent (54 of 128) of South Carolina's points this season have been scored in the second quarter.
* The Gamecocks have scored touchdowns just 41 percent of the time (9-of-22) after reaching the red zone, while holding their opponents to just 47 percent (7-of-15) in those same situations.
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