Game day news and notes
QUICKLY: It's Homecoming as the South Carolina Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) host the Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 SEC) in an SEC match-up on Saturday, Sept. 29. Game time is set for 12:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia. The Gamecocks are ranked 16th in the latest Associated Press poll and 21st in this week's USA Today/Coaches' poll.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week's game will be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports throughout the Southeast, including WIS-TV in Columbia. Dave Neal will handle the play-by-play call with Dave Archer providing the analysis. Dave Baker is the sideline reporter. The game will also be part of the ESPN GamePlan package. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs will once again be in the booth for the Carolina Gamecocks Sports Network, with former Carolina and NFL standout Duce Staley joining the team this year as a sideline reporter.
SWEET SEPTEMBER: The Gamecocks have a chance to win their fourth game of the season before the calendar turns to October. The last time they had four wins in September was in 2001 when they were 4-0, including a 16-14 win at Mississippi State and a 37-36 win over Alabama on Sept. 29.
THE SERIES: South Carolina has won four straight in the series with Mississippi State to even the all-time set at six wins apiece. The teams have split six games evenly in both Columbia and Starkville. The teams met every year from 1992-2002, before missing each other for three years from 2003-'05. The Gamecocks won by a 15-0 count in Starkville in the season lidlifter for both squads a year ago. Mississippi State's last win in the series was a 17-0 blanking of the Gamecocks in Starkville on Sept. 25, 1999. The Gamecocks have not allowed more than 19 points in any of the last five contests. There have been four shutouts in the first 12 meetings between the two schools, with the Bulldogs getting the better end of it on three of those occasions. The series has had some high scoring affairs, a 41-36 MSU win in `94 and a 65-39 USC win in a `95 shootout.
SPURRIER AND THE BULLDOGS: South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier owns a 5-2 record against Mississippi State. He was 4-2 against the Bulldogs as the head coach at Florida and is 1-0 since taking over the helm at South Carolina. He is perfect at home against State and is 1-2 in Starkville.
THE FIRST 30: Gamecock Head Coach Steve Spurrier will be coaching in his 30th game at South Carolina this weekend. He has posted an 18-11 record through his first 29 contests. He has a chance to match Warren Giese and Joe Morrison for the most wins at Carolina through 30 games. Both Giese and Morrison had 19-11 records after 30 contests. Here is a list of all the South Carolina coaches who worked at least 30 games: Coach Years Record Pct. Warren Giese 1956-58 19-11-0 .633 Joe Morrison 1983-85 19-11-0 .633 Billy Laval 1928-30 18-10-2 .633 Steve Spurrier 2005-07 18-11-0 .621 N.B. Edgerton 1912-15 17-10-3 .617 Sol Metzger 1920-22 17-11-2 .600 Jim Carlen 1975-77 17-13-0 .567 Sparky Woods 1989-91 15-12-3 .550 Brad Scott 1994-96 15-14-1 .517 Lou Holtz 1999-01 14-16-0 .467 Christie Benet 1904-05; 1908 12-15-3 .450 Rex Enright 1938-40 12-16-2 .433 Dan McCallister 1935-37 11-18-1 .383 Paul Dietzel 1966-68 10-20-0 .333 Marvin Bass 1961-63 9-19-2 .333
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Gamecocks opened the 2006 season with a 15-0 shutout win at Mississippi State on Aug. 31. The game's lone touchdown came on a double pass as Syvelle Newton took a lateral from Blake Mitchell and found a wide-open Cory Boyd for a 54-yard score early in the fourth quarter. The other nine points were supplied by kicker Ryan Succop, who connected on field goal attempts of 39, 35 and 47 yards en route to SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. The Gamecocks outgained the Bulldogs, 274-161. The shutout win was USC's first since blanking New Mexico State in Columbia on Sept. 2, 2000 by a 31-0 count. It was the Gamecocks first road shutout since whitewashing East Carolina in Greenville by a 26-0 score on Sept. 20, 1997. It was USC's first SEC shutout since handing Vanderbilt a 27-0 defeat in Nashville on Oct. 26, 1996.
THE LAST TIME IN COLUMBIA: The Gamecocks put together their most impressive first half performance of the season en route to a 34-10 win over Mississippi State on Oct. 5, 2002. USC ran out to a 21-0 lead at the intermission, outgaining the Bulldogs 230-97 in the opening 30 minutes. Corey Jenkins carried 13 times for 52 yards and one touchdown and completed 5-of-10 passes for 103 yards and another score.
NO BULL - GAMECOCKS TOP DOGS: This week's game marks the third time in the last four weeks that the Gamecocks are taking on a team called the Bulldogs. Carolina has already disposed of the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina State Bulldogs this season.
INTO THE POLLS: With the win at No. 11 Georgia on Sept. 8, South Carolina moved into the top-25 polls. They entered the polls ranked 17th by the Associated Press and 23rd in the USA Today/Coaches' poll. It was just the second time in the Steve Spurrier Era that the Gamecocks have been ranked. They were 19th in the country for one week in 2005 after defeating Florida, but fell out the following week after falling to Clemson.
CLIMBING UP THE CHARTS: After the win over South Carolina State on Sept. 15, the Gamecocks moved up to 12th in the AP poll and tied for 14th in the USA Today/Coaches' poll. It marked the first time that USC had been ranked in back-to-back weeks since the first two weeks of the 2002 season when they were 22nd in the AP poll both weeks. It was the highest the Gamecocks have been ranked since Oct. 21, 2001 when they were 12th after a win at Vanderbilt.
THREE WEEKS IN A ROW: The Gamecocks are ranked in the nation's top 25 for the third straight week, coming in at No. 16 in the AP and No. 21 in the USA Today/Coaches' poll this week. It's the longest consecutive stretch since the 2001 season when they were ranked all year, climbing as high as No. 9 after a 5-0 start.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The 12th-ranked Gamecocks ran into a buzzsaw in the form of 2nd-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday and came back from the Bayou with a 28-16 loss to the Tigers. The Gamecocks scored first, but LSU used a solid ground game, which rolled up 290 yards, to score the next 28 points. Carolina tried to rally late with two fourth-quarter scores, but it wasn't enough. South Carolina threw for 244 yards compared to LSU's 70, but the ground game proved to be the difference, as USC could only muster 17 net yards rushing on 27 attempts.
TOP FIVE FOES: With the loss at LSU, the Gamecocks have lost 21 straight games to top-5 teams, dating back to a 31-13 win over third-ranked North Carolina on Oct. 24, 1981. That game marks the highest-ranked team ever to fall to Carolina.
NEWS & NOTES FROM THE BAYOU:
* Mike Davis scored his first rushing touchdown of the season and the 12th of his career. Davis also caught three passes for a team-best 77 yards.
* Safety Chris Hampton made his first start of the season and responded with six tackles, a forced fumble and an interception, the third of his career.
* Freshman Chris Culliver nearly went the distance on his second career kickoff return, breaking off a 44-yard burst, the longest Carolina kick return this season.
* Safety Emanuel Cook had a strong showing against LSU, logging a team-high 11 tackles with two pass breakups. He entered the game with 10 tackles on the season.
* Cliff Matthews was credited with a blocked punt against LSU. It was the first blocked punt recorded by the Gamecocks since Derek Watson blocked a punt against Florida on Nov. 11, 2000.
PLAYING A RANKED OPPONENT: The Gamecocks are now 4-7 against ranked opponents in the Steve Spurrier Era. They are 1-1 this season with a win at No. 11 Georgia and a loss at No. 2 LSU. They were 1-5 against ranked opponents in 2006 with their lone win coming against No. 24 Clemson. In 2005, Carolina was 2-1 against ranked opponents, knocking off No. 23 Tennessee and No. 12 Florida after losing to No. 9 Georgia.
SPURRIER SETBACKS: Steve Spurrier has lost 11 times during his three-year stint in Columbia, but those losses have been to some of the nation's elite teams. Seven of the 11 losses were to teams ranked in the top 12 in the country at the time of the contest. In addition, seven of the losses have been by seven points or less.
SPURRIER AGAINST THE BEST: Coach Steve Spurrier owns a 49-36-1 record when facing ranked opponents, including wins in 15 of his last 25 opportunities. He has an 11-13 mark when facing teams ranked in the top five in the country. The last top-5 team he defeated was No. 2 Tennessee on Sept. 18, 1999 (23-21).
KEEPING THEM OFF THE BOARD: Despite allowing 28 points to a very good LSU team, the Gamecock defense remains one of the toughest to score on this season. Carolina has allowed just 57 points in four games, an average of 14.3 points per game. The Gamecocks rank 10th in the country in scoring defense.
DON'T PASS ON ME: The Gamecocks have been especially solid in pass defense this season. They rank second in the nation in both pass defense and in pass efficiency defense.
RED ZONE SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have come away with points in all 14 trips into the red zone this season, scoring 10 touchdowns and four field goals.
FOR STARTERS: Seven players have made their first career start this season. The list includes: Chris Smelley (ULL), Travian Robertson (ULL), Eric Norwood (ULL), Ladi Ajiboye (UGA), Darian Stewart (UGA), Cliff Matthews (LSU) and Jason Barnes (LSU).
SMELLEY SNIFFS THE STARTING ROLE: Redshirt freshman Chris Smelley is expected to get the starting nod this week against Mississippi State. Smelley was the starter in Week One, when he took the season's first snap against Louisiana-Lafayette. In that contest the Tuscaloosa, Ala. native became the first redshirt freshman to start a season-opener at quarterback since Todd Ellis did so in the 1986 season. Smelley, who played the entire second half last week at LSU, is not unfamiliar with Mississippi State, as he saw action against the Bulldogs in last season's opener.
MITCHELL IN RELIEF: Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Mitchell moves into a backup role this week. He has made 20 career starts for the Gamecocks, winning 13. The LaGrange, Ga. native is the only Gamecock quarterback to defeat Georgia, Clemson, Florida and Tennessee in his career. Mitchell ranks seventh in the Carolina record books with 4,636 career passing yards. Only four players (Todd Ellis, Steve Taneyhill, Anthony Wright and Phil Petty) have thrown for over 5,000 yards in a Gamecock uniform. The MVP of the 2006 Liberty Bowl came into the season as the SEC's top returning quarterback in career completion percentage (61.2 percent), which was also the best mark in school history.
MCKINLEY CLOSES IN ON 100: Junior Kenny McKinley is the top receiving threat for the Gamecocks. He has 23 catches and 207 receiving yards this season, nearly twice as many catches and yards as any other Gamecock. His top game this season is a seven-catch, 102-yard performance at Georgia, his third career 100-yard game. He is tied for fourth in the SEC averaging 5.75 receptions per game. McKinley caught 51 passes for 880 yards, an average of 17.3 yards per catch in 2006. The receptions (10th) and yards (6th) both figured in South Carolina's single-season top 10 list. McKinley has caught 99 career passes, which puts him in 11th place on the school's all-time list. He has caught three of the Gamecocks six touchdown passes this season.
25 AND COUNTING: Kenny McKinley has caught a pass in 25 straight games. That is the eighth longest current streak in the country.
BOYD IS BACK: Senior tailback Cory Boyd is back for his fifth and final season in the Garnet & Black. Boyd leads the team with 272 yards rushing, averaging 4.8 yards per carry with four touchdowns. He is averaging 68.0 yards per contest. He rushed for a career-high 132 yards on just 11 carries in the win over South Carolina State, averaging 12.0 yards per carry. It was his fourth career 100-yard rushing game. He is also second on the team with 13 receptions for 119 yards. The Orange, N.J. native was the team's leading rusher a season ago when he totaled 823 yards on the ground in 164 carries, an average of 5.0 yards per tote. He also caught 35 passes out of the backfield for 406 yards, an 11.6 yard average.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: Cory Boyd is just the fourth player in school history to log 1,000 yards rushing (1,636) and haul in 70+ receptions (94). The others are Stanley Pritchett, Brandon Bennett and Harold Green. He as also gone over the 1,000-yard plateau in both rushing (1,636) and receiving (1,017), joining Stanley Pritchett (1,178 rushing and 1,097 receiving) as the only players in school history to accomplish that feat.
DAVIS MAKES IT A SOLID DUO: Junior Mike Davis has matched Cory Boyd nearly yard-for-yard this season, giving the Gamecocks a solid one-two punch in the running game. Coach Spurrier has mentioned that he thinks the Boyd-Davis tandem is as good as any twosome he's coached. Davis, who eclipsed the 100-yard rushing plateau for the third time in his career against South Carolina State, has rushed 44 times for 262 yards this season, an average of 6.0 yards per carry. He has rushed for 1,402 career yards for his hometown school.
TIGHT ENDS CONTRIBUTE: While searching for a solid second wide receiver to go to, the Gamecock offense has turned to its tight ends. True freshman Weslye Saunders came up with four catches for 32 yards against LSU last weekend. A trio of tight ends, Jared Cook (six catches for 99 yards), Andy Boyd (five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown) and Saunders (five catches for 52 yards), all have more receptions than any wide receiver not named McKinley.
PEPPER'S OUT: Junior defensive lineman Nathan Pepper suffered a left knee injury when he returned an interception for a touchdown against South Carolina State and will miss the remainder of the 2007 season.
AND SO IS BRINKLEY: Senior linebacker Jasper Brinkley will miss the remainder of the 2007 football season after suffering a right knee sprain in the Gamecocks' loss at LSU. Brinkley, a 6-2, 262-pound middle linebacker from Thomson Ga., was on the pre-season watch lists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's best linebacker; the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is presented to the best defensive player in college football; the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year; and the Lombardi Award, which honors the nation's top lineman. He was a consensus pre-season All-SEC first-team selection and an All-America candidate. Brinkley was a first-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press in 2006 after registering a team-leading 107 tackles, including 85 solo stops, the most among the returning SEC players.
CASPER'S THE OLDER ONE: Jasper Brinkley's older brother by a minute, Casper Brinkley, has been just as impressive as his younger brother this season, logging 22 tackles in the first four games. He has one sack while playing outside linebacker and defensive end after logging 7.0 sacks a year ago. Jasper and Casper both have started all 17 games since arriving on campus and have combined for 194 tackles in that time, an average of 11.4 tackles per game.
ERIC BRINGS THE WOOD: Sophomore defensive end Eric Norwood has starred for the Gamecocks as well. A Freshman All-American last season, Norwood has recorded a team-leading 25 tackles this season, including 5.0 tackles for loss, tying for eighth in the SEC. He has 2.0 sacks this season, tying for ninth in the league, and 9.0 sacks in his career in the Garnet & Black.
SUCCOP SHINES: The Gamecocks have another All-America candidate in placekicker Ryan Succop. Succop, a 6-2, 214-pound junior from Hickory, N.C., has been successful on each of his last five field goal attempts after missing his first attempt (a 47-yarder) of the season. He was the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week against Georgia after drilling all three of his field goal attempts in the 16-12 win. He is 21-for-28 in field goal attempts in his career. He has converted 15 of his last 18 attempts from inside 47. Succop also handles the kick off and punting duties for South Carolina. He is averaging 42.8 yards per punt this season after averaging 43.7 yards per punt in 2006, and is averaging 67.2 yards on his kickoffs.
PRE-SEASON ACCOLADES: Jasper Brinkley was the only Gamecock to earn pre-season first team All-SEC honors by both the media and the coaches. Ryan Succop earned first team honors as a placekicker by the media, but was a second team selection by the coaches. Succop also earned second team honors by both the media and coaches as a punter. Tight end Andy Boyd was a second team selection by the coaches, while tailback Cory Boyd and defensive end Casper Brinkley gained third team recognition by the league's coaches.
MORE PRE-SEASON RESPECT: Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is a pre-season All-America candidate. He is on the pre-season "watch list" for the Nagurski Award, for the Lombardi Award, for the Butkus Award and for the Walter Camp Player of the Year award. Quarterback Blake Mitchell is on the list for the Manning Award, while Ryan Succop is on the Lou Groza Award and Ray Guy Award watch lists.
THE OLDEST GAMECOCK: Despite turning 24 years old on August 15, sixth-year senior Andy Boyd is not the oldest Gamecock on the roster. That distinction goes to walk-on linebacker Marcus Davis, who turned 28-years-old on Aug. 28. He was a 1997 graduate of Columbia's Eau Claire High School. Research indicates that Davis is the oldest Division I football player in the country this year.
EARNING HIS KEEP: Prior to the start of the season, Head Coach Steve Spurrier placed former walk-on Bryan Kingrey on scholarship. Over the past three years, Coach Spurrier has rewarded 10 former walk-ons on scholarships.
RECRUITING SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are coming off the most successful February signing day in school history. The class was ranked fourth in the country by ESPN.com, sixth by Rivals.com and seventh by Scout.com. It was the Gamecocks' first top-10 class since 2003 (8th) and is the highest-ranked class in school history, bettering the 2002 class that was ranked as high as No. 7 by ESPN's Tom Lemming. This year's class features five players on the Rivals100 list including wide receiver Chris Culliver (19), defensive end Cliff Matthews (32), quarterback Stephen Garcia (90), defensive end Travian Robertson (96) and tackle Quintin Richardson (99).
FRESH FACES: The Gamecocks have played 13 members of their highly-touted recruiting class. Travian Robertson started at defensive end in the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. The others who have seen action this season are wide receivers Jason Barnes, Matt Clements, Dion Lecorn and Chris Culliver, tailback Brian Maddox, fullback Patrick DiMarco, tight end Weslye Saunders, defensive linemen Clifton Geathers, Cliff Matthews and Ladi Ajiboye, linebacker Melvin Ingram and cornerback Addison Williams. ABOUT THE 2007 SCHEDULE: The Gamecocks came into the season with the second-toughest schedule in the country, according to Rivals.com, behind only Washington. The conference road schedule reads like a "Who's Who" of top-ranked programs, with stops planned at Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas5. Throw in a non-conference trip to North Carolina, where new head coach Butch Davis takes over, and the task is daunting. The home schedule features a visit from defending national champion Florida and in-state rival Clemson to wrap up the season. Other conference home games include Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Louisiana-Lafayette and South Carolina State round out the slate.
ROTATING OFF AND ON: With the rotation schedule of SEC West opponents, the Gamecocks drop Auburn from their schedule and pick up LSU for 2007 and `08.
THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: For the third straight season, the Gamecocks will play a Thursday night contest in 2007. They will host SEC rival Kentucky on Thursday, Oct. 4. Carolina opened its 2005 season on a Thursday night with a win against Central Florida. Last season, the Gamecocks opened the season at Mississippi State on a Thursday and came away with a 15-0 win. They also lost a mid-season Thursday night contest at home to Auburn.
WATCHING FROM ABOVE: Wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. and secondary coach Ron Cooper are the only full-time Gamecock coaches who work the game from the press box. All of the other coaches work the sidelines during the games.
CALL `EM AS I SEE `EM: Steve Spurrier is one of 14 Division I-A head coaches who calls his team's offensive plays. The others? Turner Gill (Buffalo), Bill Cubit (Western Michigan), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Todd Dodge (North Texas), Jeff Tedford (California), Bob Toledo (Tulane), Art Briles (Houston), Bill Callahan (Nebraska), Ralph Friedgen (Maryland), Paul Johnson (Navy), June Jones (Hawaii), Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) and Hal Mumme (New Mexico State).
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have a 51-37 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 51 wins is 10 more their total of 41 victories posted in the entire decade of the `90s. Carolina's most victories in any decade is 63, set from 1980-89.
GAME CAPTAINS: The Gamecocks select captains for each game. ULL: Captain Munnerlyn, Brandon Isaac and Justin Sorensen. UGA: Cory Boyd, Eric Norwood, Marque Hall and Andy Boyd. SCSU: Mike Davis, Darian Stewart, Casper Brinkley and William Brown. LSU: Cory Boyd, Emanuel Cook, Jasper Brinkley and William Brown.
WINNING MORE OFTEN THAN NOT: Carolina has posted three straight winning seasons (6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005 and 8-5 in 2006). The last time they turned in that many consecutive winning seasons was 1987-90 when they went 8-4, 8-4, 6-4-1 and 6-5 in four consecutive years.
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.
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.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks have a short week as they will get ready to face the Kentucky Wildcats on Thursday, Oct. 4 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. and the SEC Eastern Division contest will be televised nationally on ESPN. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series with Kentucky, 11-6-1 and have won the last seven matchups between the two schools, including a 24-17 win in Lexington last season. Head Coach Steve Spurrier is a perfect 14-0 in his career against Kentucky, including a 2-0 mark since taking over at South Carolina.
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