Game day news and notes
QUICKLY: The South Carolina Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1 SEC) take a break from Southeastern Conference action this week as they travel to Chapel Hill to face the North Carolina Tar Heels (2-4, 1-2 ACC). Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium (60,000). The game will be televised regionally by ABC, including WOLO-25 in Columbia. The Gamecocks are ranked seventh in the latest Associated Press poll and 12th in this week's USA Today/Coaches' poll. OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week's game will be televised regionally by ABC as part of the ACC package. Dave Lamont will handle the play-by-play call with Jesse Palmer providing the analysis from the booth. Vince Welch is the sideline reporter. 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. The game will also be carried on Sirius satellite radio channel 125.
SERIES NOTES: The Gamecocks and Tar Heels have met 54 times, the fifth most-played matchup in South Carolina history, but have not met on the gridiron since 1991. The series dates back to 1903. The teams met every year from 1949-64. UNC leads the all-time series 34-16-4, including an 18-7-3 advantage in Chapel Hill. USC has won three of the last four and nine of the last 14 meetings. UNC posted a 21-17 win in Chapel Hill on Nov. 16, 1991, in the last meeting. The teams are scheduled to meet again in Columbia on Sept. 18, 2010.
SPURRIER AND THE TAR HEELS: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is 3-0 in his career against North Carolina, including a 2-0 mark in Chapel Hill. All three of those wins came in the regular season finale from 1987-89 while he was coaching at Duke. He posted consecutive wins of 25-10, 35-29 and 41-0.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: North Carolina defeated South Carolina for the first time since 1983 and snapped USC's three-year dominance over the Tar Heels by downing the Gamecocks 21-17 at Kenan Stadium on Nov. 16, 1991 before a crowd of 47,500. USC jumped out to a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on a six-yard TD pass from Bobby Fuller to Robert Brooks. The Tar Heels tied the game at seven when Natrone Means rushed for an eight-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. UNC quarterback Jason Stanicek connected with Randy Jordan on a 19-yard pass that gave North Carolina a 14-7 advantage. Fuller then found Brooks on a four-yard pass just before intermission to knot the game at 14. North Carolina scored the only points of the third quarter when Stanicek found Joey Jauch for a nine-yard TD pass. Marty Simpson kicked a 39-yard field goal with eight minutes remaining in the contest, but that was all the points the Gamecocks could muster. USC outgained UNC, 332-311, including a 243-119 advantage through the air, but the Tar Heels rushed for 192 yards to the Gamecocks' 39. The teams combined for 17 punts.
INTO THE POLLS: With the win at No. 11 Georgia on Sept. 8, South Carolina moved into the nation's Top-25. 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 were ranked. They were ranked 19th for one week in 2005 after defeating Florida, but fell out the following week after a loss to Clemson.
THE LATEST RANKINGS: The Gamecocks have moved up to seventh in the AP poll this week and are 12th in the USA Today/Coaches poll. The A.P. ranking is the highest for the Gamecocks since the final regular season poll in 1984 when they were 10-1 and ranked seventh in the nation heading into a Gator Bowl date with ninth-ranked Oklahoma State. The Gamecocks vaulted as high as No. 2 in the nation that season after winning their first nine contests before dropping a 38-21 decision at Navy. The Gamecocks are in the Top-10 in the country for the first time since the 2001 season when they climbed to ninth in the AP poll after a 5-0 start.
NORTH CAROLINA TIES: The Gamecocks have 16 players on their roster who hail from the state of North Carolina. The list includes William Brown (Booneville), Pierre Andrews and Jason Barnes (Charlotte), Tommy Beecher and Andy Boyd (Concord), Weslye Saunders (Durham), Chris Culliver and Cedric Snead (Garner), Melvin Ingram (Hamlet), Ryan Succop (Hickory), Byron McKnight and Travian Robertson ((Laurinburg), Hutch Eckerson (Lumberton), Bryan Kingrey (Raleigh), Marque Hall (Wingate) and Alonzo Winfield (Winston-Salem). In addition, assistant coaches Fred Chatham (Elkin) and Brad Lawing (Hickory) have both been Tar Heel assistants.
38 SPECIAL: The Gamecocks have scored exactly 38 points in each of the last two and in three of the last four games. For the season, the Gamecocks are averaging 29.0 points per game.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The 11th-ranked Gamecocks impressed a national ESPN audience with a 38-23 win over No. 8 Kentucky on Thursday, Oct. 4. Redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Smelley did more than his own against Andre Woodson, out passing the Heisman Trophy candidate 256-227. Defensive end Eric Norwood had his coming out party, tying an NCAA record by taking two fumble recoveries into the end zone for scores. The game marked the first time that two ranked teams were on the field in Columbia since 2001 when No. 4 Florida handed No. 14 South Carolina a 54-17 setback and the first time that two teams ranked in the top 11 in the country met at WBS since No. 5 South Carolina beat No. 11 Florida State, 38-26 on Nov. 10, 1984.
THAT'S A RECORD: Defensive end Eric Norwood returned a pair of fumble recoveries for touchdowns in the win over Kentucky, tying an NCAA record. Norwood went in from two-yards out in the first quarter and from 53-yards away in the third quarter. He became the fourth player in Division I history to score on two fumble recoveries in a game. The others: Tyrone Carter, Minnesota vs. Syracuse, Sept. 21, 1996; Tony Driver, Notre Dame vs. Navy, Oct. 14, 2000; Alvin Nnabuife, SMU vs. Nevada, Nov. 13, 2004.
DEFENSE SCORES: The Gamecocks got their second and third defensive touchdowns of the season against Kentucky when Eric Norwood recovered a pair of fumbles and went two and 53 yards for scores. It was the Gamecocks' first fumble recoveries for touchdowns since Ko Simpson returned a fumble 19 yards against Kentucky in 2005. Earlier this season, Nathan Pepper returned an interception for a touchdown. Last year, the Gamecocks did not have any defensive scores.
HONORS: Eric Norwood was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week and Chris Smelley was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for the second week in a row following their efforts in the win against eighth-ranked Kentucky. Norwood was also named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week.
PLAYING A RANKED OPPONENT: The win over No. 8 Kentucky improved the Gamecocks record to 5-7 against ranked opponents in the Steve Spurrier Era. They are 2-1 this season with wins at No. 11 Georgia and vs. No. 8 Kentucky 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.
KEEPING THEM OFF THE BOARD: The Gamecock defense remains one of the toughest to score on this season. Carolina has allowed just 101 points in six games, an average of 16.8 points per game. They limited Kentucky to half of their 46 points per game average. The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC and 16th in the country in scoring defense.
NO PASSING FANCY: The Gamecocks have been especially solid in pass defense this season. Despite using five different starting quartets in the secondary, they lead the nation in pass defense and in are second in pass efficiency defense. There are only three teams in the country that have allowed fewer than 150 yards per game through the air.
NOT ON THIRD DOWN: The South Carolina defense ranks first in the SEC and tied for fourth in the nation in third-down efficiency, allowing just 25.9 percent of third downs to be converted. Conversely, the Gamecocks have converted 42.7 percent of their third-down opportunities, which ranks fourth in the league.
FOR STARTERS: Ten players have made their first career start in 2007. The list includes (first start): Chris Smelley (ULL), Travian Robertson (ULL), Eric Norwood (ULL), Ladi Ajiboye (UGA), Darian Stewart (UGA), Cliff Matthews (LSU), Jason Barnes (LSU), Seaver Brown (Mississippi State), Dion Lecorn (Mississippi State), and Jonathan Williams (Kentucky).
SMELLEY SNIFFS THE STARTING ROLE: Redshirt freshman Chris Smelley has taken over the quarterback reins over the last two weeks. He got the starting nod against Mississippi State, his second start of the season, and celebrated his 21st birthday by completing 19-of-37 passes for a career-high 279 yards with two touchdowns and one INT. His performance earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors. Last week, Smelley connected on 17-of-30 passes for 256 yards and two TD's to lead the Gamecocks to a win over No. 8 Kentucky. Smelley was also 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.
MITCHELL IN RELIEF: Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Mitchell has been relegated to a backup role. The LaGrange, Ga. native is 13-7 in 20 career starts. He 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. 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 CATCHING ON: Junior wide receiver Kenny McKinley is the top receiving threat for the Gamecocks. He has 32 catches for 382 yards with five of the team's 10 touchdown receptions. He has scored four TDs in the last four games. He has a pair of 100-yard receiving games this season - a seven-catch, 102-yard performance at Georgia and a four-catch, 107-yard, 2-TD outing against Mississippi State, his third and fourth career 100-yard games. He is tied for fourth in the SEC averaging 5.33 receptions per game and is seventh in receiving yards at a clip of 63.7 yards 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 USC's single-season top 10 list. McKinley has caught 108 passes in his career, which places him ninth on the school's all-time list, three behind Brandon Bennett (111) for eighth and eight behind Stanley Pritchett (116) for seventh. He has also caught a pass in 27 straight games, the 11th 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 387 yards rushing, averaging 4.7 yards per carry with four touchdowns. He is averaging 64.5 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 third on the team with 16 receptions for 176 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 90+ receptions (97). The others are Stanley Pritchett, Brandon Bennett and Harold Green. He as also gone over the 1,000-yard plateau in both rushing (1,693) and receiving (1,074), 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 said 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 79 times for 383 yards and five touchdowns this season, an average of 4.8 yards per carry. He tied the school record with three rushing touchdowns in the win over Mississippi State. He has rushed for 1,523 career yards for his hometown school. He is also the Gamecocks' second-leading receiver with 17 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown.
TIGHT ENDS CONTRIBUTE: While searching for a solid second wide receiver to go to, the Gamecock offense has turned to its tight ends. A trio of tight ends, Jared Cook (12 catches for 201 yards), Andy Boyd (five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown) and Weslye Saunders (seven catches for 108 yards), have combined for 24 receptions for 364 yards.
NO MORE PEPPER: Junior defensive lineman Nathan Pepper suffered a left knee injury when he returned an interception for a TD 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 season after suffering a right knee sprain which required surgery 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.
PLAYING SHORT-HANDED: Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix must feel like he has one hand tied behind his back, as the Gamecock defense has been playing short-handed this season. With the season-ending injuries to Nathan Pepper and Jasper Brinkley, and the loss of defensive end Jordin Lindsey to academics, the Gamecocks are playing without three projected starters. ONE BRINKLEY LEFT: Jasper Brinkley's older brother by a minute, Casper Brinkley, has been impressive this season, logging 24 tackles. He has 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks while playing outside linebacker and defensive end after logging 7.0 sacks a year ago. Jasper (17) and Casper (19) have combined for 36 starts since arriving on campus, totaling 196 tackles in that time.
ERIC BRINGS THE WOOD: Sophomore defensive end Eric Norwood has starred for the Gamecocks as well along the defensive line. A Freshman All-American last season, Norwood has recorded 35 tackles this season, including 7.5 tackles for loss, tied for seventh in the SEC. He has 3.0 sacks this season, which also ties him for eighth in the league, and 10.0 sacks in his career in the Garnet & Black. He is just two sacks away from moving into the Gamecocks' career Top-10 list. A big-play performer, Norwood has a blocked punt and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns to his credit this season.
COOKIN' WITH EMANUEL: One of the Gamecocks' toughest players has to be safety Emanuel Cook. One of the surest tacklers on the team, the sophomore missed the season opener after being sidelined with an appendectomy, but returned just two weeks later to play against Georgia. Despite missing one game, he leads the team with 37 tackles, including 28 solo stops. He has at least seven tackles in each of his four starts, including a team-high 11 at LSU. He is currently tied for seventh in the SEC, averaging 7.4 tackles per game.
SUCCOP SHINES: The Gamecocks have one of the nation's best all-around kickers in Ryan Succop. Succop, a 6-2, 214-pound junior from Hickory, N.C., is 7-for-9 in field goal attempts this season. He has been successful on seven of his last eight tries with his only miss in that stretch a 50-yarder, 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 23-for-31 in field goal attempts in his career. He has converted 17 of his last 20 attempts from inside 47. Succop also handles the kick off and punting duties for South Carolina. He is averaging 41.2 yards per punt this season after averaging 43.7 yards per punt in 2006, and is averaging 66.0 yards on his kickoffs. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in kickoff coverage with a net mark of 44.3 yards. He is on both the Lou Groza and Ray Guy watch lists.
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.
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. It is believed that Davis is the oldest Division I football player in the country this year, although he is not in the "Tim Frisby" category.
EARNING HIS KEEP: Prior to the start of the season, 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.
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).
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 WR Chris Culliver (19), DE Cliff Matthews (32), QB Stephen Garcia (90), DE Travian Robertson (96) and OT Quintin Richardson (99).
FRESH FACES: The Gamecocks have played 15 members of their highly-touted recruiting class. Travian Robertson started in the season opener against ULL. The others who have seen action are wide receivers Jason Barnes, Mark Barnes, Matt Clements, Dion Lecorn, Chris Culliver and Joe Hills, tailback Brian Maddox, fullback Patrick DiMarco, tight end Weslye Saunders, defensive linemen Clifton Geathers and Ladi Ajiboye, linebackers Melvin Ingram and Cliff Matthews and cornerback Addison Williams.
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have a 53-37 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 53 wins is 12 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.
OVERTIME: USC has played one overtime game in its history, falling to Tennessee 23-20 in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003. Every other SEC team has played at least three OT games since the rule was established in 1996.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks return home and return to SEC action when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20. The Gamecocks have won the last seven meetings with the Commodores and lead the all-time series, 14-2, including a 31-13 win in Nashville last season. Vandy's last win over Carolina came in the 1999 season, an 11-10 win in Nashville. Head Coach Steve Spurrier is a perfect 14-0 in his career against the Commodores.
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