Big Plays Highlight Spring Game

South Carolina played the annual Garnet and Black Spring Game Saturday afternoon. Officially, Tommy Beecher's Black team defeated Chris Smelley's Garnet team 37-34 on a last second touchdown, but the score was irrelevant. The spring game was about evaluating individual performances, and the players and fans having a little fun on the last day of spring practice.

With the exception of the quarterbacks, the players alternated between teams. Tommy Beecher helmed the Black team and Chris Smelley led the Garnet team, though Steve Spurrier joked, "Nobody knew who the Garnet or Black team was."

"I thought it was a pretty good way to do the scrimmage," Spurrier said. "Even though one team had 61 plays and the other had 43, the coaches could balance out how many plays each player had. Everybody played and we didn't have to change jerseys."

Neither quarterback played that well, though both made some good throws. Smelley threw five interceptions, all in the first half, and Beecher had three of his own. Smelley rebounded to throw three touchdowns, and Beecher led four scoring drives.

"I thought Tommy Beecher's stats were a little better than 9-20 [passing]," said Spurrier, "but that's what his came out to be. Chris Smelley was 13-30 with 5 interceptions, that's not very good. None of them could hit 50% [completions]. We've got a ways to go."

Several starters sat out or saw limited action for the defense, including Jasper Brinkley, Eric Norwood, and Ladi Ajiboye. Adding to the handicap, the defensive coaches were restricted to two or three coverages and prohibited from stunting lineman or bringing more than four rushers. Still new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson likes where his defense is, although they still have a lot of work ahead this fall.

"I think over 15 practices, we probably got about everything done that we could," said Johnson. "We got enough X's and O's in to challenge them mentally and have an answer for most situations that we created in practice. There were a lot of things we didn't get to, but I don't think it's going to be a problem getting to them in the fall."

Spurrier reminded fans of the same thing. Although it is called a "game," takes place in Williams-Brice Stadium, and 31, 125 fans were in the stands, the spring game is really just another practice session.

"It was practice," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We'll evaluate where we are on all the positions."

With that in mind, Spurrier was pleased that there were some points on the scoreboard. It was not often pretty, and there is a lot of work to be done, but at least the fans and players got to have some fun.

In what has become a spring game tradition, Spurrier once again called the "off the bench" play. In that play, a wide receiver, usually Scott Spurrier comes off the sidelines to catch a deep pass. For the first time in four attempts, the play worked, although it is still illegal. Fortunately, somebody on the coaching staff declined the penalty, so the younger Spurrier got credit for a touchdown.

"Y'all have seen it every spring," Spurrier said. "We get him wide open and the quarterback can't hit him. Chris [Smelley] threw it down there, and we thought he was going to throw it more down the sideline, but he threw it down the middle of the field. Scottie actually caught it on the run, and he doesn't always catch everything on the run, but fortunately he held on to that one. That was encouraging that this year we hit the off the bench play."

In the fourth quarter, safety Chris Culliver picked up a fumble and sprinted 83 yards for a touchdown. As he reached the goal line, he slowed down and did a flip into the end zone. He landed awkwardly, and although he was not hurt, many wondered why Culliver would risk injury on a play that does not actually count.

"I actually told them they could do that today," Spurrier said. "I didn't say to flip, [but] I said if you guys pick one off and score you're allowed to dance a little and spike it if you want to. They can't do it in the regular season, but I was really trying to encourage the defense to score."

Notes:

- Spurrier jokingly bragged that the seven interceptions Smelley and Beecher combined for in the first half had to be a Gamecock spring record.

- Moe Brown left the game in the first quarter with a twisted ankle. The injury is not believed to be serious.

- A moment of silence was observed at halftime for former Gamecock Jamacia Jackson. Jackson passed away at home last week.

Stats:

RUSHING: Garnet-Eric Baker 4-17; Chris Smelley 3-3; Taylor Rank 1-2; Bobby Wallace 1-1; Brian Maddox 3-minus 3. Black-Brian Maddox 10-90; Bobby Wallace 5-51; Tommy Beecher 3-32; Zac Brindise 2-11; Mike Davis 2-9; Taylor Rank 1-4; Eric Baker 2-2; M. McQueeney 1-minus 2; C.C. Whitlock 1-minus 14.

PASSING: Garnet-Chris Smelley 13-30-5-219; M. McQueeney 0-1-0-0. Black-Tommy Beecher 9-20-3-131; Zac Brindise 8-12-0-100; M. McQueeney 0-2-0-0.

RECEIVING: Garnet-Matt Clements 5-68; Weslye Saunders 4-54; Dion Lecorn 3-51; Scott Spurrier 1-46. Black-Larry Freeman 3-42; Alex McGrath 3-41; C.C. Whitlock 2-37; Paul Haile 2-20; Joe Hills 2-13; Dion Lecorn 1-34; Foxy Foxworth 1-25; Jared Cook 1-15; Brian Maddox 1-5; Taylor Rank 1-minus 1.

INTERCEPTIONS: Garnet-Mike Newton 1-82; Shaq Wilson 1-10; Stoney Woodson 1-0. Black-Mark Barnes 2-48; Chris Hail 1-1; Alonzo Winfield 1-0; Akeem Auguste 1-0.

FUMBLES: Garnet-None. Black-C.C. Whitlock 1-1; M. McQueeney 1-0.

Scoring Summary:

1st quarter 06:36 USC-B - Brian Maddox 1 yd run (Ryan Succop kick), USC-G 0 - USC-B 7 03:22 USC-B - Dion Lecorn 34 yd pass from Tommy Beecher (Ryan Succop kick), USC-G 0 - USC-B 14

2nd quarter

09:25 USC-B - Mike Davis 5 yd run (Ryan Succop kick), USC-G 0 - USC-B 21 05:20 USC-B - Brian Maddox 37 yd run (Ryan Succop kick), USC-G 0 - USC-B 28 00:52 USC-G - Dion Lecorn 28 yd pass from Chris Smelley (Nate Spurrier kick), USC-G 7 - USC-B 28 00:03 USC-B - Ryan Succop 56 yd field goal, USC-G 7 - USC-B 31

3rd quarter

06:39 USC-G - Weslye Saunders 10 yd pass from Chris Smelley (Nate Spurrier kick), 5:21, USC-G 14 - USC-B 31 03:05 USC-G - Mike Newton 82 yd interception return (Stephen Huegel kick), 1:29, USC-G 21 - USC-B 31 01:36 USC-G - Scott Spurrier 46 yd pass from Chris Smelley (Stephen Huegel kick), 1:29, USC-G 28 - USC-B 31

4th quarter

09:56 USC-G - Chris Culliver 83 yd fumble recovery (Nate Spurrier kick failed), USC-G 34 - USC-B 31 00:00 USC-B - Joe Hills 3 yd pass from Zac Brindise, USC-G 34 - USC-B 37

Spring Game Awards:

Steve Sisk Outstanding Blocker Award – Heath Batchelor

Ernest A. Brooks memorial Award (MVP of Clemson game) – Kenny McKinley

Weight Room Effort Award (Offense) – Mike Davis

Weight Room Effort Award (Defense) – Travian Robertson

Big Play Award (Offense) – Jared Cook

Big Play Award (Defense) – Akeem Auguste

Everyday Effort Award (Offense) – Patrick DiMarco

Everyday Effort Award (Defense) – Cliff Matthews

Carolina Hustle Award (Offense) – Moe Brown

Carolina Hustle Award (Defense) – Rodney Paulk

Most Improved Quarterback – Chris Smelley/Tommy Beecher

Most Improved Offensive Lineman – Hutch Eckerson

Most Improved Running Back – Brian Maddox

Most Improved Tight End – Weslye Saunders

Most Improved Wide Receiver – Jason Barnes

Most Improved Defensive Tackle – Jonathan Williams

Most Improved Defensive End – Clifton Geathers

Most Improved Outside Linebacker – Eric Norwood

Most Improved Inside Linebacker – Shaq Wilson

Most Improved Cornerback – Addison Williams

Most Improved Safety – Chris Culliver

Special Teams Award – Larry Freeman

Outstanding Walk-on – Charles Turner

The Harold White GPA Awards – Jamon Meredith (Offense), Eric Norwood (Defense)

The Andrew Sorenson Scholar Athlete Award for Football – Tommy Beecher

Joe Morrison Award (Player of the Spring) – Ryan Succop (Offense), Darian Stewart (Defense)

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