Game day news and notes
The Gamecocks have lost back-to-back SEC seven-point decisions at Vanderbilt and to second-ranked Georgia after opening the season with a decisive 34-0 shutout of North Carolina State. The Terriers have opened with a pair of non-conference double-digit wins at home over Presbyterian and Charleston Southern.
COCKS AND TERRIERS
This is the 22nd meeting between these two Palmetto-state schools. Carolina has won the last 14 meetings to take a 17-4 all-time advantage in the series. The teams have met just twice since the 1957 season, with USC winning by a 38-14 count on Nov. 3, 2001 in Columbia and by a 27-20 margin on Sept. 16, 2006, also at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Terriers were added to the schedule in 2001, replacing Bowling Green in the wake of 9-11. Wofford's last win over South Carolina came on Nov. 17, 1917 by a 20-0 score, which also marks USC's last trip to Spartanburg. The Terriers other three wins came near the turn of the 20th century - 1985, 1986 and 1901.
PLAYING THE SOCON
This week's matchup is the 150th for South Carolina against opponents from the Southern Conference. The Gamecocks are 100-45-4 in the previous 149 meetings, a .685 winning percentage, including a 17-4 record against Wofford. The Citadel (49 games) and Furman (46 games) have provided the majority of the opposition from the Southern Conference.
A GROWING TRADITION
With the addition of the 12th game to the Division I football schedules that began in 2006, South Carolina has added a contest each year against an in-state FCS (formerly I-AA) opponent. Wofford was on the schedule that first year and will be back in Columbia in the 2012 campaign. South Carolina State made its way to Columbia to face the Gamecocks for the first time ever in 2007, and is also scheduled for the 2011 season. The Citadel is on the docket for both 2009 and 2013, while Furman is penciled in for 2010 and 2014.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
The Gamecocks opened up a comfortable 24-10 halftime lead then held off a furious Terrier comeback as they defeated Wofford, 27-20 at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 16, 2006. 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.
THE LAST TIME OUT
South Carolina hosted second-ranked Georgia at Williams-Brice Stadium in front of a full house and a national CBS audience last Saturday afternoon. The Gamecock defense held the Bulldogs in check most of the afternoon, but the offense could muster just seven points in a 14-7 setback. The Gamecocks had more first downs (20-17) and more total yardage (289-252) despite losing the time of possession battle (35:13-24:47). Chris Smelley completed 23-of-39 passes for 271 yards, but the Gamecocks had two key turnovers to Georgia's none. South Carolina's defense held Knowshon Moreno to 79 yards on 20 carries and allowed Matt Stafford to throw for just 146 yards on a 15-of-25 afternoon.
* Six of the last eight meetings between South Carolina and Georgia have been decided by seven points or less.
* The winning team in the Georgia-South Carolina matchup has not scored more than 20 points in any of the last five games and just once in the last eight contests.
* The Gamecocks are 5-10 in their 15 games against ranked opponents in the Steve Spurrier Era.
* The Gamecocks have played 31 games in their history against teams ranked in the top-5 in the country and are 1-30 in those games, including losses in each of their last 22 opportunities. The lone win was a 31-13 win over North Carolina on Oct. 24, 1981.
* For the second straight week, quarterback Chris Smelley completed 23 passes in 39 attempts. He threw for a season-high 271 yards against Georgia after throwing for 233 against Vanderbilt.
* Moe Brown had the best game of his career against Georgia, hauling in a career-high seven receptions for a career-high 130 yards (his first 100-yard receiving game). He also caught his first touchdown pass, a 34-yard reception, which was the Gamecocks' lone score.
* The Gamecocks have yielded just one touchdown in the last 10 quarters to Georgia.
* Eric Norwood moved into fourth place on Carolina's all-time tackles for loss list with 30.5.
* Redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia made his collegiate debut in the first quarter.
* The announced attendance of 83,704 represented the 10th largest crowd to witness a game at Williams-Brice Stadium.
IT'S NOT OVER
The Gamecocks are 0-2 in league play after suffering setbacks at Vanderbilt and to No. 2 Georgia, but history would indicate that they still have hope. The last time they opened the conference slate with back-to-back losses was in 2005 when they dropped their first three decisions to Georgia, Alabama and Auburn before bouncing back with five straight SEC wins, topping Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida in succession.
UNDER COACH SPURRIER
Head coach Steve Spurrier is 22-18 in his fourth season in Columbia. He recorded the most wins by a Carolina head coach in his first three seasons (21), topping Joe Morrison's mark of 20 from 1983-85. The most wins for a South Carolina coach in his first four seasons with the program is 25, recorded by Warren Giese from 1956-59 (7, 5, 7 and 6 wins).
The Gamecocks opened the 2008 season ranked 26th in the preseason Associated Press poll with 84 points, just one point behind Pittsburgh, and were 27th in the USA Today/Coaches Preseason Poll with 64 points. The Gamecocks opened as the seventh-highest ranked SEC school in both preseason polls behind Georgia (1st in AP, 1st in USA Today), Florida (5/5), LSU (7/6), Auburn (10/11), Tennessee (18/18) and Alabama (24/26). After a season-opening win over NC State, the Gamecocks jumped to No. 24 in both polls, but fell back out of the polls after last week's loss at Vanderbilt.
The Gamecocks officially return 18 starters from the 2007 squad (six on offense, 10 on defense and one specialist). The returning offensive starters are OG Seaver Brown, OG Lemuel Jeanpierre, WR Dion Lecorn, WR Kenny McKinley, OT Jamon Meredith and OT Justin Sorensen. The returning defensive starters include DT Ladi Ajiboye, S Emanuel Cook, DT Marque Hall, LB Cliff Matthews, CB Captain Munnerlyn, DE Eric Norwood, LB Rodney Paulk, LB Marvin Sapp, FS Darian Stewart, and CB Carlos Thomas. Senior Ryan Succop is the returning punter and placekicker. The list does not include middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who started all 13 games in 2006 and the first four games of the 2007 season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, or defensive tackle Nathan Pepper, who started 12 games in 2006 and each of the first three games in 2007 before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Four Gamecocks have made their first collegiate start this season. Redshirt junior quarterback Tommy Beecher and sophomore fullback Patrick DiMarco, made their first start in the season-opening win over NC State. Sophomore left tackle Jarriel King earned his first collegiate start at Vanderbilt. Sophomore wide receiver Joe Hills made his first collegiate start against Georgia.
South Carolina won six of its first seven games, including an impressive win at then-No. 11 Georgia and a win over No. 8 Kentucky, to climb to No. 7 in the AP poll and sixth in the BCS standings, before dropping each of their last five games to finish the season at 6-6, 3-5 in the SEC. Four of the six losses came to teams ranked in the top-25 in the country at the time of the contest.
The Gamecocks had one of the nation's toughest schedules in 2007, facing five ranked opponents during the regular season. According to the NCAA, Carolina's schedule was ranked as the ninth-toughest in Division I football. Eight of South Carolina's 12 opponents in 2007 played in a bowl game, with five of those teams posting victories.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Gamecocks defeated three teams in 2007 that went on to win its bowl games. Carolina knocked off Georgia by a 16-12 score, Mississippi State by a 38-21 margin and Kentucky by a 38-23 advantage. Georgia routed Hawaii 41-10 in the Sugar Bowl, Mississippi State defeated UCF, 10-3 in the Liberty Bowl, and Kentucky defeated Florida State, 35-28 in the Music City Bowl.
MORE TOUGH TIMES AHEAD
The Gamecocks will face four of the top nine teams in the country in 2008, according to the preseason polls. Georgia was the top-ranked team in both polls. The Bulldogs was here September 13 in a nationally-televised CBS contest. Florida entered the season ranked fifth in both polls. Carolina will travel to The Swamp on Nov. 15. LSU was seventh in the AP poll and sixth in the USA Today poll. The Bayou Bengals will visit Columbia on Oct. 18. Clemson began the season ranked ninth in both polls. The Tigers will host the Gamecocks in the final regular-season game of the `08 campaign on Nov. 29. In addition, the Gamecocks will play Tennessee, ranked 18th in both preseason polls. The Vols come to Williams-Brice Stadium on November 1.
WINNING MORE OFTEN
Gamecocks have posted four consecutive seasons of at least a .500 record, going 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006 and 6-6 in 2007. It's the first time they have accomplished that feat since 1987-90 (8-4, 8-4, 6-4-1, 6-5). The last time they went five or more consecutive seasons with a .500 record or better was from 1928-34.
The Gamecocks have played just two overtime games in their history, both at Tennessee. They dropped a 23-20 decision in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003, then fell by a 27-24 score on Oct. 27, 2007, also at Neyland Stadium. Every other SEC team has played at least three overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.
The Gamecocks continue their non-conference action next Saturday when they host the UAB Blazers at Williams-Brice Stadium. The two squads have met just one time previously on the gridiron, with South Carolina posting a 42-10 win on Sept. 20, 2003 in Columbia. UAB hails from Conference USA.
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