Woodson's "Pick Six" Keys USC Defense

It was an electric atmosphere at Williams-Brice on Saturday night as South Carolina hosted Tennessee. It was one of the first games between the two teams where the Gamecocks were favored. Phil Fulmer brought his gaudy 14-1 record against USC to Columbia, but a stellar defensive performance led by Stoney Woodson's interception for a touchdown sent the Vols home on the wrong end of a 27-6 final.

The defense rose to the occasion in an SEC match up that had South Carolina fans salivating. After many years of frustrating losses, the Gamecock faithful wanted revenge. They wanted their team to step on Tennessee while they were down. The Volunteers entered the game 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. USC was 5-3 (2-3). Both teams were struggling on offense and had relied on their defenses up to this point in the season, so many were expecting a defensive struggle and that is exactly what they got.

It had been nearly three and a half games since the Tennessee offense had committed a turnover, but on the very first play of the second quarter, senior corner back Stoney Woodson jumped the route picking off Vols quarterback Nick Stevens, returning it 68 yards to pay dirt, giving the Gamecocks 14-0 lead in this game. It was the first interception returned for a touchdown since the infamous pick six of Nathan Pepper last year against SC State. "It was a drag route," said Woodson following the game, "I just got under it. We got some good pressure by the d-line, made a force-out - just made a play."

That interception was his third on the season, tying him with the other senior corner back Carlos Thomas, for the team lead.

Woodson said the defense felt that if they mimicked their practices, they were going to play well: "During practice, we work hard and coach (Ellis Johnson) has good schemes. So you just have to go through the scheming and play hard."

As a senior, Stoney Woodson is hoping to make a final bowl appearance after the disappointing end to his junior season. There has been much speculation as to where the Gamecocks might end up this post-season, and one bowl that continues to pop up is the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. It is not a bowl the Gamecocks are unfamiliar with as two-time champions under former head coach Lou Holtz. Woodson, a native of Tampa, is cautiously optimistic of his opportunity to end his career at USC in his home town.

"I would like to (end my career in Tampa)," he said after Saturday's win. "All we've got to do is take one game at a time, watch some film, and get ready for Arkansas.

"You can't take any games for granted, especially in the SEC. Every game, you've got to come out and play hard."

Woodson is a fifth year senior who came into the season with 13 starts and four interceptions. He is also one of the fastest players on the team, being timed as fast as 4.35 in the 40 yard dash. He got an opportunity to display that speed when he returned the pick for a touchdown. "I collided with him and I was just trying to keep my feet. Then all I saw was green. When I looked back and all I saw was offensive linemen, I just kept running."

This was his first visit to the end zone since he was in high school, and Woodson was clearly happy about it. Woodson was an afterthought to many just a couple of years ago when the Gamecock defense was discussed. He has worked hard and has always been available to contribute. He has blossomed into a major part of one of the top defenses in the country, and on Saturday night in front of an ESPN national broadcast, Stoney Woodson's hard work was rewarded. "It was very exciting," he said. "Especially when you get a pick six in college…it felt real good."

It did feel good, Stoney - not just for you but for all of Gamecock Nation who celebrated with you. Your work ethic is a great example to your teammates, and is much appreciated by everyone. Here's hoping for another Outback Bowl appearance. You deserve it.

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