Game day notes: USC vs. Kentucky

The 25th-ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks (4-1, 1-1 SEC) are looking to sweep their four-game homestand as SEC Eastern Division foe Kentucky (2-2, 0-2 SEC) visits Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 10, with a 12:30 p.m. kickoff set for a regional television broadcast on FSN.

The Gamecocks have won three in a row, including last Saturday's victory over South Carolina State, 38-14. Kentucky plays its first true road game of the season after a brutal set of back-to-back home games against #1 Florida and #3 Alabama, both Wildcat losses. It will be South Carolina's first afternoon game of the season after five straight kickoffs of 7 p.m. or later.


• Coach Steve Spurrier has never lost to Kentucky. He is 16-0 all-time against the Wildcats.

• The Gamecocks have won nine straight times against the Wildcats, their longest active streak against a Division I FBS team (Carolina has won 15 straight over FCS foe Wofford).

• A Gamecock win would tie Coach Spurrier with Lou Holtz for sixth all-time at Carolina with 33 victories as the South Carolina head coach.

• South Carolina is part of the AP Top 25 for the first time this season at No. 25. The Gamecocks are still just outside the USA Today Coaches Top 25, coming in at 27th this week.

• Senior linebacker Eric Norwood set the school record for career sacks with his 27th and 28th against Ole Miss. He is now tied for eighth in SEC history in the category. Norwood also has 49.5 career tackles for loss; he is one away from entering the league's top 10 in that category as well.

• Senior wide receiver Moe Brown is only 84 yards away from 1,000 receiving yards in his career. He would become the 22nd player at South Carolina to achieve that milestone.


This is the 21st meeting all-time between South Carolina and Kentucky. The Gamecocks hold a 13-6-1 advantage with a 5-3-1 leads in games played in Columbia. South Carolina has defeated Kentucky nine straight times, dating back to the 2000 season. Last year, the Gamecocks staged a second-half comeback behind a great performance by Stephen Garcia to post a 24-17 victory in Lexington. In the last meeting in Columbia, then-No. 11 South Carolina took down then-No. 8 Kentucky in an ESPN Thursday night contest at Williams-Brice Stadium, 38-23. The teams first met in 1937 then played a two-game series in 1978 and `81. They have met every year since 1992, when South Carolina joined the SEC.


South Carolina is once again part of the nation's top 25, coming in at No. 25 in the Associated Press Top 25 for this week. The Gamecocks are still just outside the USA Today Coaches Top 25, receiving enough votes for 27th position. It's the first time the Gamecocks have been in the polls since the week preceding the Florida game last season when Carolina came in at No. 24 in the AP ranking and No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and it marks the 12th time in the Spurrier era that South Carolina will take the field as a ranked squad.


Head coach Steve Spurrier owns a perfect 16-0 record against Kentucky. That record is his best mark against any opponent. He also has double-digit wins over Vanderbilt (14), Georgia (12), LSU (11), Tennessee (11), Auburn (10) and South Carolina (10).


Coach Spurrier's teams have rolled up 698 points in the 16 games against Kentucky, an average of 43.6 points per game, while allowing just 281 points, an average of 17.6 points per contest. His squads have put over 50 points on the board five times against the Wildcats, including a 73-7 win in 1994 and a 65-0 whitewash in 1996 and have scored at least 38 points in 10 of the last 12 games his teams have faced the Wildcat defense. The closest Kentucky came to knocking off a Steve Spurrier-led team was in 1993 when they played Florida to a 24-20 decision.

BACK TO .500

In its 116th year of intercollegiate football, South Carolina is now 531-531-44 all-time, getting back to .500 overall with a victory over South Carolina State on Saturday.


With the win over Ole Miss, South Carolina made the 2000s the winningest decade in school history with their 64th win since 2000; that total now stands at 65. They surpassed the mark held by the 1980s Gamecocks that rolled up 63 victories, including 10 by the 1984 "Black Magic" team.


Captain Munnerlyn returned a blocked field goal 81 yards for a touchdown and set up another score with an 84-yard kickoff return as South Carolina defeated Kentucky 24-17 on Oct. 11, 2008, improving Steve Spurrier's record to 16-0 against the Wildcats. South Carolina (5-2, 2-2) won its ninth consecutive meeting against Kentucky (4-2, 0-2), which came in with momentum after nearly upsetting Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The game, billed as a field position showdown between two of the Southeastern Conference's top defenses, lived up to that hype, at least until midway through the third quarter. Stephen Garcia replaced a struggling Chris Smelley and led four consecutive drives into Wildcat territory, which the Gamecocks turned into 10 points. With the game tied at 17, South Carolina took the lead for good when Garcia found Weslye Saunders open in the end zone off a playaction pass from 8 yards out. The play was set up by a 37-yard post pattern from Garcia to Jason Barnes. Garcia completed 10 of 14 passes for 169 yards in limited duty. Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline got the ball back with an opportunity to tie the game, but an interception by Chris Culliver clinched it for the Gamecocks. The teams combined for six turnovers. Kentucky's defense got three of its four takeaways in the first quarter yet still trailed by a touchdown at the beginning of the second. First, Smelley appeared to connect with Kenny McKinley for an 8-yard gain, but Kentucky's Trevard Lindley ripped the ball out of his hands and took it 28 yards to put the Wildcats ahead 7-0. It didn't take long for South Carolina to respond. Munnerlyn returned Tim Masthay's kickoff 84 yards and was stopped only when Masthay shoved him out of bounds at the Kentucky 16. Given new life, this time Smelley threw the ball to a place only McKinley could get it--the corner of the end zone, tying the game at 7. On South Carolina's next drive, McKinley broke Sterling Sharpe's South Carolina record with his 170th career reception but immediately coughed up the ball up again. It was recovered by Kentucky's Marcus McClinton. After the teams combined for three turnovers, the Wildcats had a chance to grab momentum. But Ryan Tydlacka's 29-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Jordin Lindsey and returned 81 yards for a score by Munnerlyn. Tydlacka later connected on a 51-yard attempt--the Wildcats' longest since 2004--to put Kentucky ahead 17-14 at halftime.


Stephen Garcia threw two touchdowns, rushed for another score and South Carolina matched its best start of Steve Spurrier's five seasons with a 38-14 victory over South Carolina State on Saturday night. The Gamecocks improved to 4-1, tying their opening mark of 2007. After a slow start against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Bulldogs, Garcia and the Gamecocks finally got things going. Garcia's 1-yard TD right before halftime put South Carolina ahead 10-0. In the second half, Garcia connected with Moe Brown on touchdowns of 40 and 9 yards to put things out of reach at 31-7. Garcia finished 13 of 19 for 132 yards. Spurrier improved to 38-0 against opponents not in the six conferences with Bowl Championship Series bids. South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood put on a show against his younger brother's Bulldogs with a blocked field goal and an interception. Right before kickoff, Williams-Brice Stadium experienced a power outage that hampered ESPN Classic's planned broadcast and knocked out the video board midway through the second period. There wasn't much power displayed by either team in the opening half, either. South Carolina was outgained by its FCS opponent 159 yards to 149. The Gamecocks couldn't crack the end zone until Garcia's 1-yard run with 2:23 to go before halftime that made it 10-0. South Carolina State responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that concluded with a milestone touchdown. Malcolm Long's 5-yard scoring run was the first time the FCS team had put up a touchdown in its five games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. That was about all the celebrating South Carolina State would get to do. South Carolina struck for Kenny Miles' 22-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter and the Bulldogs could not recover. The only drama at the end came when South Carolina State broke through for a second touchdown, Long converting a 4th-and-goal from South Carolina's 1 with 4 seconds left.


• In 20 years as a collegiate coach, Steve Spurrier is 85-3-1 when scoring at least 37 points. The 41-37 loss to Georgia was the first time in the Spurrier era at South Carolina that the Gamecocks lost when scoring 37 points or more; they had won the previous eight such occurrences. In fact, the last time South Carolina lost when scoring 37 points or more was Nov. 1, 2003, when Carolina lost at Ole Miss by a 43-40 score.

• With the 41-37 loss at UGA and the 38-16 win over FAU, it marked only the second time in the Spurrier era that Carolina scored 37 or more points in consecutive outings. The previous time was in 2007, when the Gamecocks downed Mississippi State 38-21 and Kentucky 38-23 in back-to-back weeks.


Spencer Lanning connected on his only field goal attempt of the night, running his streak to 10 consecutive field goals made.

• Eric Norwood blocked a field goal - the first of his career - and had an interception in the game. It was Carolina's first blocked field goal since Jordin Lindsey blocked one against Kentucky last year (it was returned 81 yards for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn).

• Moe Brown turned in the first multi-touchdown game of his career, catching scoring passes of 9 and 40 yards. He amassed 100 receiving yards, his second career 100+ yard game.

• Stephen Garcia threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another, going 13-for-19 for 132 yards through the air.

Reid McCollum hit Alshon Jeffrey for a 20-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, the first career scoring plays for both freshmen. Adam Yates kicked the extra point after the score, also the first of his career.

• C.C. Whitlock, Kyle Nunn and Kenny Miles all made the first starts of their careers.


•Seven Gamecocks made their first career starts in the season opener against NC State: CB Akeem Auguste, CB Stephon Gilmore, SPUR Alonzo Winfield, OG T.J. Johnson, OT Quintin Richardson, WR Tori Gurley and DE Devin Taylor.

• LB Shaq Wilson got his first career start at Georgia on Sept. 12.

• LB Tony Straughter and DB Antonio Allen earned their initial career starts against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 19.

• DL Ladi Ajiboye made his first start of the season against Ole Miss. OL Lemuel Jeanpierre made his first career start at center; it was his 12th start overall with 10 at guard and one on defense.

• CB C.C. Whitlock, OL Kyle Nunn and RB Kenny Miles got thier first career starts vs. South Carolina State on Oct. 3.


The Gamecocks threw the ball 53 times against Georgia, the most passes attempted in the Steve Spurrier Era at South Carolina, completing 31 for 313 yards. They came back against Florida Atlantic and rushed for 287 yards, the most in the Spurrier Era, surpassing the previous high mark by 64 yards.


Head coach Steve Spurrier is 32-23 in his five seasons in Columbia. His 32 wins ranks seventh on the school's all-time list, one behind Lou Holtz. He tied the school record for wins (7) in his first season at the helm; tied for the most wins (15) in his first two seasons of any Carolina head coach; recorded the most wins (21) by a Carolina head coach in his first three seasons; and surpassed Warren Giese (25 wins from 1956-59) for the most wins by a coach in his first four seasons on the Carolina sidelines. He has logged a .500 or better record in four straight seasons, the first coach to do that at Carolina since the final four years of the Jim Carlen Era (1978-81). Coach Spurrier is the first coach in Carolina history to take his team to three bowl games in his first four seasons on the sidelines. He also has matched Jim Carlen and Joe Morrison for the most bowl appearances (3) as a Carolina head coach.


The Gamecocks have posted five consecutive seasons of at least a .500 record, going 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 6-6 in 2007 and 7-6 in 2008. It's the first time they have accomplished that since 1928-34.


In the Spurrier Era, South Carolina is now 6-2 in Thursday night contests, with four of those six victories coming in season openers. The Gamecocks played two on Thursday nights this season. Carolina opened the 2009 campaign with a 7-3 victory at North Carolina State, then downed No. 4 Ole Miss in Columbia, 16-10, on Sept. 24. South Carolina is the only SEC team scheduled to play in multiple weeknight contests this year; Alabama and Auburn will play each other on Friday, Nov. 27, in the only remaining weekday contest involving an SEC school.


Steve Spurrier made numerous changes to his coaching staff in the off-season, promoting Ellis Johnson to assistant head coach-defense and bringing in Jay Graham (running backs/asst. special teams), Jeep Hunter (tight ends/asst. special teams), G.A. Mangus (quarterbacks), Lorenzo Ward (defensive coordinator), Eric Wolford (offensive line/running game coordinator) and Craig Fitzgerald (strength and conditioning).


The Gamecocks averaged 80,529 fans for their seven home games in 2008. That average ranked 17th in Division I football, up two spots from the 2007 season. Seven of the top 20 schools in home attendance hail from the SEC. For the home opener last week against Florida Atlantic, South Carolina had 72,017 fans in attendance. Five days later, 74,724 filled the stands on a Thursday night for the historic victory over No. 4 Ole Miss. An even bigger crowd filled Williams-Brice Stadium for the Oct. 3 tilt with local rival South Carolina State with 77,066 in attendance.


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.


Deep snapper Matthew Grooms joined the Gamecocks after serving as a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years as a mechanic, included a six-month stint in Iraq. Grooms, a junior, is the oldest player on the squad, as he turned 26 on July 8. Grooms is a native of McColl, S.C., where he played for Marlboro County. Walk-on freshman linebacker Matthew Ansley, a member of the Army Reserves, spent 18 months in Iraq, working as a gunner for convoy security and route clearance.


The Gamecocks welcomed in three scholarship players who graduated from high school in December and went through spring drills for the first time in 2009 in Jarvis Giles, Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman. Over the past four seasons, the Gamecocks have seen nine players arrive on campus earlier than the norm. Clark Gaston did so in 2006, while Stephen Garcia and Travian Robertson arrived in January 2007. Jay Spearman, C.C. Whitlock and Shaq Wilson all went through spring drills in 2008 after graduating from high school in the previous December.


The Gamecocks had 24 players named to the 2008 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. Included were Pierre Andrews, Yvan Banag, Tommy Beecher, Ryan Broadhead, Patrick DiMarco, Stephen Flint, Foxy Foxworth, Marque Hall, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Alex McGrath, Jamon Meredith, Travian Robertson, Hardee Sanders, Chris Smelley, Cedrick Snead, Justin Sorensen, Nate Spurrier, Scott Spurrier, Ryan Succop, Charles Turner, Chris Vaughn, Addison Williams, Stoney Woodson and Greg Wright. The Gamecocks also posted the best GPA in history during the 2009 spring semester with a 2.669.


South Carolina celebrates three major anniversaries during the 2009 season. This year marks the 75th year of competition in what is now Williams-Brice Stadium. The 80,250-seat structure on George Rogers Drive held its first game on Oct. 6, 1934, as South Carolina defeated VMI, 22-6. It's also the 40th anniversary of South Carolina's only conference championship as the 1969 Gamecocks won the Atlantic Coast Conference title under head coach Paul Dietzel by going 5-0 in league play. This year is also the 25th anniversary of the 1984 "Black Magic" team that posted the winningest season in school history, going 10-2 under head coach Joe Morrison and rising as high as No. 2 in the polls.


The Gamecocks have received solid performances from several freshmen this season. Defensive end Devin Taylor, a redshirt freshman from Beaufort, has started all five games and was the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his efforts in the opener at NC State. True freshman tailback Jarvis Giles from Tampa became the first Gamecock frosh to rush for over 100 yards since 2006 when he went for 113 against FAU, earning SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. He is the Gamecocks leading rusher through five games. True freshman and Rock Hill, S.C. native Stephon Gilmore has started all five games at cornerback and has intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and recovered another fumble. He also has a sack among his 16 tackles, and he had a 35-yard punt return against South Carolina State. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Tori Gurley is the Gamecocks' second-leading receiver. He has caught 17 passes for 244 yards in five games, including a four-catch, 100-yard performance against FAU. Redshirt freshman T.J. Johnson from Aynor, S.C. has started all five games at right offensive guard. Redshirt freshman Kenny Miles made his first start at tailback against SC State and is second on the team in rushing.


South Carolina has just nine players on its roster who are seniors. Of those, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Nathan Pepper and Gerrod Sinclar are fifth-year seniors, while Garrett Anderson, Moe Brown, Eric Norwood and Darian Stewart are in their fourth year. Former walk-ons John Guerry and Scott Spurrier earned scholarships during fall practice. With only nine seniors, the Gamecocks are tied with Duke for the second-fewest seniors in the country. Boise State has the fewest with four.


Although defensive back Captain Munnerlyn has taken his talents to the NFL, the Gamecocks have no shortage of leadership. Four captains were elected for the first time in the Spurrier era, two of them on the defensive side of the ball. Senior LB Eric Norwood and junior DE Cliff Matthews were the two defensive selections, with senior WR Moe Brown and junior FB Patrick DiMarco picked from the offensive side of the ball.


On August 18, coach Steve Spurrier announced that several walk-ons had been awarded scholarships for the 2009-10 school year. The list includes seniors John Guerry and Scott Spurrier, junior Blake Baxley, and sophomores Stephen Flint, Cedrick Snead, Brandan Davis and Zac Brindise.


The Gamecocks come in all shapes and sizes. The tallest player on the roster is Clifton Geathers, who checks in at 6-8 this fall. He is followed closely by his backup, Devin Taylor. The shortest players are Cedrick Snead, Bryce Sherman and Scott Spurrier, all listed at 5-6. The Gamecocks have eight players that tip the scale at 300 pounds or better, including seven offensive linemen. Rokevious Watkins is the heaviest player on the squad at 340 pounds, followed by Jarriel King at 312. Kevin Young (310), Heath Batchelor (308), Garrett Anderson (307), Seaver Brown (303), Nathan Pepper (300) and Steven Singleton (300) round out those at three bills. Scott Spurrier (160) and C.C. Whitlock (173) are the only returning players listed under 175 pounds. Newcomers Jimmy Legree (170), DeAngelo Smith (170), Bryce Sherman (155), Brandan Davis (175) and Marty Markett (170) all tip the scales at 175 or less.


• Junior DT Travian Robertson tore his ACL in the win over Ole Miss and will miss the rest of the season.

• Junior linebacker Rodney Paulk suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee in the season-opening win at NC State. It's the second straight year that a knee injury has sidelined him early in the season.


The Gamecocks hit the road for the first time in a month as they travel to SEC rival Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 17. CBS is exercising its second six-day option, so the game time will not be set until next Monday. Kickoff will either be at 3:30 p.m. on CBS or at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN.

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