Notebook: Gamecocks edge Wildcats

The South Carolina Gamecocks came into Saturday's contest with Kentucky with a lot to gain and even more to lose. The 28-26 victory over the Wildcats moved the Gamecocks to 5-1 on the season and sets up a big time showdown with Alabama next week - yet another opportunity for this Gamecock team to prove that they are for real and can finish the season strong.


"This was a fun ball game", Coach Steve Spurrier said following the game.

If you were looking for a college football game with a lot of back and forth action right down to the wire, this was a good one to watch. With Saturday's victory, the Gamecocks have now won the last 10 games versus the Wildcats, an impressive accomplishment as the Gamecocks attempt to move up the ladder of SEC East teams.

Even with that string of dominance. most pundits expected USC's game against the Wildcats to be a battle, but not many thought it would be as close as it was. The two point victory was the smallest margin of victory for a Steve Spurrier coached team over Kentucky in 17 games. Just how close? Take a look at some of the stats:


Score: SC 28----KY 26

First Downs: SC 18---KY 17

Total Offense: SC 361---KY 360

Time of Possession: SC 29:17---KY 30:43


With the game being as closely contested as it was, every play seemed to matter just that much more. With the pressure on, several Gamecocks stepped up and made key plays that ultimately helped Carolina to victory in the end.

One of the top players for USC was freshman sensation Alshon Jeffery, a heralded newcomer at wide receive. Jeffery had a coming out party of sorts against the Wildcats. Many expected the Gamecocks to take advantage of a depleted Wildcat secondary, and they wasted no time doing just that. Who was the main weapon in that attack? Alshon Jeffery! Jeffery finished the game with 7 catches for 138 yards and 3 touchdowns. Two of the touchdowns were highlight-reel catches that displayed the immense talent the young receiver brings to the table for the Gamecocks.

Another player that made a difference on the field for the Gamecocks was redshirt freshman running back Kenny Miles. Miles finished the day with 17 Carries for 100 yards. 60+ of those yards came in the 4th quarter when the Gamecocks for the first time in a while were able to run the clock by having success on the ground.

Quarterback Stephen Garcia, making up for two turnovers, made what could have been the play of the game as he rolled out to his right on a 3rd down play and ran it around the corner and leaped over the defense for a crucial 1st down late in the fourth quarter. That first down pickup was a pivotal moment in the Gamecocks' ability to run the clock out on the Wildcats.

Another achievement that could easily be lost in the excitement of a close victory by the Gamecocks was the fact that for only the second time this season the Gamecocks had a 100 yard rusher and a 100 yard receiver.

The Gamecocks also fared better than they did last year as a ranked team. Last season the Gamecocks dropped both contests in which they came into the game ranked in the top 25. The last victory over an opponent while ranked in the top 25 came against the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2007.

Chris Culliver etched his name into the record books against the Wildcats, becoming the all time leader in career kickoff return yardage with 2,039 yards total. The old record of 1,946 yards had been previously held for 38 years by Dick Harris.

Although Stephen Garcia had 2 turnovers on the day (1 fumble & 1 interception), he had an outstanding day through the air. The redshirt sophomore passed for 3 touchdowns for the first time in his career, and accumulated the second highest passing yardage for one game in his career with 233 yards.

The win also extended a solid winning streak at home the Gamecocks have quietly put together. The Gamecocks have now won 6 in a row at Williams-Brice Stadium dating back to the Tennessee win last year. The teams the Gamecocks defeated during the streak are: Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss, SC State, and Kentucky.

The Gamecocks look to continue their winning ways next week against the Crimson Tide of Alabama. South Carolina is 5-1 for the second time in 3 years and the third time since 2000. In those previous years, the Gamecocks have found it hard to finish strong. This year, they hope to prove that they are in fact a "New Carolina."


Notes:

- Attendance for the day was announced at 68,278.

- South Carolina's all time record in football is now over the .500 mark. (532-531-44)

- There were no significant injuries for the Gamecocks in Saturday's win.

- Tight end Weslye Saunders was upgraded to probable for the contest against Alabama next week.

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