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Aug. 26, 2002

Game Notes

The 22nd-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (0-0/0-0 SEC) kick off their 109th college football season this Saturday, Aug. 31 against the New Mexico State Aggies (0-0/0-0 Sun Belt). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at a sold out Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia.

A Closer Look
* This season’s opener marks the first time since 1986 and only the third time in school history that the Gamecocks have played a football game in the month of August. Carolina opened the 1986 campaign at home against #1-ranked Miami on Aug. 30, losing 34-14 to the Hurricanes. The year before, in 1985, USC opened with a 56-17 win over The Citadel on Aug. 31.

* Carolina opens the season ranked #22 in both major polls, marking the second straight season that the Gamecocks have entered the year ranked in the preseason poll. USC finished 13th in both of the final polls in 2001 and was ranked 21st in the 2001 preseason ratings. Dating back to the final 2000 national rankings, Carolina has been ranked in 19 consecutive national rankings, which is a school record.
* Since it began playing football back in 1892, USC is 69-35-4 in season openers, for a winning percentage of .657. In home openers, the Gamecocks are 64-18-4, for a winning percentage of .767.

* Over the years, Carolina has compiled a won-loss record of 484-488-44.
* The Gamecocks have won 17 of their last 24 games, going 8-4 in 2000 and 9-3 in 2001. Those 17 victories are the most ever over a two-year period in USC football history.

* Interest in Gamecock football is at an all-time high. Nearly 62,000 season tickets were applied for this summer, which is a school record. For the sixth straight season, all of Carolina’s home games are sold out before the season starts. Over the past six-year aggregate period, USC ranks in the top 10 nationally in home attendance, averaging nearly 80,000 fans per game. In 2001, the Gamecocks averaged a school-record 82,614 at home to rank 10th in the country.

* This marks the second meeting between USC and New Mexico State. The two opened the 2000 campaign in Columbia, with the Gamecocks prevailing 31-0. That win snapped a 21-game losing streak for Carolina, the longest in the nation at the time, and was the first of four straight USC victories to open that season. In fact, so euphoric were the Gamecock fans after that victory over NMSU two seasons ago, that the goal posts came down at Williams-Brice Stadium, setting off two straight weeks of the posts coming down at home, as the following week they came down after USC’s upset win over Georgia.

* This will be the third meeting for USC head coach Lou Holtz against New Mexico State. Besides the season lid-lifter two years ago in Columbia, Coach Holtz led his first Arkansas team to a 53-10 win over the Aggies in 1977. The Razorbacks went on to post an 11-1 record that season, highlighted by the stunning 31-6 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to finish #3 in the final Associated Press poll. Coach Holtz was named National Coach of the Year that season by the Football Writers Association of America and Walter Camp Foundation.

? Coach Holtz enters the 2002 season with 233 career victories, a total which ranks third best among active Division 1-A head coaches and is 10th on the all-time list. A victory this Saturday would tie Holtz with Bo Schembechler for ninth place on the all-time victory list. Coach Holtz begins his 31st season as a head coach this Saturday night.

* Coach Holtz is the only coach in the history of college football to lead six different programs (William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina) to post-season bowl games (all by the second season) and is likewise the only coach in history to have four different programs (North Carolina State, Arkansas, Notre Dame, South Carolina) finish the season ranked in the top 20.

* The Last Meeting: 9/2/00, USC-31, NMSU-0 (80,814) … The Gamecocks snapped the nation’s longest losing streak by shutting out New Mexico State 31-0 to open the 2000 season in Columbia. Sophomore running back Derek Watson was the offensive standout, rushing for 114 yards on 14 carries. He also scored his first collegiate touchdown. Junior quarterback Phil Petty was steady, completing 10 of 18 passes for 87 yards. Senior linebacker Andre Offing returned a fumble 23 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter. Carolina outgained its visitor 353-197 in total offense. Sophomore Rashad Faison led the defensive charge with 10 total tackles, two QB sacks, two pass breakups and one tackle for loss. Offing had seven total tackles and returned the fumble for a touchdown. For his efforts, Offing was recognized as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

* Tony Samuel begins his sixth season as head coach at NMSU. Samuel’s philosophy as a head coach was born out of his success as both a player and coach at the University of Nebraska. Coach Samuel was a member of Tom Osborne’s first recruiting class at Nebraska, and after his playing career with the Cornhuskers, he served as an assistant under Osborne for 11 seasons and was part of the staff that won back-to-back national championships. Samuel’s head coaching mark stands at 19-37, but he led the Aggies to a 4-2 conference slate a year ago, the team’s best conference record during his tenure with the school. He is 0-1 vs. the Gamecocks.

* Several Gamecocks have been mentioned on preseason watch lists for national awards. Senior spur Rashad Faison is listed on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Award, presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player as voted upon by the American Football Writers Association of America. Faison enters the 2002 season with 255 career tackles, including 27.5 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback sacks, 22 pass breakups, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Senior running back Andrew Pinnock is listed as a candidate for the Doak Walker Award, which honors the country’s premier running back. Pinnock heads into his final season with 1,289 career rushing yards and 20 career touchdowns.

* At this writing, USC has 26 former players on NFL rosters. That is an all-time high for the school.

* This week’s game will be also be televised on a taped-delay basis by the Gamecock TV Network in conjunction with Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast. The replay will be shown across the state of South Carolina on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Handling the broadcast will be former Gamecock greats Todd Ellis (play-by-play) and George Rogers (color analyst). Negotiations are still underway with Time Warner Cable to air the replays in Columbia. Arrangements have been made to show the replay in Orangeburg, Sumter and Manning (channel 63), Myrtle Beach (channel 64) and Summerville (channel 9).

For this week’s complete release, download the Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file link at the top these notes.