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Sept. 7, 2002

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Associated Press Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – South Carolina Coach Lou Holtz has seen a lot in three decades of coaching, but seven turnovers by his team was something new.

“I’ve been in this game a long time, and I don’t ever remember being in a situation like this,” Holtz said. “There were times we didn’t have nearly have that many turnovers in a season.”

Virginia used the miscues, and three touchdown passes from quarterback Matt Schaub, to beat the 22nd-ranked Gamecocks 34-21 Saturday night.

The Cavaliers, who began their season with three opponents now ranked in the Top 25, avoided their first 0-3 start since 1982.

“It’s a big step forward for our team,” Groh said. “We beat a real good team.”

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South Carolina’s Matthew Thomas returns the kickoff 95 yards untouched for the touchdown.
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Billy McMullen, a 6-foot-4 receiver who struggled to get open in the first two games, took advantage of South Carolina’s smaller secondary, catching four passes for 72 yards, including a 35-yard TD pass and three other catches facing third-and-long. He also scored on a two-point conversion.

One of the catches, a jaw-dropping one-hander on third-and-11 on a pass thrown well behind him, drew raves from Holtz and Virginia Coach Al Groh, who speculated that it was likely one of the best catches in Virginia history.

“It just stuck to my hand,” McMullen said.

“Even when I don’t make the perfect throw, I know he’ll make the play,” Schaub said. “It’s a good security blanket.”

The Gamecocks (1-1) fumbled six times and threw an interception. Three of the turnovers led to Cavaliers touchdowns, while two others happened deep in Virginia territory, stopping potential scoring drives.

“They’re just trying to make great plays,” Holtz said. “They’ve just got to learn that you don’t need to make a great play, but you need to eliminate the bad play.”

South Carolina’s defense, which looked suspect in a 34-24 season opening victory over New Mexico State, again gave up big yardage. The Cavaliers amassed 339 yards of total offense, including 196 passing.

The Cavaliers trailed 21-20 at halftime but took advantage of two third-quarter fumbles to take a 13-point lead. With a little over four minutes remaining in the quarter, Schaub was intercepted on the South Carolina 6 by Langston Moore, but Moore fumbled and Schaub recovered. Three plays later, Schaub hit Kase Luzar for a 5-yard TD pass.

On the next drive, Gamecocks quarterback Corey Jenkins fumbled on his own 20, and Virginia’s Angelo Crowell recovered. On the next play, tight end Heath Miller, originally recruited as a potential quarterback, threw a 20-yard TD pass to Patrick Estes to make it 34-21.

“As soon as they called it, I knew it would be a touchdown,” Schaub said.

South Carolina had several scoring opportunities in the final quarter, but turnovers deep in Virginia territory ended two drives, and a failed fourth-down conversion ended the other.

Virginia opened the game with a 14-play touchdown drive, converting four third-down plays needing 5 yards or more. Schaub completed seven of nine passes on the drive, including a 1-yard TD catch by Miller.

The Gamecocks responded with a 52-yard TD drive, capped by a 10-yard inside screen pass to Matthew Thomas.

In the second quarter, South Carolina took a 14-7 lead on a 60-yard drive, aided by a pass-interference penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Groh. The coach came onto the field and launched a tirade after officials called the interference penalty, which negated an interception by Shernard Newby.

Schaub finished 20-of-30 for 170 yards and two interceptions. After sharing time with redshirt freshman Marques Hagans in the first two games, Schaub played nearly the entire game Saturday.

Jenkins was 12-of-21 for 119 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. He also ran 20 times for 94 yards.