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Oct. 22, 2005

Recap | Final Stats | Notes

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier

“It was a fun game, sort of interesting. I always tell the guys it will be a physical game, to prepare them mentally. That is what it was.

“What a performance by Syvelle (Newton). They think he tore his Achilles tendon. They can repair those. Hopefully, he’ll come back 100 percent next year. That’s about as good an individual performance I’ve seen.

Of course, Sidney (Rice) had another good game. The defense, everyone played good, no loafing. We are not good on third and fourth down. We are very good on first and second down.

“We had a good second half, a lot better than the first half. Blake came around and did some things in the fourth quarter. Blake played a lot better in the second half. It was good for him to have that comeback in second half.

“The doctor x-rayed Syvelle (Newton). Most knew it was bad. He got a game ball. It was some performance.

“It was a fun game. I think our fans enjoyed this one. We can still play better of course.

“The interception that Blake (Mitchell) threw, the ball just didn’t get out of his hand. It was about as wide open a play as we’ve had all year. He just underthrew it. It didn’t cost us, fortunately.

“Syvelle makes guys miss. He’s a tailback that can throw it and catch it. I hope he can come back from this. Tailback looks like his ultimate position. We just didn’t know it.

“We hit Kris (Clark) over the middle, it was a good catch that got us out of the hole, maybe the play of the game. Sidney (Rice) went out on the five with about two minutes, so it was hard to run (the clock) down. We noticed Sidney wide open on second down. It probably would not have been open on third down, just two on twos there. If it just got knocked down, we’re in good shape. It turned out we needed the touchdown instead of the field goal.

“They just kept making third and long and some fourths. We have got to get better on that down. It shouldn’t be that easy for teams to make that play. If we had to kick field goals all day, we’d have lost.

“Sidney (Rice) is a very talented player. I got on him in the first half for not coming off the line. He needs to get in his routes quicker. He can do things. You like to have a guy that is a big target. As a quarterback, he’s the kind of guy you like. He’s got a chance to help us win big around here. He’s got a chance to break some records around here.

“At halftime, we didn’t do too much, just let Syvelle (Newton) run around and see what happens.

“We’ve been balanced this year, really overall we are very close. We maybe have thrown 10 more than we’ve run.

“Blake’s block may have got him to come around. Sometimes quarterbacks need to get hit.

“We played so well defensively in the first half. The second half, I don’t know if they punted.

“We will enjoy this one tonight and worry about the Vols Monday or Sunday.

“When they were up 14-7 and we hadn’t done squat in the first half, it didn’t look good.

“That play when (Syvelle Newton) sprinted out and saw Sidney (Rice), not many players can make that play.

“The fans were wonderful, outstanding. I know they went a long time without a beer, but that’s OK. I think they enjoyed it that way.

“We’ve got to make sure Syvelle (Newton) goes to class and passes everything so he can be ready for next year. It’s our first serious injury all year. We’ve been fortunate to this point. It’s tough for Syvelle (Newton), a serious injury. He’s got some rehab ahead of him, unfortunately. Not sure how you can prevent that. Jeff Guy will repair it. It’s like repairing a ligament. He should be full speed for next year.

“Blake (Mitchell) needs to take off every now and then. It was wide open. We were terrible on third downs. If we can make a few third every now and then… Obviously, the quarterback running is helpful, but we don’t have that now.

“Everybody has made a yard on Vanderbilt this year, except us.

“This was a good win for our fans, a good win for our team. That’s two weeks in a row we were tied at the half and won.”

Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson

On Game: “It was an extremely exciting game. I’m proud of our guys for hanging in there and making a come back. I’m a little disappointed in our effort after we tied it to try to get that ball at least into an overtime, or get the ball back into our offense to see if we could do something with it to break the tie.

“I’m real proud of the way our guys played. I think they played extremely hard. We did some tough sledding in the first half and came back and played a little bit better in the second.”

After the tie: “They had plenty of time which was the problem. They could either run or pass it and they went play action pass and we bit up on the fake one time and they hit one across the middle…It puts you in a touch position when they’ve been running the football fairly well and we felt we had to stop that or they’ll get an easy field goal. And then they threw the ball effectively. So, they did a good job on that drive.”

On 83 plays: “Yes, I would have expected to win that one, 83 plays, but we didn’t execute well enough in the first half one either side of the ball to win.”

On Syvelle Newton: “We knew he would have the chance to play quarterback, tailback, receiver. It really wasn’t where he was. It was just about being able to tackle him. We didn’t do a very good job a couple of times, but we expected all of that.”

On the Cutler interception: “Well all interceptions are critical…You never want to turn the ball over obviously, but to give them an opportunity to like that was too big of a gift.”

On Bennett: “Well, Earl had a fantastic game. He’s a very fine player and we have a lot of confidence throwing him the football…We had to throw it to Earl, we didn’t have anybody else, basically…Basically Earl was it and we were down to nothing in the wide receiver position.”

South Carolina Player Quotes

Syvelle Newton, Offense

How were you injured? “After I scored, somebody jumped on my foot and something happened to it. I don’t know if it was the celebrating or not.

Talk about the touchdown pass you threw to Sidney Rice. “We worked on that play all week. Sidney and I were on the same page each time. He made a great run. I just threw it in there.

Talk about the touchdown run. “I didn’t know if I was going to get in there. I found a hole and went through it.

How did you feel about your role today before the injury? “I wanted us to win. I wanted to show the team I wanted to be a part of the game and help us get a win.

Jabari Levey, Offense
“It’s nice to know that we can finish a game. It’s a one game season all year from here on out. The rest of the season is one game at a time. I am speechless about Syvelle’s injury. I’m a big Syvelle fan. He’s a great athlete. We lost somebody great, but somebody has to step up and take his place. Somebody has to pick up the slack. We have to keep playing hard.”

Blake Mitchell, Offense
“It was a good win for us today. It was a close, hard fought game. We stepped up at the end and pulled it out. Syvelle Newton had a heck of a game. He had two TD passes, 1 rushing TD – it hurts a lot to lose him. He is a tremendous athlete. At first I thought he just tweaked his ankle. I didn’t think it was that.

“Sidney Rice is a great receiver. He helps my completion percentage. He knows how to get open. He does a good job.

(Spurrier said it was a fun win): “It was a fun win. It was exciting. We had to execute at the end when they tied it up and we had to go in make that last drive. We can build on this. We proved we can win a close ball game. We proved we can make enough plays to win a close one. Now we have to go back to practice and continue to work on things and get ready for Tennessee.”

Lance Laury, Defense “We were happy to come out with the win. We gave up some deep third down plays. We have some things to work on. (Vandy’s) Jay Cutler has improved a lot. We both came in the same year and it’s nice to see someone out there that has been here five years. I talked to him after the game and wished him luck. I hope to see him in the league.

“The defense worked hard in practice this week. It was very rough. We came through it though. We worked very hard. The scout team did a good job. It all paid off today.”

Sidney Rice, Offense
“Everybody was talking about a bowl before the game. We knew it all started here. It’s a new season from here on out. One game at a time.

(On Vandy’s Earl Bennett’s 16 catches today – a freshman): “He caught 16 passes today in the game? 16 passes today? I didn’t notice him. When I was on the sidelines I was talking to the coach and to my teammates. (on working to win the SEC Freshman of the Year award like Ko Simpson last year): Ko came up to me right before the game and showed me his plaque and said `Let’s go get it.'”

Fred Bennett, Defense
“We played good today. I am really proud of our front seven. We have to be proud of this win and keep playing hard. The week off helped us. We had fresh legs. My hats off to Vanderbilt. They are a good team. We knew that coming in – that we had to play hard to win today. The coaches had a good game plan today.

(On Newton’s injury): “He played so hard today. He played real well. He is a big part of the team. I think we can come back from his injury – someone will have to step up. He went in style today – he played so well.”

Vanderbilt Player Quotes

Wide Receiver Earl Bennett

On his big game today: “Last week, I thought I had a bad game and we really worked through it this week at practice and we came out confident and played hard.”

On the coverage today: “The coaches were calling great plays to get me open and we were just running them and executing.”

The ability of the team to come back after being down 28-14: “Our whole team just played hard and our main motto is to `Play like a Champion’. We just always play and just don’t ever give up on the game until it is over.”

On special teams play: “I was happy with the returns that I had, but I wished that our team could have pulled this one out.”

Quarterback Jay Cutler

On not giving up: “This team has been in this situation before. We’ve came back, especially in the fourth quarter. We’ve got a lot of guys out there, a lot of seniors that want to win and know how to execute in the fourth quarter. We’ve done it in prior games and this game wasn’t any different. We just ran out of time there at the end.”

On the amount of defensive pressure: “They were blitzing a lot. They were walking around trying to confuse us in the first half. I think they kept us off balance, but maybe in the third we kind of got settled down a little bit and we started getting some zone defense and picking them apart.”

On the interception thrown: “They did similar to what they did on the last play. They had three guys deep and everyone in a prevent type defense and we had Erik (Davis) in the middle and I tried to stick it in there. I guess him and the safety got both their hands on it so I probably shouldn’t have thrown it but I was trying to make a play.”

Adjustments during the game: “We kept the same game plan. We got inside the two-minute mark and had a lot of success. I think early on they were confusing us because they were walking around everywhere and weren’t really set, and we didn’t know what was going on. We haven’t really executed well in the first half this whole year, so we’ve got to have better first halves these last three games.”

Defensive back Cheron Thompson

On the interception return for a touchdown: “We were in a base formation but I was still back there in nickel back. The quarterback saw me reading the run and I guess he thought he could get it over my head. I saw the wide side was open so I took my chance and ran to the end zone and dove for it.”

Thoughts about first touchdown: “It was a special moment. I’m a senior and that was my first interception and touchdown. It was just a very special moment.”