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March 25, 2006

Quarterback Blake Mitchell threw for one touchdown and ran for another, as the South Carolina offense beat the defense in a 90-minute scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday morning.

“Well it was a little different than last year,” said Head Coach Steve Spurrier following the scrimmage, which was played under sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s. “That’s the first thing I thought of. We couldn’t get the snaps to the quarterback last year. The offensive guys looked sharp early (today), then the defensive guys came on there at the end and almost closed the gap, but the offense ended up winning the scrimmage by 10 points¬¨ – 49-39 was the final. We had some good plays here and there. Nobody got hurt and that’s the most important thing right now.”

A couple thousand people were on hand to see Mitchell connect on his first seven passes, and finish the day 8-for-9 for 107 yards. He led the first-team offense down the field against the first-team defense on the first possession, completing 4-of-4 passes for 68 yards, and culminated the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge. The junior signal-caller later hooked up with wide receiver Sidney Rice on a nine-yard scoring pass.

“Blake is much, much better prepared now than he’s ever been,” said Spurrier. “He’s still got a little ways to go, but he’s got a chance. He’s checking off and picking his guys out better. He should be close to really playing very well this year.”

A pair of redshirt freshmen quarterbacks took the remainder of the snaps on Saturday. Cade Thompson completed 6-for-15 passes for 67 yards with a pair of interceptions that were returned for touchdowns, one by junior college transfer Jasper Brinkley and one by Jerod June. Tommy Beecher was 3-for-6 for 54 yards with an interception. Beecher also hit tight end Robert Pavlovic on a 10-yard scoring pass.

They did ok, Tommy and Cade,” said Spurrier. “Of course Cade had a couple that were picked off for scores that wasn’t very good. Jasper made a heck of a play, then Jerod June stepped in there and made a play. So the defense made a nice rally after getting way behind.”

Sophomore tailback Mike Davis led the rushing attack with five carries for 88 yards, including a 68-yard burst. Junior Cory Boyd, who sat out all last season, rushed 10 times for 64 yards, while sophomore Bobby Wallace carried seven times for 31 yards.

“Mike Davis ran extremely well,” noted Spurrier. “He’s so much quicker and stronger than last year. So is Cory Boyd. He’s a big time back. I think the offensive line will play just as well as last year’s. Gurminder (Thind) held his own in there. Jamon Meredith is much improved. Offensively, we should play better than last year. Defensively, we have a lot of new guys. We’ve got to improve.”

Rice led the receiving corps with four catches for 42 yards, while Pavlovic had three receptions for 59 yards. Kenny McKinley, Noah Whiteside, Mike West and Jared Cook each had two receptions.

The Gamecocks, who have completed eight of their 15 spring practices, will return to the Bluff Road “Proving Grounds” next week, with practices scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The annual Garnet & Black Spring Game is set for Saturday, April 8 at 2 p.m. Admission is $5. USC students with valid ID and youth 12 and under will be admitted for free.

SCORING: Blake Mitchell 1-yard run (Ryan Succop kick)

Ryan Succop 48-yard field goal

Sidney Rice 9-yard pass from Blake Mitchell (Ryan Succop kick)

Robert Pavlovic 10-yard pass from Tommy Beecher (Succop kick)

Jasper Brinkley 71-yard interception return

Jerod June 30-yard interception return

PASSING: Blake Mitchell 9-8-0-107 1 TD; Cade Thompson 15-6-2-67; Tommy Beecher 6-3-1-54 1 TD.

RUSHING: Mike Davis 5-88; Cory Boyd 10-64; Bobby Wallace 7-31; Blake Mitchell 3-7 1 TD; Cade Thompson 1-(-8); Tommy Beecher 7-(-53).

RECEIVING: Sidney Rice 4-42 1 TD; Robert Pavlovic 3-59 1 TD; Kenny McKinley 2-35; Mike West 2-31; Jared Cook 2-21; Noah Whiteside 2-15; O.J. Murdock 1-18; Cory Boyd 1-7.