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Sept. 23, 2006

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -Sidney Rice caught a school record five touchdown passes from Syvelle Newton as South Carolina beat Florida Atlantic 45-6 on Saturday night.

With No. 2 Auburn coming to town Thursday night, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wanted to use this game as a tuneup for his sputtering offense, which started the evening ranked 90th in the country.

The Gamecocks (3-1) rolled up 492 total yards. Rice had nine catches for 161 yards, while Newton was 13-for-20 for 216 yards. His five TDs tied a school record. Freshman Taylor Rank, playing for the first time, led the rushers with 101 yards on 15 carries, while Mike Davis ran 15 times for 92 yards,

The loss to South Carolina ended a brutal stretch in which Florida Atlantic (0-4) lost by a combined 192-20 at Clemson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and South Carolina.

Rice had been held largely in check in 2006. An All-Southeastern Conference receiver last year as a freshman, he had just 12 catches and no touchdowns in the Gamecocks’ first three games.

But Rice put on a clinic playing against the Owls’ secondary, which had no one to stop him. He sold a fake, then dashed past the confused defender to catch his first score, a 23-yarder. Rice set the school record with his fourth receiving TD by catching a deflection off one of four defenders and dashing the last few yards for a 41-yard score. On his fifth touchdown pass, Rice outjumped the defender in the end zone to haul in a 19-yarder.

The five passing touchdowns Saturday weren’t bad for a team that came into the game with just one score through the air all year – thrown by Newton on a trick play in which he lined up at receiver.

It also wasn’t bad for Newton, who usually finds himself running when he lines up behind center. The senior came into the game with nine career passing touchdowns.

Quarterback Blake Mitchell, whom Spurrier suspended one game for being in a bar fight, had a rough return, fumbling on his first play in the second quarter. But with the Gamecocks comfortably in the lead, Mitchell came back in the third quarter, finishing 5-for-11 for 75 yards.

One of the few highlights for Florida Atlantic was a four-play 80-yard drive that gave the Owls their first touchdown in the first half this season. It included a 47-yard run on third-and-7 by quarterback Sean Clayton and a 25-yard TD pass from Clayton to Jason Harmon on the next play. But holder Mike O’Neill bobbled the snap on the extra point and his desperate pass was broken up.

Clayton led the Owls with 68 yards on five carries. Charles Pierre ran 10 times for 58 yards and Clayton and Rusty Smith combined to go 8-for-25 for 105 yards and an interception.

Saturday night’s game featured coaches on both sides with national titles – Spurrier won his in 1996 at Florida, while Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger won his championship in 1983 at Miami.

Both are rebuilding programs that have never come close to that kind of glory. Spurrier is at a school that has won one conference title in 113 seasons and has an all-time losing record, while Schnellenberger is trying to build a program in just its fifth season in Division I-A.