Oct. 6, 2006
SETTING THE STAGE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (3-2, 1-2 SEC) go on the road for the first time since late August when they travel to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats (3-2, 1-1 SEC) in an SEC Eastern Division match up. Game time is set for 7 p.m. ET at Commonwealth Stadium (67,606). The game will be nationally televised by ESPN2, with Eric Collins and Andre Ware calling the action. Todd Harris will be on the sidelines. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs will be in the radio booth for the Carolina Gamecocks Sports Network, with Rob DeBoer on the sidelines. The game can also be heard on SIRIUS satellite radio channel 118.
TV TIME: The Kentucky contest marks the fourth time that Carolina has been nationally televised this season in six contests. The Gamecocks have previously been featured at Mississippi State and at home versus Georgia and Auburn. All three of those appearances were on ESPN. Last season, the Gamecocks made six national TV appearances, including five between ESPN and ESPN2.
ABOUT THE GAMECOCKS: USC is 3-2 on the season, including a 1-2 mark in SEC play. They are 1-0 on the road (a win at Mississippi State) and 2-2 at home, with losses to nationally-ranked Georgia and Auburn. The Gamecocks have won their last three SEC road games, returning home with victories at Tennessee (16-15) and Arkansas (14-10) last season before winning at Mississippi State (15-0) earlier this year.
AND FOR THE WILDCATS: Kentucky is 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the SEC. The Wildcats are coming off a 45-36 win over Central Michigan, which ran their home record to 3-0 this season. Like the Gamecocks, their only two losses have come against nationally-ranked opponents – Louisville and Florida.
SERIES NOTES: This is the 18th meeting on the gridiron between Carolina and Kentucky. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series, 10-6-1. USC holds a 6-3 advantage in games played in Lexington and a slim 4-3-1 advantage in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won each of the last six meetings between the two schools, including a 44-16 decision in Columbia last year. That game was much closer than the final score would indicate, as the teams went into intermission tied at 10. Carolina came away with a 12-7 win on Oct. 16, 2004 in its last visit to Lexington. The margin of USC’s victories from 2002-2004 was a combined 15 points. The teams first met in 1937, then played a two-game home-and-home series in 1978 and `81. They have met every year since the 1992 season when USC joined the SEC.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Blake Mitchell threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third to give coach Steve Spurrier his first SEC victory at South Carolina, 44-16 over Kentucky in Columbia on Oct. 8, 2005. Mitchell had a 1-yard TD run and two scoring passes to Sidney Rice. The Gamecocks were helped by Kentucky fumbles on three straight second-half possessions. After Rafael Little’s 1-yard TD run brought the Wildcats to within 17-16 in the third quarter, Mitchell connected with Rice for a 24-16 lead. Little fumbled for a second straight time, this time with safety Ko Simpson grabbing the loose ball and going 19 yards for a touchdown and a 30-16 lead. On Kentucky’s next play, fullback Arliss Beach was stripped of the ball and Stoney Woodson recovered. Simpson added a fourth-quarter interception that set up Daccus Turman’s 1-yard touchdown run. Syvelle Newton ran in a 16-yard score in the final minutes. Mitchell finished 23-of-34 for 277 yards.
BICENTENNIAL MAN: Steve Spurrier is looking for his 200th career win as a head coach. He owns a 199-86-2 mark in all games, including stints in college – Duke (20-13-1), Florida (122-27-1) and South Carolina (10-7); the USFL – Tampa Bay (35-19); and the NFL – Washington (12-20). The win over FAU earlier this season marked the 200th game as a collegiate head coach for the head ball coach. He owns a 152-47-2 mark through the first 201 collegiate contests, a .761 winning clip. He ranks ninth among active coaches in both wins and winning percentage.
SPURRIER VS. KENTUCKY: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a perfect 13-0 record against Kentucky. That record matches his 13-0 mark against Vanderbilt as his best record against any school. He also has double-digit wins over Georgia (11), LSU (11), Auburn (10), Tennessee (10) and South Carolina (10). His teams have scored at least 38 points in each of the last nine times they have faced the Wildcat defense.
HOW CLOSE HAVE THE `CATS COME?: Not very – at least not in recent years. Spurrier’s teams have rolled up 612 points in the 13 games against Kentucky, an average of 47.1 points per game, while allowing just 224 points, an average of 17.2 points per contest. His squads have put over 50 points on the board five times against the Wildcats, including a 73-7 win in 1994 and a 65-0 whitewash in 1996. The closest Kentucky came to knocking off a Steve Spurrier-led team was in 1993 when they played Florida to a 24-20 decision. That was also the last time they stayed within two touchdowns of Spurrier’s team.
FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED: Since Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia, the Gamecocks are 6-0 in SEC action when they score first and 0-5 when the opponents score first. Overall, they have a 10-2 record when tallying the game’s first points and are winless in five games when the opponents score first since the start of the 2005 season.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Safeties Brandon Isaac (left shoulder) and Nick Prochak (left shoulder), defensive tackle Marque Hall (left knee), offensive guard Kevin Young (left shoulder), offensive tackle Gurminder Thind (right foot) and defensive end Terrence Campbell (left knee) have been lost for the season due to injuries.
OTHER BUMPS & BRUISES: Offensive guard William Brown suffered a sprained left knee against FAU and did not play against Auburn. He will not travel to Kentucky. Safety Emanuel Cook has missed the last two games with a sprained left knee and is listed as doubtful. Tight end Andy Boyd reaggravated his right shoulder injury (one that sidelined him for the first three games of the season) against Auburn and is out. Wide receiver Mike West is doubtful with a hamstring injury.
FOR STARTERS: The Gamecocks have started five true freshmen (offensive tackle Hutch Eckerson, offensive guard Garrett Anderson, linebacker Rodney Paulk, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Emanuel Cook) and two redshirt freshmen (tight end Jared Cook and tailback Taylor Rank) this season. Overall, 15 players have made their first collegiate start in 2006 for USC.
FRESH FISH: The Gamecocks have played 11 of the 18 true freshmen scholarship players who joined the team in the fall. Those who have seen action include: Garrett Anderson (3 starts), Moe Brown, Emanuel Cook (3 starts), Hutch Eckerson (3 starts), Chris Hail, Captain Munnerlyn (1 start), Eric Norwood, Rodney Paulk (2 starts), Vandaral Shackleford, Chris Smelley and Darian Stewart. Those headed for a redshirt include Pierre Andrews, Heath Batchelor, Seaver Brown, Terrence Campbell, Kenrick Ellis, Nick Prochak, and Kevin Young.
THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks nearly pulled off the biggest win in school history before falling to second-ranked Auburn, 24-17 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia on Sept. 28. The Gamecocks had a chance to tie the game on their final possession, but a fourth down pass into the endzone from the Auburn five-yard line fell incomplete. The Gamecocks won the statistical war, having more yards (349-307) and first downs (24-16) than the Tigers, but were just 1-of-4 scoring in the redzone while Auburn was 4-of-4. Despite not running one offensive play in the entire third quarter, the Gamecocks still won possession time for the game, 30:20 to 29:40. Quarterback Syvelle Newton completed 21-of-35 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns for USC. Kenny McKinley had his career-best game with eight catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Succop connected on a career-long 49-yard field goal.
LONG DRIVE CONTEST: The Gamecocks and Tigers appeared to be competing in a long drive contest last week. Carolina had an 18-play drive which covered 75 yards, a 15-play drive that went 93 yards, a 10-play drive that went 66 yards and a nine-play drive that went 75 yards. Only one of USC’s seven drives went for less than seven plays. Auburn countered with a 17-play drive that covered 85 yards and a 13-play drive that went 52 yards as they ate up the entire third quarter, along with a pair of nine-play drives that went 69 and 80 yards.
OFFENSE STEPS UP: With Syvelle Newton getting more comfortable in his role as the Carolina signal-caller, the USC offense has been much more productive in its last two games. Here are the numbers: Gm. 1-3 Gm. 4-5 Points 42 62 Points/Game 14.0 31.0 First Downs 38 49 Total Yards 890 841 Yards/Game 296.7 420.5 Rushing Yards 281 309 Rushing Yards/Game 93.7 154.5 Passing Yards 609 532 Passing Yards/Game 203.0 266.0 3rd Down Conversions 12-36 12-25 3rd Down Percentage .333 .480
SOLID DEFENSE: The Gamecock defense has been solid for the most part all season. Carolina has allowed just seven TDs and 68 points through five games, an average of 13.6 points per game, which ranks 17th in the nation. After five games a season ago, USC had surrendered 137 points, an average of 27.4 points per game. They are allowing their opposition to convert 34 percent of its third down attempts, down from 41 percent a year ago. NEWTON’S FIRST LAW: Senior Syvelle Newton has established himself as the leader of the Gamecock offense. He moved into the quarterback position for the first time this season against Wofford in game 3. It was his first start at that position since the final game of the 2004 campaign against Clemson. Newton started five games at quarterback that season, getting the nod against South Florida, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Florida and Clemson. He owns a career mark of 4-4 as a starter.
NEWTON’S SECOND LAW: Syvelle Newton has improved his passing in each game this season. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 196 yards in the win over the Terriers, came back with a 216-yard passing day on 13-of-20 efficiency and five TDs against FAU, then hit 21-of-35 passes for 240 yards and two TDs versus Auburn. For the season, he is 47-of-74 (63.5 percent) for 706 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 173.92. For his career, Newton has completed 122-of-212 passes (57.5 percent) for 1,864 yards and 16 touchdowns. Since Coach Spurrier took over the program, Newton has completed 51-of-79 passes (64.6 percent) for 753 yards and 10 touchdowns.
RARE TRIFECTA: Syvelle Newton has passed for 1,864 yards, rushed 172 times for 569 yards and has caught 59 passes for 644 yards. He has accounted for 25 touchdowns in his career – 16 passing, seven rushing and two receiving.
MCKINLEY BREAKS OUT: True sophomore wide receiver Kenny McKinley had a breakout game against Auburn last week. With the Tigers focused on stopping Sidney Rice, McKinley responded with a career high eight receptions for a career-high 110 yards and a touchdown. It was the first 100-yard receiving game of his career. He is second on the team in receptions with 17 for 284 yards this season, while averaging 16.7 yards per catch.
RICE HEATS UP: After being held to just five catches for 44 yards in the season’s first two games, All-America candidate Sidney Rice turned it up a notch in wins over Wofford and FAU. Rice caught seven passes for a 151 yards, against the Terriers, then caught nine passes for 161 yards and five touchdowns in just over a half against the Owls. Rice has gone over the century mark in receiving yards in eight of his last 12 games. Only Sterling Sharpe (10) has more 100-yard receiving games in school history. Here are his 100-yard performances: Rice’s 100-Yard Receiving Games Date Opponent Rec. Yards TD 12/31/05 Missouri 12 191 1 09/23/06 Florida Atlantic 9 161 5 09/16/06 Wofford 7 151 0 10/21/05 Vanderbilt 8 132 3 10/07/05 Kentucky 8 125 2 11/25/05 Clemson 7 122 0 10/28/05 Tennessee 8 112 2 11/11/05 Florida 5 112 0
MORE RICE PLEASE: Sidney Rice set the school’s single-season record for receiving yards (1,143) and touchdown catches (13) in 2005. He has caught a touchdown pass in 10 of his 16 career games. He ranks tied for fourth in the SEC in receptions per game (5.0) and is fifth in receiving yards per game (80.8). After just 16 games, he is quickly moving up the USC charts: Carolina Career Receptions Leaders No. Player Years Rec. 1. Sterling Sharpe 1983, 85-87 169 2. Zola Davis 1995-98 164 3. Robert Brooks 1988-91 156 4. Jermale Kelly 1997-00 153 5. Fred Zeigler 1967-69 146 6. Stanley Pritchett 1992-95 116 7. Brandon Bennett 1991-94 111 8. Ryan Brewer 1999-02 107 9. Philip Logan 1974-77 105 10. Sidney Rice 2005-06 95
Carolina Career Receiving Yards Leaders No. Player Years Yards 1. Sterling Sharpe 1983, 85-87 2,497 2. Zola Davis 1995-98 2,354 3. Robert Brooks 1988-91 2,211 4. Jermale Kelly 1997-00 2,181 5. Philip Logan 1974-77 2,063 6. Fred Zeigler 1967-69 1,876 7. Troy Williamson 2002-04 1,754 8. Ira Hillary 1981-84 1,566 9. Sidney Rice 2005-06 1,547 10. Brian Scott 1999-01 1,506
Carolina Career Receiving Touchdown Leaders No. Player Years TDs 1. Robert Brooks 1988-91 19 Jermale Kelly 1997-00 19 3. Sidney Rice 2005-06 18 4. Sterling Sharpe 1983, 1985-87 17 Zola Davis 1995-98 17
RE-WRITING THE RECORD BOOK: The Syvelle Newton to Sidney Rice combination hit paydirt a school record five times against FAU. Rice became the first player in Carolina history to score five TDs in a game, surpassing the old mark of four, held by Mike Dingle (vs. Virginia Tech, 9-22-90) and Stanley Pritchett (vs. Mississippi State, 10-14-95). The previous school record for receiving touchdowns was three, set nine times previously, most recently by Rice against Vanderbilt in 2005. The five touchdown catches in a game also tied the SEC record, set by Carlos Carson of LSU against Rice in 1977. The 30-point scored by Rice ties for the fourth-highest single game total in SEC history. Newton’s five TD passes tied the school record, held by Tommy Suggs, Jeff Grantz and Steve Taneyhill (twice).
THE THREE-HEADED TAILBACK: The Gamecocks have split their tailback duties between the trio of junior Cory Boyd, sophomore Mike Davis and redshirt freshman Taylor Rank.
Cory Boyd: Suffered an ankle injury in the win over Wofford and did not play against FAU… was limited to five rushes for 28 yards against Auburn… expected to be back at full strength this week… leads the team with 212 yards rushing while averaging 5.7 yards per carry… had a season-best 93 yards in the season-opening win at Mississippi State… scored three rushing touchdowns in the win over Wofford, tying the school record.
Mike Davis: Has started three of the first five games… second on the team with 165 yards rushing… scored his first TD of the season against Auburn… ended the 2005 season with a pair of 100-yard rushing games – versus Clemson and Missouri… 2006 season-high is 92 yards against FAU.
Taylor Rank: Gained his first starting assignment and worked in the backfield for the first time in his career (his only previous action was on special teams) against FAU… rumbled for 101 yards on 15 carries against the Owls… included was a 44-yard burst, the longest by a Carolina player from scrimmage since the 2004 season. It was the Gamecocks’ only 100-yard rushing day of the year… did not have a carry against Auburn.
MAYBE BY LAND, BUT NOT BY AIR: The Gamecock defense has been stout against the pass this season. Opponents have completed just 44-of-100 passes (44.0 percent) for 623 yards (124.6 yards per game) with six interceptions through five games. Here’s where the Gamecocks rank nationally in both pass defense and pass defense efficiency: PASS DEFENSE Rk. Team YPG 1. Wyoming 105.00 2. Tulsa 113.50 3. LSU 124.20 4. South Carolina 124.60 5. Georgia 133.40
PASS DEFENSE EFFICIENCY Rk. Team Rating 1. LSU 73.46 2. Clemson 85.78 3. Wisconsin 91.02 4. UConn 91.79 5. Georgia Tech 93.37 6. Missouri 93.60 7. South Carolina 94.23
BREAKING DOWN BENNETT: All-America cornerback candidate Fred Bennett serves as the leader on the defense. With 26 starts under his belt, Bennett has made more starts than the next two defensive players (Stanley Doughty and Jordin Lindsey with 10 each) have combined. In fact, the other 10 starters on defense in the season opener combined for just 13 starts on that side of the ball (Hampton-5; Hall-4; Wells-2; Brown-1; Sapp-1) entering the 2006 season. Of the four returning defensive starters, Bennett is the lone starter this year. Mike West has moved to receiver, while Doughty and Lindsey are working with the second team.
NEXT IN LINE: Fred Bennett has two interceptions this season. The senior from Manning, S.C. who picked off three passes a year ago has nine career interceptions. With a big year, he could push for the school record of 14 career interceptions, held by Bo Davies (1969-71). Bennett is looking to follow in the footsteps of other recent standout USC defensive backs, including Dunta Robinson, Sheldon Brown, Ko Simpson and Johnathan Joseph, who took their skills to the NFL.
TWIN KILLINGS: The Brinkley brothers, linebacker Jasper and defensive end Casper, have made their presence felt this season. Jasper is the team leader with 37 tackles, including 30 solo stops, while Casper is third on the squad with 16 tackles, including seven solos. They have combined for 53 tackles. Both are junior college transfers from Georgia Military College. Jasper arrived at South Carolina in January, while Casper was a summer arrival.
SUCCOP SUCCESS: Sophomore punter Ryan Succop has proven to be a worthy weapon in the special teams arena. He is averaging 45.8 yards per punt, with four of his 15 punts inside the 20. He would lead the SEC and rank sixth in the country in individual punting if he had enough attempts to qualify for the national statistics. The Gamecocks lead the nation in net punting, averaging 43.53 yards per punt. Succop owns a long punt of 58 yards.
MORE SUCCOP SUCCESS: Ryan Succop also handles the placekicking chores for the Gamecocks. He has hit on 7-of-8 field goal attempts, missing only from 51 yards when he bounced it off the left upright against Georgia. He hit on a career-long 49-yard attempt last week versus Auburn. He was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week following his effort in the season-opening win at Mississippi State. Here are the nation’s top field goal percentage leaders (minimum 7 attempts):
Rk. Player, Team FGM-FGA Pct. 1. Justin Medlock, UCLA 10-11 .909 2. Garrett Hartley, Oklahoma 9-10 .900 3. Patrick Shadle, Syracuse 8-9 .889 4. Ryan Succop, South Carolina 7-8 .875 Chris Manfredini, TCU 7-8 .875 Brandon Coutu, Georgia 7-8 .875 Rick Albreski, Central Michigan 7-8 .875 Brett Swenson, Michigan State 7-8 .875
NO AARP CARDS NEEDED HERE: The Gamecocks have just six seniors on the squad that came into the program as scholarship players. Only two – center Chris White and tight end Andy Boyd – are in their fifth-year in the program. The four-year players are quarterback Syvelle Newton, wide receiver Noah Whiteside and cornerback Fred Bennett, while safety Brandon Isaac came to USC via the junior college route. Of those six, Boyd has been sidelined most of the year with a shoulder injury, Whiteside has seen very limited duty and Isaac is redshirting while recovering from shoulder surgery.
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have posted a 43-33 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 43 wins from 2000-2006 is two more than the 41 victories posted in the entire decade of the `90s. Carolina’s most victories in any decade is 63, set from 1980-89.
PLAYING OT: The Gamecocks have played just one overtime game in its history, falling to Tennessee by a 23-20 margin in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003. Every other SEC team has played at least three overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.
EARNING THEIR KEEP: Prior to the start of the season, Head Coach Steve Spurrier placed five former walk-ons on scholarship. They include quarterback Brett Nichols, short snapper Scott Morgan, offensive guard Thomas Coleman, offensive guard Seth Edwards and linebacker Greg Wright. Over the past two seasons, Coach Spurrier has rewarded nine walk-on players with scholarships.
WE’LL TAKE THE BALL: Since Head Coach Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina, the Gamecocks have opened the game on offense in all but one contest. In only the Alabama game of 2005 did USC win the toss and defer to the second half. The Crimson Tide scored a touchdown on that opening possession. The Gamecocks have started each of the last 14 and 16 of the last 17 games on offense. They have scored on the opening drive three times – putting seven points on the board via touchdown passes versus Central Florida and against Missouri in 2005 and against Florida Atlantic in 2006.
BETTER OF LATE: After the 1998 and `99 seasons saw South Carolina win just once in 22 tries, the Gamecocks have turned the corner. Since the start of the 2000 season, USC has logged an overall record of 43-33. The 40 wins from 2000-2005 was just one win shy of the best six-year stretch in school history. The Gamecocks won 41 times from 1979-1984. A LITTLE HISTORY: This is the 113th season of college football at the USC, dating back to 1892. The university did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. This is the 100th consecutive year in which USC has competed on the gridiron. Carolina owns an all-time record of 510-514-44. The school’s only league title came in 1969 when it went 6-0 to win the ACC crown.
GAME CAPTAINS: Carolina selects game captains for each contest. Here are those game captains: Mississippi State: Chris White (center), Thomas Coleman (right guard) and Fred Bennett (cornerback). Georgia: Cory Boyd (tailback), Jasper Brinkley (linebacker) and Scott Morgan (deep snapper). Wofford: Syvelle Newton (quarterback), Ryan Brown (linebacker) and Ryan Succop (kicker). Florida Atlantic: Sidney Rice (wide receiver), Casper Brinkley (defensive end) and Yvan Banag (safety). Auburn: Sidney Rice (wide receiver), Fred Bennett (cornerback) and Jasper Brinkley (linebacker).
BIG CHECK: Head Coach Steve Spurrier announced just prior to the start of the season that he and his wife, Jerri, would pledge $250,000 over the next five years to help the Carolina athletic department’s capital campaign. The Athletics Department is working on a master plan of facilities expected to be unveiled in October. The silent phase of a capital campaign is underway. The proceeds from the campaign will help underwrite new and improved facilities for the entire department.
UP NEXT: Carolina will enjoy an off week before returning to SEC action on Oct. 21 when they travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt. USC leads the all-time series over Vandy, 13-2, including a 35-28 win in 2005.