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Nov. 10, 2006

SETTING THE STAGE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (5-4, 3-4 SEC) wrap up their SEC slate as they travel to Gainesville to take on the sixth-ranked Florida Gators (8-1, 6-1 SEC) on Saturday, Nov. 11. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. ET at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (88,548). The game will be nationally televised by CBS with Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson in the booth and Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines. The game will also be carried across the nation on the Sports USA Radio Network with Ari Wolfe and Gary Barnett in the booth and Rich Herrera patrolling the sidelines. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs will be in the radio booth for the Carolina Gamecocks Sports Network, with Rob DeBoer working the sidelines.

ON THE NATIONAL STAGE: The Gamecocks are very familiar with playing on the national stage. This week’s game represents the seventh time in 10 games this year that football fans across the country can watch the Gamecocks live. Seven of USC’s eight SEC games in 2006 have been nationally televised. The last time that CBS televised the Gamecocks was on Sept. 17, 2005, a 37-14 loss to Alabama in Columbia. The Gamecocks last win on CBS came on Jan. 2, 1995, a 24-21 win over West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl.

ABOUT THE GAMECOCKS: South Carolina has dropped two straight Southeastern Conference games to fall to 5-4 on the season, including a 3-4 mark in SEC play. They are a perfect 3-0 on the road (wins at Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) and 2-4 at home, with non-conference wins over Wofford and Florida Atlantic and losses to nationally-ranked Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas. The Gamecocks rank 10th in the SEC and 70th in the country in scoring offense (22.6 ppg) and are sixth in the SEC and 27th in the country in scoring defense (17.2 ppg).

AND FOR THE GATORS: Florida is 8-1 overall and 6-1 in SEC action. They enter the game ranked sixth in the country in both the Associated Press and the USA TODAY/Coaches polls and have clinched the East Division of the SEC. The Gators have won two straight after dropping their only decision of the season to Auburn. Florida is fifth in the SEC and 45th in the country in scoring offense (26.3 ppg) and third in the SEC and seventh in the country in scoring defense (13.0 ppg). The Gator offense is led by quarterback Chris Leak, who has completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for 1,903 yards and 17 touchdowns.

SERIES NOTES: This is the 27th meeting between Carolina and Florida in a series that dates back to 1911. The Gators lead the all-time series, 19-4-3. Florida is a perfect 10-0 when hosting the Gamecocks in Gainesville. They own an 8-4-1 advantage in games played in Columbia and hold a 1-0-2 lead in games played in Tampa. Florida had its 14-game winning streak over the Gamecocks snapped last season in Columbia in a 30-22 Carolina win. It was USC’s first win in the series since Nov. 4, 1939, a 6-0 decision in Columbia. Florida was a 48-14 winner in Gainesville in 2004, the last time the teams hooked up at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field.

ALWAYS A WINNER: South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier has always been on the winning sideline when Florida and Carolina get together. He was a perfect 10-0 when facing the Gamecocks when he patrolled the Gator sidelines, then won last season as the Gamecocks’ head coach.

BEEN HERE, DONE THAT: Head Coach Steve Spurrier has been in the home team locker room plenty of times at Ben Griffin Stadium, but is not completely unfamiliar with the visiting locker room. He was there as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech during the 1979 season when the Yellow Jackets played the Gators to a 7-7 tie.

A CAROLINA WIN OVER FLORIDA WOULD…: * Be the Gamecocks first win ever in Gainesville. They are 0-10 when playing on Florida’s home field. * Be the Gamecocks second win in a row over the Gators, something that has not happened since 1936 and 1939. * Keep Head Coach Steve Spurrier’s record perfect in this series. He has been on the winning sideline 11 straight times. * Give the Gamecocks six wins on the season, becoming bowl-eligible. Steve Spurrier would become the first coach in school history to lead his team to bowl appearances in each of his first two seasons. Carolina would become the eighth SEC team to gain bowl eligibility. Kentucky is also one win away from that plateau. * Give USC at least a .500 mark in SEC action for the third straight year for the first time in school history.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Gamecocks have won a school-record five straight conference road games. They have had their share of success winning on the road in the SEC over the past three seasons, boasting an impressive 8-3 record in that time (3-1 in 2004, 2-2 in 2005 and 3-0 in 2006). They trail only Auburn (10-1) and Tennessee (8-2) in conference road success since the start of the 2004 season.

TOUGH SCHEDULE: This week’s game marks Carolina’s third straight contest against a ranked opponent. They dropped a seven-point decision to No. 8 Tennessee and a six-point verdict to No. 12 Arkansas. This is the first time that Carolina has faced three straight ranked opponents since the end of the 2000 season (loss to No. 5 Florida, loss to No. 16 Clemson, win over No. 19 Ohio State). Overall, USC’s 2006 opponents have combined for a 70-42 record, a .625 winning percentage. Seven of its 11 Division I opponents are bowl-eligible.

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: This is the fifth test of the season for the Gamecocks against a ranked opponent. The previous four games were held at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. USC dropped all four decisions, but three of them were decided by a touchdown or less.Carolina dropped an 18-0 decision to Georgia, who was ranked 12th in the country (AP) at that time, fell to second-ranked Auburn, 24-17, dropped a 31-24 decision to eighth-ranked Tennessee, then lost to 12th-ranked Arkansas, 26-20. Last season, Carolina was 2-1 against ranked opponents, knocking off No. 23 Tennessee and No. 12 Florida after losing to No. 9 Georgia.

SPURRIER AGAINST THE BEST: Steve Spurrier owns a 47-34-1 record when facing ranked opponents in his career, including wins in 13 of his last 21 opportunities. He is 2-5 against nationally-ranked teams since taking over at Carolina, with wins over Tennessee and Florida and losses to Georgia (twice), Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas.

THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks could not stop the one-two punch of Darren McFadden (a career-high 219 yards rushing) and Marcus Monk (192 yards receiving) and 12th-ranked Arkansas held off a late Carolina rally for a 26-20 victory in Columbia on Nov. 4. The Gamecocks trailed 26-6 midway through the third quarter before junior quarterback Blake Mitchell came off the bench to lead Carolina to 92 and a 99-yard scoring drives. Mitchell completed 15-of-21 passes in the second half for 213 yards and a pair of scores but, with a chance to take the lead late in the game, threw an interception and the Razorbacks were able to run out the clock. The Gamecocks threw the ball 40 times (the most in the Steve Spurrier era) for 289 yards (the third-highest total in that time), but surrendered 495 yards.

GOING THE DISTANCE: Carolina had two scoring drives of more than 90 yards against Arkansas, going 92 and then 99 against the Razorbacks to paydirt. They have had five touchdown scoring drives of 90+ yards this season, covering 90 yards against FAU, 93 against Auburn and 95 against Tennessee.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Safeties Brandon Isaac (left shoulder), Ty Erving (knee) 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 2006 campaign due to season-ending injuries.

FOR STARTERS: The Gamecocks have started six true freshmen (offensive tackle Hutch Eckerson, offensive guard Garrett Anderson, linebacker Rodney Paulk, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, safety Emanuel Cook, wide receiver Moe Brown) and three redshirt freshmen (tight end Jared Cook, tailback Taylor Rank and wide receiver Freddie Brown) this season. Overall, 18 players have made their first collegiate start in 2006 for Carolina.

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 (4 starts), Moe Brown (1 start), Emanuel Cook (3 starts), Hutch Eckerson (5 starts), Chris Hail, Captain Munnerlyn (1 start), Eric Norwood, Rodney Paulk (6 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. Smelley will apply for a medical redshirt (heel injury).

BALANCED ATTACK: The Gamecocks rank fifth in the SEC in passing offense (220.7 ypg) and seventh in the league in rushing offense (132.2 ypg). Only Florida (fourth in pass offense and fifth in rush offense) and LSU (second in both) rank in the top half of the league in both categories. WINNING THE THIRD-DOWN WAR: The Gamecocks have improved dramatically in third down situations in 2006, converting 44 percent (47-of-108) of their opportunities this season, which is fifth in the SEC. That’s up from 34 percent from a year ago. The Gamecocks have also done a good job in those same situations on defense, holding their opponents to just 32.5 percent (37-of-114) on third-down conversions, which ranks third in the SEC and 24th in the nation. That’s down from 41 percent in 2005.

BLAKE’S BACK: Junior quarterback Blake Mitchell came off the bench to spark the USC offense against Arkansas, completing 15-of-21 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. It was his first significant action since the FAU contest. For the season, Mitchell is 48-for-76 (63.2 pct.) for 535 yards. He has thrown two touchdowns and two interceptions. For his career, Mitchell is 243-for-413 (58.8 pct.) for 2,991 yards with 20 touchdowns and 17 picks. The LaGrange, Ga. native is just nine yards away from becoming the ninth quarterback in Gamecock history to throw for 3,000 yards in a career. He is 8-5 as a starter.

NEWTON SERVED ADMIRABLY: Senior Syvelle Newton has given the Gamecock offense a huge shot in the arm this season. He has completed 95-of-162 passes (58.6 percent) for 1,316 yards and 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Despite struggling against Arkansas (7-for-19 for 76 yards), Newton ranked sixth in the SEC in pass efficiency with a mark of 142.7. For his career, Newton has completed 170-of-300 passes (56.7 percent) for 2,474 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is 4-3 as the starting signal-caller this season and is 6-6 as a starter during his career, with five starts coming in the 2004 season.

RARE TRIFECTA: Syvelle Newton has passed for 2,474 yards, rushed 215 times for 786 yards and has caught 60 passes for 666 yards. He has accounted for 33 touchdowns in his career – 20 passing, 10 rushing and three receiving. Research has turned up just three players who have surpassed the 600-600-600 mark in the history of college football – Georgia’s Hines Ward (1063 rushing, 918 passing, 1965 receiving), former SMU great Kyle Rote (2049 rushing, 648 passing, 734 receiving) and University of Ohio’s Dave Juenger (770 rushing, 1,207 passing and 1,111 receiving).

PUNT IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD: And one that Steve Spurrier has not uttered much this season. The Gamecocks have punted just 25 times in nine games, the fewest number in the SEC. Six of those 25 punts came in the season opener at Mississippi State. Only Hawaii (15), West Virginia (17 in 8 games), Oregon (22), New Mexico State (24), Memphis and Louisville (24 in 8 games each) have punted fewer times than South Carolina in Division I football.

RICE HEATING UP: Sophomore wide receiver returned to his All-America form last week against Arkansas, catching seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. Rice has gone over the century mark in receiving yards in nine of his last 16 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 (9) 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 11/04/06 Arkansas 7 126 1 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 has caught 43 passes for 686 yards (the 10th-highest single season total in school history) and seven scores this season after setting the school’s single-season record for receiving yards (1,143) and touchdown catches (13) in 2005. He has caught a touchdown pass in 12 of his 20 career games. He ranks tied for seventh in the SEC in receptions per game (4.78) and sixth in receiving yards per game (76.2). He became the 10th player in school history with 100 career receptions and has set the school record for career receiving touchdowns with 20. After just 20 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. Sidney Rice 2005-06 113 8. Brandon Bennett 1991-94 111 9. Ryan Brewer 1999-02 107 10. Philip Logan 1974-77 105

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. Sidney Rice 2005-06 1,829 8. Troy Williamson 2002-04 1,754 9. Ira Hillary 1981-84 1,566 10. Brian Scott 1999-01 1,506

Carolina Career Receiving Touchdown Leaders No. Player Years TDs 1. Sidney Rice 2005-06 20 2. Robert Brooks 1988-91 19 Jermale Kelly 1997-00 19 4. Sterling Sharpe 1983, 1985-87 17 Zola Davis 1995-98 17

TARGETING MCKINLEY: Sophomore wide receiver Kenny McKinley has developed into a solid receiver opposite Sidney Rice. McKinley caught seven passes for 87 yards and a score against Arkansas. His best game was an eight-catch, 110-yard effort against Auburn. For the season, he has caught 33 passes for 545 yards and three scores, a 16.5 yard per catch average.

BOYD CARRIES THE LOAD: Junior tailback Cory Boyd missed a couple of days of practice due to illness and saw limited playing time against Arkansas, logging no carries. Prior to that, he had become a workhorse in the backfield, establishing career highs in carries (25) and yards rushing (113) in the win at Kentucky, then bouncing back with a 22-carry, 113-yard performance at Vanderbilt, the first two 100-yard rushing day of his career. He became the first USCback to rush for 100+ yards in consecutive games against SEC opponents since Derek Watson rushed for 100+ in three straight games in 2000. Boyd has become the 36th player in USC history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a career.

BOYD AMONG MEN: In addition to rushing for over 1,000 yards in his career (now with 1,048 yards), Cory Boyd has caught 72 passes for 768 yards. He became just the fourth player in school history to log 1,000 yards rushing and 70 receptions. The others? Stanley Pritchett (1,178 yards rushing, 116 receptions), Brandon Bennett (3,055 yards rushing, 111 receptions) and Harold Green (3,005 yards rushing, 94 receptions).

THREE REACH THE CENTURY MARK: Cory Boyd became the third player on the Gamecocks’ roster to rush for 100 yards in a game when he eclipsed the mark with his 113-yard effort against Kentucky. He doubled his total with another 113-yard performance at Vanderbilt. Sophomore Mike Davis went over the 100-yard plateau twice last season (125 yards versus Missouri and 111 against Clemson). His high this season is 92 against Florida Atlantic. Redshirt freshman Taylor Rank rushed for 101 yards against FAU earlier this season. Syvelle Newton’s top rushing game is 94 yards against Ole Miss in 2004. The last USC quarterback to rush for 100 yards in a game was Corey Jenkins (101) against Georgia on Sept. 14, 2002.

SETTLING IN: The Gamecocks have started the same five offensive linemen – Jamon Meredith, Thomas Coleman, Chris White, Seth Edwards and Justin Sorensen – for two straight games. In the 21 games of the Steve Spurrier era at South Carolina, the Gamecocks have never had the same quintet start three consecutive games.

BREAKING DOWN BENNETT: All-America cornerback candidate Fred Bennett serves as the leader on the defense. With 30 starts under his belt, Bennett has made more starts than the next two defensive players (Chris Hampton-14 and Stanley Doughty-12) have combined. Of the four returning defensive starters from the 2005 campaign, Bennett is the lone regular starter this year. Mike West has moved to receiver, Doughty and Jordin Lindsey have been part-time starters.

BENNETT BREAK-UPS: Fred Bennett is tied for third in the SEC in passes defended with 10, including a pair of interceptions. The senior from Manning, S.C. who picked off three passes a year ago has nine career interceptions. The school record is 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. Jasper is the team leader with 64 tackles, including 53 solo stops, while Casper (the SEC defensive lineman of the week against Vanderbilt) is sixth on the squad with 30 tackles, including 16 solos. They have combined for 94 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss (a team-leading 7.5 each). Jasper ranks 10th in the SEC with an average of 7.1 tackles per game. Both are junior college transfers from Georgia Military College. Jasper arrived at USC in January, while Casper was a summer arrival.

FRESHMAN RUSH: True freshman Eric Norwood is quickly making a name for himself as a pass rusher. He leads the team with 4.5 sacks and is third on the squad with 6.5 tackles for loss. He has the most sacks for Carolina since George Gause had 5.0 in 2004.

SUCCOP SUCCESS: Sophomore punter Ryan Succop has proven to be a worthy weapon in the special teams arena. He is averaging 44.2 yards per punt, which ranks third in the SEC. Succop owns a long punt of 58 yards.

HERE’S THE KICKER: Ryan Succop also handles the placekicking chores for the Gamecocks. He has hit on 12-of-13 field goal attempts, including a career-long 55-yarder against Vanderbilt, missing only from 51 yards when he bounced it off the left upright against Georgia. He has hit his last nine attempts. Six of his 12 field goals have come from beyond 40 yards and only one has been under 34 yards. He hit a 50-yarder against Tennessee, becoming just the fourth player in school history to hit more than one 50-yarder in a career, joining Scott Hagler (3), Mark Fleetwood (2) and Collin Mackie (2). 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 10 made): Rk. Player, Team FGM-FGA Pct. 1. Brandon Pace, Virginia Tech 11-11 1.000 2. Garrett Hartley, Oklahoma 15-16 .938 3. Arthur Carmody, Louisville 14-15 .933 4. Patrick Shadle, Syracuse 13-14 .929 5. Ryan Succop, South Carolina 12-13 .923 Brian Jackson, Ball State 12-13 .923 7. Mario Danelo, Southern Calif. 10-11 .909

SUCCOP NAMED GROZA SEMIFINALIST: Sophomore placekicker Ryan Succop was recently named as one of 20 semifinalist for the national Lou Groza Award.

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 much of the year with a shoulder injury, Whiteside has seen very limited duty and Isaac is redshirting while recovering from shoulder surgery. Only Kentucky and Florida State have as few of seniors that entered their programs on scholarship.

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.

WE’LL TAKE THE BALL: In a rare occurrence, the Gamecocks won the coin toss at Vanderbilt and elected to defer to the second half. It was only the second time since Head Coach Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina that the Gamecocks have opened the game on defense. The only other occurrence came against Alabama in 2005. In the 19 times that USC has received the opening kick over the past two years, the Gamecocks have scored 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.

BICENTENNIAL MAN: Steve Spurrier recorded his 200th career win as a head coach at Kentucky on Oct. 7. He owns a 201-88-2 mark in all games, including stints in college – Duke (20-13-1), Florida (122-27-1) and South Carolina (12-9); 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 154-49-2 mark through the first 204 collegiate contests, a .756 winning clip. He ranks ninth among active coaches in wins and in winning percentage.

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.

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). Kentucky: Syvelle Newton (quarterback), Ryan Succop (kicker) and Jordin Lindsey (defensive end). Vanderbilt: Fred Bennett (cornerback), Ike Crofoot (holder/snapper) and Chris White (center). Tennessee: Lanard Stafford (fullback), Casper Brinkley (defensive end) and Ryan Succop (kicker). Arkansas: Kenny McKinley (wide receiver), Fred Bennett (cornerback), Cody Wells (special teams).

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 512-516-44. The school’s only league title came in 1969 when it went 6-0 to win the ACC crown.

NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have posted a 45-35 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 45 wins from 2000-2006 is four 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.

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 45-35. 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.

UP NEXT: The Gamecocks finish their regular season with a pair of non-conference games. They wrap up their home slate Saturday, Nov. 18, when they host Middle Tennessee, coached by former Gamecock assistant Rick Stockstill. It will be the first meeting ever on the gridiron between the Gamecocks and Blue Raiders, out of the Sun Belt Conference. Game time is set for 12:30 p.m. and will be televised throughout the Palmetto state and in parts of Tennessee on a pay-per-view basis. USC concludes the regular season on Nov. 25 at Clemson.