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Jan. 3, 2007

• The South Carolina Gamecocks capped an 8-5 campaign with a 44-36 win over Conference USA Champion Houston in the 48th annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl. It was the Gamecocks’ first eight-win season since 2001 when they finished 9-3 under Lou Holtz.

• The Gamecocks have recorded nine eight-win seasons in school history, including three in this decade after not recording any during the 1990s.

• The Dec. 29 win over Houston was the Gamecocks’ first win in December since 1960 when they defeated Virginia on Dec. 3 by a 26-0 score. It snapped a string of 10 consecutive December losses.

• The Gamecocks finished the season with three straight wins (Middle Tennessee, Clemson, Houston) for the first time since 1973 (Appalachian Sate, Florida State and Clemson).

• The Gamecocks have won four of their last five bowl games after dropping the first eight bowl games in school history.

• The Gamecocks were 5-0 against non-conference opponents in 2006, the first time they were undefeated against non-league foes since going 4-0 in 2001.

• Head Coach Steve Spurrier improved to 7-7 as a head coach in bowl games. He became the first coach in South Carolina history to take his team to a bowl game in each of his first two seasons at the university.

• With 15 wins (7-5 and 8-5) in his first two seasons at Carolina, Head Coach Steve Spurrier tied the mark set by Joe Morrison for most wins in his first two seasons at the university. Morrison went 5-6 and 10-2 in 1983 and ’84.

• The Gamecocks posted a 5-1 record when playing away from Columbia’s Williams-Brice Stadium in 2006. The lone loss was a 17-16 setback at SEC Champion Florida. They have won seven of their last nine games played on the road or at a neutral site.

• The Gamecocks had nine national television exposures in 13 games during the 2006 season.

• The Liberty Bowl win over Houston saw numerous bowl game school records set including Most First Downs (25), Most Yards Passing (323), Most Touchdown Passes (4), Most Total Offense (512) and Most Points Scored (44).

• The Gamecocks will have 17 of 22 starters returning in 2007, including seven on offense (WR Sidney Rice, WR Kenny McKinley, TE Andy Boyd, LT Jamon Meredith, RT Justin Sorensen, FB Lanard Stafford, TB Cory Boyd) and 10 on defense (DE Casper Brinkley, DT Nathan Pepper, DT Joel Reaves, DE Ryan Brown, OLB Cody Wells, MLB Jasper Brinkley, OLB Rodey Paulk, S Chris Hampton, S Stoney Woodson, CB Carlos Thomas). The five starters lost include LG Thomas Coleman, C Chris White, RG Seth Edwards and QB Syvelle Newton on offense and CB Fred Bennett on defense. P/PK Ryan Succop will return as well.

• The returning starters list does not include QB Blake Mitchell, who started six games including the final four of the 2006 season; and DE Jordin Lindsey, who started six games including the final five. Mitchell was the MVP of the Liberty Bowl while Lindsey was South Carolina’s Defensive MVP in the bowl game.

• Blake Mitchell (Liberty Bowl MVP), Sidney Rice (Carolina Offensive MVP) and Jordin Lindsey (Carolina Defensive MVP) obviously enjoy playing in bowl games. In the last two bowl games Mitchell is 39-for-67 (58.2 percent) for 589 yards and six touchdowns; Rice has caught 20 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns; and Lindsey has two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

• The Gamecock offense was clicking at the end of the season, rolling up over 400 yards of offense in each of their final four games (Florida-410; MTSU-545; Clemson-492; Houston-512). The final three games (MTSU, Clemson and Houston) also represent the top three games of total offense in the two years of the Steve Spurrier era at Carolina.

• Jasper Brinkley was a first team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press and by Sidney Rice, Andy Boyd, Fred Bennett and Ryan Succop were second team All-SEC picks by the league’s coaches. Rodney Paulk and Emanuel Cook were named to the All-SEC freshman squad by the league’s coaches. Paulk, Cook and Eric Norwood were named Freshman All-SEC by The Sporting News.

• Eric Norwood was a first team Freshman All-America by The Sporting News and and earned second team Freshman All-America honors by Rodney Paulk was named to The Sporting News’ second team Freshman All-America squad.

• Junior quarterback Blake Mitchell completed 66.8 percent of his passes on the season, the second best single-season mark in school history. He finished the season ranked seventh on Carolina’s all-time career list in yards passing (4,245), seventh in pass attempts (539), seventh in pass completions (330), first in completion percentage (.612), and tied for fifth in touchdowns passing (28).

• Junior tailback Cory Boyd led the team with 823 yards rushing. It was the most yards rushing for a Gamecock since the 2000 season when Derek Watson rushed for 1,066. Boyd is 22nd on the Carolina all-time rushing leaders list with 1,364 yards.

• Sophomore wide receiver Sidney Rice became the first player in school history to go over the 1,000-yard receiving mark twice in his career. He owns two of the three 1,000-yard receiving seasons in school history (Sterling Sharpe has the other). He had a career-high 72 receptions in 2006 and owns two of the three 70+ reception seasons in school history (Sharpe owns the other). He is the only player in school history to have 10+ receiving touchdowns in two seasons. Rice is third on the school’s all-time list in receiving yards (2,233), sixth in receptions (142), first in touchdowns receiving (23) and first in 100-yard receiving games (11). He has caught a pass in all 24 games in which he’s played and has a touchdown catch in 14 of those contests.

• Sophomore Kenny McKinley caught 51 passes, the 10th highest single season total in school history, for 880 yards, sixth highest mark.

• Receivers Sidney Rice and Kenny McKinley combined for 1,970 yards receiving, the most by a receiving duo in school history and one of the top tandems in the country in 2006.

• Sophomore placekicker Ryan Succop led the team with 85 points scored. It was the third highest single season total in school history behind only Collin Mackie (113) and Harold Green (96), who both logged their numbers in 1987. Succop, a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award, became the fourth kicker in school history to notch two field goals of 50+ yards, including a 55-yarder against Vanderbilt, the second-longest field goal in school history.

• The Gamecocks punted just 30 times in 13 games, an average of 2.3 punts per game. Only Hawaii had fewer punts among Division I teams in 2006.

• Junior all-conference middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley recorded 107 tackles, including 85 solo stops. The 85 unassisted tackles is the second highest single season total in school history, topped only by Jonathan Martin’s 2002 total of 93.

• Defensive ends Casper Brinkley and Eric Norwood tied for the team lead with 7.0 sacks apiece. It was the most sacks recorded by a player since Kalimba Edwards and Cecil Caldwell each registered 7.0 sacks in the 2000 season.

• With the benefit of playing a 13th game for the first time in school history, the Gamecocks established school single season records for total offense (5,135 yards) and first downs (270).

• All five of the Gamecock losses in 2006 came to teams ranked in the top 12 in the country at the time of the game (Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida). The final four losses were by a combined 21 points.

• The Gamecocks graduate just a dozen players off the 2006 roster. Of the 12, only Fred Bennett, Syvelle Newton, Chris White and Noah Whiteside came to Carolina as scholarship players.

• The Gamecocks will have 82 percent of its rushing yards, 60 percent of its passing yards and 93 percent of its receiving yards eligible to return in 2007.

• The Gamecocks averaged 75,630 fans for its seven home games in 2006. That average ranks 19th in Division I football. Eight of the top 20 schools in home attendance hail from the SEC.

• The Gamecocks are scheduled to open the 2007 season at home on Sept. 1 against Louisiana-Lafayette. The conference opener is set for Sept. 8 at Georgia. Other home games include dates with South Carolina State, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson. The Gamecocks will also travel to LSU, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas.