Aug. 31, 2007
SETTING THE STAGE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (0-0, 0-0 SEC) open year three of the “Steve Spurrier Era” on Saturday, Sept. 1 when they host the visiting Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) in the season opener for both squads. The game is set for a 7:05 p.m. ET kick in Columbia’s Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250).
ON THE AIRWAVES: The game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis throughout the states of South Carolina and Louisiana and on ESPN’s GamePlan package. Mike Morgan and Brad Muller will describe the action from the booth with 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers patrolling the sidelines. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs will once again be in the booth for the Carolina Gamecocks Sports Network, with former NFL standout Duce Staley joining the team as a sideline reporter. The game can also be heard on SIRIUS satellite radio channel 110.
A LITTLE HISTORY: This is the 114th season of college football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. This is the 101st consecutive year in which USC has competed on the gridiron. Carolina owns an all-time record of 515-517-44. The school’s only conference championship came in the 1969 season when it posted a perfect 6-0 record to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title in Paul Dietzel’s fourth year.
FOR OPENERS: The Gamecocks are 73-36-4 in season openers, a .664 winning pct., including wins in each of their last seven and in 10 of their last 11 season lidlifters. Their only loss in that stretch was a 10-0 setback at North Carolina State to open the 1999 season.
HOME OPENERS: The Gamecocks have opened the season at home 89 times in their first 113 years of college football. They have posted an impressive 66-19-4 record when opening the season at home, a .764 winning percentage. They last opened the season at home in 2005 with a 24-15 win over UCF. They have posted wins each of the last eight times they’ve opened the season at home, dating back to a 24-21 loss to Georgia to kick off the 1994 campaign.
THE HEAD BALL COACH IN OPENERS: South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier is 16-1 in season-opening games in his 17 seasons as a collegiate head coach. The only loss in that stretch was ironically a 27-21 loss to the Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia on Sept. 2, 1989 when he was the head coach in his final season at Duke. That Blue Devil squad went on to win the ACC title that season. The USC victory was led by the great Todd Ellis, who is now the play-by-play voice of Gamecock Football. Since that time, Spurrier has won 14 straight season opening games with his squad scoring 40 or more points in 10 of those 14 contests.
GAMECOCKS AND RAGIN’ CAJUNS: This is just the second meeting on the gridiron between the Gamecocks and Ragin’ Cajuns. South Carolina posted a hard-fought 14-7 win over ULL on Aug. 30, 2003 in the season opener in front of an announced crowd of 82,227. That USC squad went on to post a 5-7 record under Lou Holtz.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Dondrial Pinkins opened the scoring with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Troy Williamson early in the first quarter, just four plays after linebacker Marcus Lawrence recovered a fumble to end the Ragin’ Cajuns first drive. USC looked to extend the lead on the final play of the first half, but Josh Brown’s 29-yard field goal attempt was blocked by UL-Lafayette’s Michael Adams and returned 89 yards for a touchdown by Patrick Lamy to know the score at the half. The game was deadlocked until Carolina’s Kenny Irons scored from 7-yards out in the third quarter to give the Gamecocks a 14-7 advantage. The teams traded missed field goals early in the fourth quarter before the Carolina defense limited ULL to just 18 yards of offense on its final two drives to preserve the victory.
SPURRIER AND THE RAGIN’ CAJUNS: South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier owns a 2-0 record against Louisiana-Lafayette with both wins coming as the head coach at the University of Florida. He led the Gators to a 61-14 win over the Ragin’ Cajuns in 1993, then posted a 55-21 win over what was then known as Southwestern Louisiana to open the 1996 campaign.
AGAINST THE SUN BELT: South Carolina is a perfect 7-0 all-time against Sun Belt opponents. The Gamecocks have two wins against both New Mexico State and Troy, and single game victories over Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee in addition to their win over ULL. The Gamecocks were 2-0 against Sun Belt opponents in 2006, defeating both Florida Atlantic, 45-6, and Middle Tennessee, 52-7.
RECAPPING 2006: South Carolina won its final three games of the 2006 season to finish the year with an 8-5 record. All five of the Gamecock losses came to teams ranked in the top 12 in the country at the time of the game. The final four losses were by a combined 21 points. They were 3-5 in SEC action, finishing fifth in the Eastern Division. The Gamecocks posted a 3-4 record at Williams-Brice Stadium, logging non-conference wins over Wofford, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee, but going 0-4 in SEC action, with all four losses coming to ranked foes – Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas. They were 4-1 on the road, posting wins at Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Clemson along with a one-point loss at eventual national champion Florida. They also had a neutral site win, defeating Houston in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, held in Memphis, Tenn.
GOING BOWLING: The Gamecocks appeared in the 2006 AutoZone Liberty Bowl, defeating Conference USA champion Houston by a 44-36 score. It was Carolina’s 13th bowl appearance. After dropping each of its first eight bowl games, Carolina has rebounded to win four of its last five to log an all-time bowl record of 4-9.
WINNING EIGHT: The 2006 season marked Carolina’s first eight-win campaign since 2001 when they finished 9-3 under Lou Holtz. It was just the school’s ninth eight-win season in school history, including their third this century, after having zero eight-win seasons in the 1990s.
THAT WAS TOUGH: The Gamecocks had one of the nation’s toughest schedules in 2006, facing six ranked opponents during the regular season. According to the NCAA, Carolina’s schedule tied with Kentucky as the fourth-toughest in the nation behind only Florida, Michigan and Cincinnati. Nine of South Carolina’s 13 opponents in 2006 played in a bowl game. Only Florida (11) had more bowl opponents on the schedule than did the Gamecocks.
WINNING MORE OFTEN THAN NOT: The Gamecocks have posted three consecutive winning campaigns (6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005 and 8-5 in 2006). The last time they turned in three consecutive winning seasons was 1988-90 when they went 8-4, 6-4-1 and 6-5 in consecutive years.
STREAKING GAMECOCKS: The Gamecocks were one of only 15 Division I teams to finish the 2006 season with three consecutive wins. It was the first time Carolina has finished the season with three straight wins since the 1973 campaign. Unfortunately that last time did not have much of a carry-over effect, as the 1974 squad under Paul Dietzel dropped its first five contests en route to a 4-7 campaign.
EVEN RARE FOR THE HEAD BALL COACH: Winning the final three games of the season was even a rare occurrence for Gamecocks’ head coach Steve Spurrier. The 2006 finish was just the second time in his career that he coached his team to victory in each of the season’s final three contests. The only other time came in 1997 when Florida defeated South Carolina, Florida State and Penn State en route to a 10-2 campaign.
NEW COACH IN TOWN: Steve Spurrier made just one change to his coaching staff in the off-season, bringing in Shane Beamer from Mississippi State to coach the outside linebackers and serve as co-coordinator of special teams. Beamer is the son of longtime Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer.
RECRUITING SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are coming off the most successful February signing day in school history. The class was ranked fourth in the country by ESPN.com, sixth by Rivals.com and seventh by Scout.com. It was the Gamecocks’ first top-10 class since 2003 (8th) and is the highest-ranked class in school history, bettering the 2002 class that was ranked as high as No. 7 by ESPN’s Tom Lemming. This year’s class features five players on the Rivals100 list including wide receiver Chris Culliver (19), defensive end Cliff Matthews (32), quarterback Stephen Garcia (90), defensive end Travian Robertson (96) and offensive tackle Quintin Richardson (99).
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have posted a 48-36 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 48 wins from 2000-2006 is seven more their total of 41 victories posted in the entire decade of the `90s. Carolina’s most victories in any decade is 63, set from 1980-89.
UNDER COACH SPURRIER: Head coach Steve Spurrier is 15-10 after two seasons in Columbia. He has matched Joe Morrison’s mark for the most wins by a Carolina head coach in his first two seasons. Morrison went 5-6 and 10-2 in 1983 and `84. Coach Spurrier is the first coach in school history to take his team to a bowl game in each of his first two seasons at the university. South Carolina has never gone to bowl games in three consecutive seasons.
ABOUT THE 2007 SCHEDULE: The Gamecocks have the second-toughest schedule in the country, according to Rivals.com, behind only Washington. The conference road schedule reads like a “Who’s Who” of top-ranked programs, with stops planned at Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas. Throw in a non-conference trip to North Carolina, where new head coach Butch Davis takes over, and the task is daunting. The home schedule features a visit from defending national champion Florida and in-state rival Clemson to wrap up the season. Other conference home games include Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Louisiana-Lafayette and South Carolina State round out the slate.
ROTATING OFF AND ON: With the rotation schedule of SEC West opponents, the Gamecocks drop Auburn from their schedule and pick up LSU for the next two seasons. The Sept. 22 game will mark Carolina’s first trip to the Bayou since the 2002 season.
IT’S BEEN AWHILE: Chris Smelley will be the first freshman quarterback (true or redshirt) to start on Opening Day for the Gamecocks since Todd Ellis started as a redshirt freshman in the 1986 season lidfiter against Miami (Fla.). Steve Taneyhill (1992) is the last freshman to make a start at quarterback for the Gamecocks.
NOTABLES FROM 2006:
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ All-conference middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley recorded 107 tackles, including 85 solo stops. The 85 unassisted tackles was the second-highest single season total in school history, topped only by Jonathan Martin’s 2002 total of 93.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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).
â€¢ 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).
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ Kenny McKinley caught 51 passes, the 10th highest single season total in school history, for 880 yards, sixth highest mark. SPURRIER SETBACKS: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has lost 10 times during his two-year stint in Columbia, but those losses have been to some of the nation’s elite teams. Six of the 10 losses were to teams ranked in the top 12 in the country at the time of the contest. In addition, seven of his 10 losses in the Garnet & Black have been by seven points or less.
EARNING THEIR KEEP: Prior to the start of the season, Head Coach Steve Spurrier placed former walk-on Bryan Kingrey on scholarship. Over the past three years, Coach Spurrier has rewarded 10 former walk-ons on scholarships.
PRE-SEASON ACCOLADES: Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley was the only Gamecock to earn pre-season first team All-SEC honors by both the media and the coaches. Ryan Succop earned first team honors as a placekicker by the media, but was a second team selection by the coaches. Succop also earned second team honors by both the media and coaches as a punter. Tight end Andy Boyd was a second team selection by the coaches, while tailback Cory Boyd and defensive end Casper Brinkley gained third team recognition by the league’s coaches.
MORE PRE-SEASON RESPECT: Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is a pre-season All-America candidate. He is on the pre-season “watch list” for the Nagurski Award, for the Lombardi Award, for the Butkus Award and for the Walter Camp Player of the Year award. Quarterback Blake Mitchell is on the list for the Manning Award, while Ryan Succop is on the Lou Groza Award watch list.
DOUBLE THE PLEASURE, DOUBLE THE FUN: Opposing quarterbacks may think they’re seeing double when they look across the line of scrimmage at the Gamecock defense. In fact, they may be. The Gamecock defense could feature a pair of twins, Casper and Jasper Brinkley and Dustin and Jordin Lindsey, in the lineup.
THREE ARE OUT: Quarterback Blake Mitchell, tailback Bobby Wallace and cornerback Chris Hail will sit out the season opener for a violation of athletics department policy.
ALSO SIDELINED: Tailback Bobby Wallace (fractured right clavicle), wide receiver Joe Hills (right knee sprain) and safety Emanuel Cook (appendectomy) are not available due to injury.
SMELLEY STARTS: Redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Smelley is slated to make his first career start against Lafayette this week, but it won’t be the first season opener in which he’s appeared. Smelley played in each of the first two games of the 2006 campaign as a true freshman before suffering a heel injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign. In his brief stint, the 6-2, 216-pounder from Tuscaloosa completed 9-of-15 passes for 112 yards, including a 42-yard completion to Kenny McKinley against Mississippi State.
BEECHER BACKS UP: Redshirt sophomore Tommy Beecher will be the second team quarterback in the opener, but is expected to see playing time in the first half. Beecher, a 6-1, 220-pounder from Concord, N.C., has appeared in three games, all during the 2006 season. He has completed both of his passes for 19 yards, including a three-yard touchdown pass in the win over Middle Tennessee.
MCKINLEY RISES TO THE TOP: With the departure of Sidney Rice to the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, junior Kenny McKinley becomes the top receiving threat for the Gamecocks. McKinley caught 51 passes for 880 yards, an average of 17.3 yards per catch in 2006. The receptions (10th) and yards (6th) both figured in South Carolina’s single-season top 10 list. He logged a pair of 100-yard receiving games, including a 112-yard, two-touchdown performance in the Liberty Bowl win over Houston.
BOYD IS BACK: Senior tailback Cory Boyd is back for his fifth and final season in the Garnet & Black. Boyd was the Gamecocks’ leading rusher a season ago when he totaled 823 yards on the ground in 164 carries, an average of 5.0 yards per tote. He also caught 35 passes out of the backfield for 406 yards, an 11.6 yard average. Boyd is just the fourth player in school history to log 1,000 yards rushing (1,364 entering 2007) and haul in 70 receptions (81). The others are Stanley Pritchett, Brandon Bennett and Harold Green. Boyd needs just 102 receiving yards to go over 1,000 in his career. Only Stanley Pritchett (1,178 rushing and 1,097 receiving) has reached the 1,000-1,000 plateau at Carolina.
ONE-TWO PUNCH: Cory Boyd won’t be asked to carry all of the load for the Gamecocks in 2007, as junior Mike Davis has proven to be a capable rusher as well. In fact, Coach Spurrier has mentioned that he thinks the Boyd-Davis tandem is as good as any twosome he’s coached. Davis, who seems to get stronger as the season progresses, has rushed for 1,140 yards in his first two seasons for his hometown university.
ANOTHER BOYD SIGHTING: Tight end Andy Boyd returns for his sixth year in the Garnet & Black. Boyd, who has been hampered by injuries throughout his Carolina career, was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. He played in five games as a true freshman in 2002, took a medical redshirt in 2003, played in a career-high 10 games in 2004, was limited to just two games in 2005 due to injuries, then played in nine games a year ago. Overall, he has played in 26 games including eight starts over the past five seasons. He has caught just four passes in his career, but three have gone for touchdowns. Boyd owns a bachelor’s degree in history and is working towards a second degree in psychology.
NOT THE OLDEST GAMECOCK: Despite turning 24 years old on August 15, Andy Boyd is not the oldest Gamecock on the roster. That distinction goes to walk-on linebacker Marcus Davis, who turns 28-years-old on Aug. 28. He was a 1997 graduate of Columbia’s Eau Claire High School. Research indicates that Davis is the oldest Division I football player in the country this year. B-52: The Gamecock defense features one of the nation’s best in middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley, a 6-2, 262-pound senior from Thomson, Ga. totaled 107 tackles in 2006. He ranks second among the returning tacklers in the SEC behind only Kentucky’s Wesley Woodyard. He also leads all returning SEC players with 85 solo stops in 2006, which he logged en route to first team All-SEC acclaim by the Associated Press.
B-51: Jasper Brinkley’s older brother, Casper Brinkley, moves to an outside linebacker position this season after recording 7.0 sacks as a defensive end in 2006. Jasper and Casper both started all 13 games a year ago.
SUCCOP SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have another All-America candidate in kicker Ryan Succop. Succop, a 6-2, 214-pound junior from Hickory, N.C., converted 16-of-20 field goal attempts in 2006, including a long of 55 yards against Vanderbilt. He also connected on a 55-yarder at Florida, but that one was called back due to penalty. He actually only had two misses all season – a 51-yarder that hit the left upright against Georgia and a 33-yarder against Houston in the Liberty Bowl. The other two misses were blocked. He was 10-for-11 from inside 47 yards. He averaged 42.8 yards per field goal attempt and 40.1 yards per field goal made. Succop also handles the kick off and punting duties for South Carolina. He averaged 43.6 yards per punt in 2006. He was the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week in last year’s season opener at Mississippi State.
LAST YEAR’S OPENER: The Gamecocks traveled to Starkville, Miss. and came away with a 15-0 shutout of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. A national television audience watched a defensive struggle throughout. The Gamecocks limited the Bulldogs to just 161 yards of total offense and allowed MSU to cross midfield only one time after the first quarter. The lone touchdown of the game came on a Syvelle Newton-to-Cory Boyd connection on a wide receiver throwback pass in the fourth quarter. Boyd finished with 12 carries for 93 yards and kicker/punter Ryan Succop earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after he kicked three field goals and took a botched punt and ran 16 yards for a key first down.
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.
BOWL TIE-INS: The SEC has arrangements to send eight teams to post-season bowls. They include: BCS, Capital One, AT&T, Cotton, Chick-fil-A, Outback, AutoZone Liberty, Gaylord Hotels Music City and PetroSun Independence.
THEY PAY TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS PLAY: The Gamecocks averaged 75,630 fans for its seven home games in 2006. That average ranked 19th in Division I football. Eight of the top 20 schools in home attendance hail from the SEC.
DID YOU KNOW… South Carolina’s Stanley Pritchett holds the SEC individual record for most receptions on Opening Day? He hauled in a dozen passes in the 1995 season opener against Georgia.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks open SEC play next weekend with a Saturday meeting against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. ESPN2 will carry the contest nationally beginning at 5:45 p.m. ET. Mark Jones will handle the play-by-play with Bob Davie providing the color commentary. Stacey Dales will be on the sidelines.The Bulldogs lead the all-time series by a 44-13-2 margin and have won the last five meetings since Carolina won by a 14-9 count in Athens in 2001.
NEXT HOME GAME: History will be made when the Gamecocks host in-state foe South Carolina State on Sept. 15 at Williams-Brice Stadium. It will mark the first time that the two Palmetto State universities have ever met on the gridiron.
TOP OPENERS: Duce Staley, who has been added to the South Carolina radio team this season, rushed for 187 yards and scored three touchdowns in the 1996 season opener against UCF. His 187 yards is the most rushing yards for a single player in a season opener in school history. Here are other top opening day performances:
100-yard Rushing Games In Season Openers
1. 187 by Duce Staley vs. UCF (1996)
2. 160 by Harold Green vs. Duke (1989)
3. 153 by George Rogers vs. Pacific (1980)
4. 120 by Brandon Bennett vs. Georgia (19994)
5. 118 by Derek Watson vs. NC State (1999)
6. 114 by Derek Watson vs. New Mexico State (2000)
7. 113 by Mike Dingle vs. Duke (1990)
7. 113 by Carl West vs. Pacific (1980)
9. 104 by Carl Brazell vs. Wofford (1955)
10. 103 by Earl Clary vs. Duke (1931)
11. 102 by Jeff Grantz vs. Georgia Tech (1973)
12. 100 by Harold Green vs. NC State (1988)
200-yard Passing Games In Season Openers
1. 405 by Steve Taneyhill vs. Georgia (1994)
2. 330 by Blake Mitchell vs. UCF (2005)
3. 329 by Todd Ellis vs. Appalachian State (1987)
4. 318 by Bill Troup vs. Virginia (1972)
5. 290 by Todd Ellis vs. North Carolina (1988)
6. 238 by Allen Mitchell vs. The Citadel (1984)
7. 236 by Anthony Wright vs. UCF (1996)
8. 220 by Phil Petty vs. Boise State (2001)
100-yard Receiving Games In Season Openers
1. 146 by Ira Hillary vs. The Citadel (1984)
2. 140 by Jackie Brown vs. Virginia (1972)
3. 134 by Stanley Pritchett vs. Georgia (1995)
4. 120 by Zola Davis vs. UCF (1997)
5. 110 by Mike Haggard vs. Virginia (1972)
THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: For the third straight season, the Gamecocks will play a Thursday night contest in 2007. They will host SEC rival Kentucky on Thursday, Oct. 4. Carolina opened its 2005 season on a Thursday night with a win against Central Florida. Last season, the Gamecocks opened the season at Mississippi State on a Thursday and came away with a 15-0 win. They also lost a mid-season Thursday night contest at home to Auburn.