Sept. 14, 2007
QUICKLY: The No. 17 AP/No. 23 USA Today/Coaches’ poll-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (2-0, 1-0 SEC) return home for a non-conference tilt when they play host to the South Carolina State Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0 MEAC) on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m. The game will be televised throughout the state of South Carolina on a pay-per-view basis.
HISTORY BEING MADE: This is the first meeting ever on the gridiron between the University of South Carolina and South Carolina State University despite the school’s being just 40 minutes apart. This is the 114th year of football at the University of South Carolina and the 100th year of football at South Carolina State.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s game will be available throughout the state of South Carolina on a pay-per-view basis and as part of ESPN’s GamePlan package. Mike Morgan will handle the play-by-play call with Brad Muller providing the analysis. Former Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers is the sideline reporter. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs will once again be in the booth for the Carolina Gamecocks Sports Network, with former Carolina and NFL standout Duce Staley joining the team this year as a sideline reporter.
HALL OF FAME: Five former Gamecock greats will be honored at halftime of the game following their induction this week into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame. This year’s honorees include Kip Bouknight (baseball), Charlotte Hamilton (Giese) (Swimming), Wade King (Swimming), Clint Mathis (soccer) and Lisa Misipeka (Track & Field).
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 517-517-44. 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.
GETTING BACK TO .500: The Gamecocks have climbed back to the .500 mark with an all-time record of 517-517-44. The last time Carolina was at .500 was during the 1998 season when they were 467-467-44 following a loss to Vanderbilt. A loss to Tennessee the following week dropped them below .500, where they have remained since before last week’s win at Georgia.
BULLDOGS AGAIN: The Gamecocks are facing their second team in a row that has the Bulldog as its mascot. The Georgia Bulldogs were last week’s opponent. The Bulldogs will provide the opposition for the third time in four weeks when South Carolina hosts the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday, Sept. 29.
UNFAMILIAR FOE: Not only is this the first matchup between South Carolina and South Carolina State, it is the first time the Gamecocks have faced a team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Other schools in the MEAC include Morgan State, Norfolk State, Bethune-Cookman, Delaware State, Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T, Hampton and Howard.
SEEMS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: But it’s not. This is the second time that South Carolina State has faced a major (Division I) university on the gridiron in the school’s history. Coach Buddy Pough’s team opened the 2007 campaign at Air Force on Sept. 1, losing 34-3.
FAMILIAR FACE: South Carolina State head coach Buddy Pough is certainly no stranger to Williams-Brice Stadium. Prior to taking over the Bulldog program in 2002, Pough spent three seasons as the running backs coach at South Carolina under Lou Holtz. He was part of the Gamecocks’ back-to-back Outback Bowl appearances in 2000 and 2001.
WHEN WILL I SEE YOU AGAIN?: The Gamecocks and Bulldogs are slated to resume this budding rivalry on Sept. 17, 2011. That contest will again take place at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
I-AA FOES: With the addition of the 12th game to the season, the Gamecocks reached agreements with several in-state Championship Subdivision (aka Division I-AA) opponents to visit Williams-Brice Stadium. Wofford came in last year and is scheduled again for 2008 and 2012. The Citadel will play in WBS in 2009 and again in 2013, and Furman will make trips to Columbia in 2010 and 2014.
SPURRIER VERSUS THE STATE: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is 16-4 against teams within the Palmetto State. He is 10-1 against South Carolina, 2-0 against The Citadel, 1-0 against both Wofford and Furman and 2-3 versus Clemson.
INTO THE POLLS: With last week’s win at No. 11 Georgia, South Carolina moved into the top-25 polls. They enter the polls ranked 17th by the Associated Press and 23rd in the USA Today/Coaches’ poll. It’s just the second time in the Steve Spurrier Era that the Gamecocks have been ranked. They were 19th in the country for one week in 2005 after defeating Florida, but fell out the following week after falling to Clemson. The No. 17 ranking is the highest for the program since finishing the 2001 season ranked 13th by the Associated Press following an Outback Bowl win over Ohio State.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The South Carolina Gamecocks extended their winning streak to five consecutive games and snapped a five-game losing streak to Georgia when they went into Athens and came away with a hard-fought 16-12 win over the Bulldogs. The Gamecock defense stepped up to the challenge, keeping Georgia out of the end zone. It was the first time Georgia had been held without a touchdown at home since Carolina’s 14-9 win in 2001. For the game, South Carolina won both sides of the line of scrimmage, outrushing the Bulldogs, 140-128. Ryan Succop hit all three of his field goal attempts, matching his career high, and scored 10 of the Gamecocks’ 16 points. The four-point USC win marked the fifth time in the last seven seasons that the margin of victory was six points or less.
MORE ABOUT THAT WIN: The victory at 11th-ranked Georgia marked the highest-ranked SEC opponent that Carolina had defeated on the road since joining the league. The previous best win came over 14th-ranked Georgia in the 1993 season.
FAST STARTS: The Gamecocks are 2-0 for the first time since 2003 (wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Virginia). A win over South Carolina State would put them at 3-0 to open the season for the first time since the 2001 team opened with five consecutive wins.
STREAKING GAMECOCKS: Carolina puts a five-game winning streak on the line this week. The Gamecocks are tied with Penn State and Cincinnati for the fifth-longest current winning streak in the country. Only Wisconsin (11), Florida (9), LSU (9) and Louisville (6) have longer current winning streaks. The Gamecocks won five straight games as recently as the 2005 season, but they have not won six straight since winning the Outback Bowl over Ohio State following the 2000 season, then winning the first five games of the 2001 campaign before suffering a 10-7 loss at Arkansas.
FRESH FACES: The Gamecocks have played 12 members of their highly-touted recruiting class. Travian Robertson started at defensive end in the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. The others who have seen action this season are wide receivers Jason Barnes, Matt Clements and Chris Culliver, tailback Brian Maddox, fullback Patrick DiMarco, tight end Weslye Saunders, defensive linemen Clifton Geathers, Cliff Matthews and Ladi Ajiboye, linebacker Melvin Ingram and cornerback Addison Williams.
FOR STARTERS: Three players made their first career start for the Gamecocks against ULL. Redshirt freshman Chris Smelley became the first redshirt freshman to start a season-opener at quarterback since Todd Ellis did so in the 1986 season. True freshman Travian Robertson made the start in his first collegiate game at defensive end. Sophomore Eric Norwood also made his first career start at the other defensive end position. Right guard Lemuel Jeanpierre made his first start on the offensive side of the ball. He had made one start on the D-Line last season. Two players – freshman defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye and sophomore safety Darian Stewart made their first career starts against Georgia.
SIDELINED: Linebacker Yvan Banag suffered a right knee sprain in the win over ULL and missed the Georgia game. Reserve tailback Bobby Wallace remains sidelined with a broken collarbone. Offensive guard Kevin Young was slated to make the start at Georgia, but suffered a left ankle injury during the week of practice and was not available. Linebacker Cody Wells also missed the Georgia game with a right leg injury but has returned to practice this week. Offensive guard James Thompson has been suspended for the first three games for a violation of university policy.
REDZONE SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have come away with points in each of their eight trips into the red zone. The team was a perfect 4-for-4 in scoring touchdowns against Louisiana-Lafayette. They scored in all four red zone trips against Georgia as well, but on three of the four trips they had to settle for a field goal. The Gamecocks are one of five SEC teams that has scored in each of their redzone possessions this season.
BACK IN THE SADDLE: Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Mitchell returned to the starting lineup at Georgia after sitting out the season opener. The LaGrange, Ga. native responded with a solid effort, completing 20-of-31 passes for 174 yards with no interceptions. Mitchell ranks seventh in the Carolina record books with 4,419 career passing yards. Only four players (Todd Ellis, Steve Taneyhill, Anthony Wright and Phil Petty) have thrown for over 5,000 yards in a Gamecock uniform. He came into the season as the SEC’s top returning quarterback in career completion percentage (61.2 percent), which is also the best mark in school history. He owns a 12-6 record in 18 career starts. He was the MVP of the 2006 Liberty Bowl.
MCKINLEY RISES TO THE TOP: With the departure of Sidney Rice to the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, junior Kenny McKinley has become the top receiving threat for the Gamecocks. In the season opener, the Mableton, Ga. native led the Carolina receivers with six catches for 44 yards. He followed that up with a 7-catch, 102-yard performance at Georgia, his third career 100-yard game. He is tied for third in the SEC averaging 6.5 receptions per game and is seventh in the league averaging 73.0 yards per contest. 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. McKinley has caught 89 career passes, which ties him for 16th place on the school’s all-time list.
23 STRAIGHT: Kenny McKinley has caught a pass in 23 straight games. That is the eighth longest current streak in the country.
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 (1,487) and haul in 70+ receptions (88). The others are Stanley Pritchett, Brandon Bennett and Harold Green. Boyd needs just 59 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 usually seems to get stronger as the season progresses, has rushed for 1,290 career yards for his hometown university, including a team-high 94 yards on 15 carries in the season-opener.
ANOTHER BOYD SIGHTING: Tight end Andy Boyd is back 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 28 games including 10 starts. He came into the season with just four career receptions, but three of those had gone for touchdowns. He has doubled his career receptions with four this season for a total of eight, with four of those going 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 turned 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 No. 52, 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. He picked up in the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette right where he left off a season ago, leading the team with eight tackles, including seven solo stops, despite playing with a sprained left ankle. He had six stops and sealed the win over Georgia with his first career interception in the final seconds of the game. He has led the squad in tackles in nine of the 15 games in which he’s appeared for the Garnet & Black, including five of the last six.
CASPER’S THE OLDER ONE: Jasper Brinkley’s older brother by a minute, Casper Brinkley, moved to outside linebacker this season after recording 7.0 sacks as a defensive end in 2006. He was second on the squad with seven tackles in the season opener against ULL and added six stops at Georgia including a sack. Jasper and Casper both have started all 15 games since arriving on campus and have combined for 178 tackles in that time, an average of 11.9 tackles per game.
SUCCOP SHINES: The Gamecocks have another All-America candidate in placekicker Ryan Succop. Succop, a 6-2, 214-pound junior from Hickory, N.C., drilled all three of his field goal attempts in the 16-12 win at Georgia, matching his single game high. He is 3-for-4 on the season in field goal attempts and is 19-for-26 in his career. He converted 16-of-20 field goal attempts in 2006, including a long of 55 yards against Vanderbilt. 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 and has converted 13 of his last 14 attempts from inside 47. 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 is averaging 42.0 yards per punt this season after averaging 43.7 yards per punt in 2006.
SEC HONORS: Ryan Succop was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts against Georgia last Saturday. Succop was perfect on all three of his field goal attempts, matching his career high, and averaged 40.7 yards on seven punts. His field goals came from 41, 35 and 34 yards out, as he accounted for 10 of Carolina’s 16 points in the contest. On his seven punts, two were inside the 20-yard line, with a long of 52 yards. He also had one touchback on five kickoffs, while the Bulldogs average starting position from the kickoffs was its own 30-yard line.
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.
EARNING HIS 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.
ABOUT THE 2007 SCHEDULE: The Gamecocks came into the season with 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 Arkansas5. 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.
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.
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.
WATCHING FROM ABOVE: Wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. and secondary coach Ron Cooper are the only full-time Gamecock coaches who work the game from the press box. All of the other coaches work the sidelines during the games.
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).
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.
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 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.
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have posted a 50-36 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 50 wins is nine 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.
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.
UNDER COACH SPURRIER: Head coach Steve Spurrier is 17-10 in three seasons in Columbia. He matched Joe Morrison’s mark for the most wins by a Carolina head coach in his first two seasons with 15. 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.
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.
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.
CALL `EM AS I SEE `EM: Steve Spurrier is one of 14 Division I-A head coaches who calls his team’s offensive plays. The others? Turner Gill (Buffalo), Bill Cubit (Western Michigan), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Todd Dodge (North Texas), Jeff Tedford (California), Bob Toledo (Tulane), Art Briles (Houston), Bill Callahan (Nebraska), Ralph Friedgen (Maryland), Paul Johnson (Navy), June Jones (Hawaii), Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) and Hal Mumme (New Mexico State).
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.
PLAYING A RANKED OPPONENT: The Gamecocks are 4-6 against ranked opponents in the Steve Spurrier Era. They are 1-0 this season with a win at No. 11 Georgia. They were 1-5 against ranked opponents in 2006 with their lone win coming against No. 24 Clemson. In 2005, 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 49-35-1 record when facing ranked opponents in his career, including wins in 15 of his last 24 opportunities. He has an 11-12 mark when facing teams ranked in the top five in the country. The last top-5 team he defeated was second-ranked Tennessee on Sept. 18, 1999 (23-21). He is 4-6 against nationally-ranked teams since taking over at Carolina, with wins over Tennessee, Florida, Clemson and Georgia and losses to Florida, Georgia (twice), Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks have another tough road SEC opponent to face when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on the second-ranked LSU Tigers on Saturday, September 22. The Gamecocks and Tigers have not met since the 2003 season when LSU handed South Carolina a 33-7 setback in Columbia. LSU won the previous year in Baton Rouge by a 38-14 count. South Carolina’s last win over LSU came in Baton Rouge in 1994 by an 18-17 margin. LSU leads the all-time series 14-2-1, including a 9-1 advantage in the Bayou.