Sept. 21, 2007
QUICKLY: It’s a battle of nationally-ranked and undefeated SEC foes as the No. 12 AP/No. 14 USA Today/Coaches’ poll South Carolina Gamecocks (3-0, 1-0 SEC) travel to Baton Rouge to face the second-ranked LSU Tigers (3-0, 1-0 SEC) on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Tiger Stadium (92,400). Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. It’s a match up of two of the nation’s hottest teams, as the Gamecocks will put their six-game winning streak on the line, while LSU has won its last 10 straight games.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s game will be televised nationally on CBS. Verne Lundquist will handle the play-by-play call with Gary Danielson providing the analysis. Tracy Wolfson 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.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Gamecocks are 7-3 when playing on the road since Steve Spurrier has taken over the program. That includes wins at Arkansas, Tennessee, Clemson and Georgia and a one-point loss at national champion Florida. The Gamecocks have won five of their last six road games, going 1-0 on the road this season after posting a 4-1 mark on the road in 2006, with the only loss during that span coming at Florida by a 17-16 score.
GAMECOCKS VS. TIGERS: LSU holds a commanding 14-2-1 advantage in the all-time series against South Carolina. The Tigers own a 9-1 advantage in games played in Baton Rouge, hold a 4-1-1 lead in games played in Columbia, and won the only neutral site contest, taking the 1987 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. LSU has won the last two meetings, defeating Carolina by a 38-14 count in Baton Rouge on Oct. 19, 2002 and posting a 33-7 win in Columbia on Oct. 18, 2003, the last time the two teams met.
LAST CAROLINA WIN VS. LSU: The Gamecocks went into the Bayou on Oct. 1, 1994 and escaped with an 18-17 win. It was just the second win over LSU in school history, the first coming in the first meeting between the two schools, a 7-6 win on Oct. 11, 1930. Both Gamecock wins have been by a single point.
COACH SPURRIER VS. LSU: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is 11-1 all-time against LSU, including a 5-1 record when playing in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. All of those contests came while he was the head coach at the University of Florida.
FAST STARTS: The Gamecocks are 3-0 for the first time since the 2001 team opened with five consecutive wins en route to a 9-3 record and an Outback Bowl win over The Ohio State University.
INTO THE POLLS: With the win at No. 11 Georgia, on Sept. 8, South Carolina moved into the top-25 polls. They entered 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.
TWO WEEKS IN A ROW: The Gamecocks are ranked 12th in the AP poll and tied for 14th in the USA Today/Coaches’ poll. It’s the first time that USC has been ranked in back-to-back weeks since the first two weeks of the 2002 season when they were 22nd in the AP poll both weeks. It’s the highest the Gamecocks have been ranked since Oct. 21, 2001 when they were 12th after a win at Vanderbilt. A 17-10 loss to No. 9 Tennessee in Knoxville the next week dropped Carolina to 17th in the poll.
STREAKING GAMECOCKS: Carolina puts a six-game winning streak on the line this week. The Gamecocks are tied with Penn State and Cincinnati for the fourth-longest current winning streak in the country. Only Wisconsin (12), Florida (10) and LSU (10) have longer current winning streaks. The Gamecocks have won six straight games for the first time since winning the Outback Bowl over Ohio State following the 2000 season, then winning the first five games of the 2001 campaign.
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.
TOP FIVE FOES: The Gamecocks have lost 20 straight games to top-5 teams, dating back to a 31-13 win over third-ranked North Carolina on Oct. 24, 1981. That game marks the highest-ranked team ever to fall to Carolina. The last time South Carolina faced a team ranked in the top-5 was second-ranked Auburn in 2006, a 24-17 Tiger win in Columbia.
SPURRIER AGAINST THE BEST: Coach Steve Spurrier owns a 49-35-1 record when facing ranked opponents, 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 No. 2 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.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The South Carolina Gamecocks extended their winning streak to six games with a convincing 38-3 win over in-state foe South Carolina State. It was the historic first meeting ever on the gridiron between the two Palmetto State universities that are just 40 miles apart. The Bulldogs parlayed an early interception into a field goal and a quick 3-0 lead, but Carolina bounced back with 17 first-quarter points and, despite five first-half turnovers, never looked back as they rolled up 408 total yards to SCSU’s 264.
RUNNING WILD: The Gamecocks rushed for 223 yards against South Carolina State, the most rushing yards gained in the Steve Spurrier Era. Carolina got 100-yard rushing efforts from both Cory Boyd (132 on 11 carries) and Mike Davis (102 on 16 carries). It was the first time USC had two 100-yard rushers in a game since 2001 when Andrew Pinnock (106) and Derek Watson (105) had triple digits against Vanderbilt. It was Boyd’s fourth-career 100-yard game and the third for Davis.
RARE DEFENSIVE SCORE: The Gamecocks got a rare defensive score when Nathan Pepper intercepted a South Carolina State pass in the first quarter and rambled 19 yards to paydirt. It was the first defensive score for the Gamecocks since Ko Simpson returned a fumble for a touchdown against Kentucky in 2005. It was the first interception return for a score since Jonathan Joseph went 42 yards against Georgia in 2005. Unfortunately, Pepper injured his left knee after crossing the goal line and is doubtful for this week.
EARLY AND OFTEN: The Gamecocks put up 17 first-quarter points against South Carolina State. It was their highest first quarter output since scoring 21 against Missouri in the 2005 Independence Bowl. Carolina has scored 38 first-quarter points in three games this season, its highest-scoring quarter, more than any two of the other quarters combined.
KEEPING THEM OUT OF THE END ZONE: The Gamecock defense has been excellent in the last two games, holding both Georgia and South Carolina State out of the end zone. The Gamecocks have gone 10 quarters without allowing a touchdown. Carolina has allowed just 15 points in the last two games and just 29 points in three games, an average of 9.7 points per game. The Gamecocks rank eighth in the country in scoring defense.
PICK THREE: The Gamecocks picked off three passes in the win over South Carolina State. Jasper Brinkley garnered his second in as many games, Nathan Pepper also had the second of his career, and Captain Munnerlyn recorded his third career interception. The Gamecocks also forced a fumble, giving the “D” four turnovers after getting just one in the first two contests.
DON’T PASS ON ME: The Gamecocks have been especially solid in pass defense this season. They rank second in the nation (behind LSU) in pass efficiency defense. LSU has a rating of 54.30, while the Gamecocks check in at 72.78. Both teams are also in the top six in the country in pass defense.
RED ZONE SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have come away with points in each of their 11 trips into the red zone this season, scoring eight touchdowns and three field goals. The team scored four touchdowns in four opportunities 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 came back with three touchdowns in three red zone opportunities against South Carolina State.
SIDELINED: Linebacker Yvan Banag suffered a right knee sprain in the win over ULL and has missed the last two games. Reserve tailback Bobby Wallace has been sidelined all season 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 has not been available since that time. Defensive lineman Nathan Pepper sprained his left knee while scoring a touchdown against SC State. Defensive back Brandon Isaac suffered a right shoulder sprain against SC State.
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.
BACK IN THE SADDLE: Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Mitchell has started the last two games, improving his record to 13-6 in 19 career starts. The LaGrange, Ga. native has completed 65.4 percent (34-for-52) of his passes this season. Mitchell ranks seventh in the Carolina record books with 4,566 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. The MVP of the 2006 Liberty Bowl 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.
GOING WHERE NO QB HAS GONE BEFORE: Blake Mitchell is the only Gamecock quarterback to defeat Georgia, Clemson, Florida and Tennessee in his career.
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. He has 17 catches and 182 receiving yards this season, twice as many catches and yards as any other Gamecock. His top game this season is a seven-catch, 102-yard performance at Georgia, his third career 100-yard game. He is tied for third in the SEC averaging 5.67 receptions per game. 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 93 career passes, which ties him for 12th place on the school’s all-time list. Only 10 players in school history have caught 100 or more passes in their career.
24 STRAIGHT: Kenny McKinley has caught a pass in 24 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 leads the team with 255 yards rushing, averaging 6.5 yards per carry with four rushing touchdowns. He is eighth in the SEC in rushing, averaging 85.0 yards per contest. He rushed for a career-high 132 yards on just 11 carries in the win over South Carolina State, averaging 12.0 yards per carry. It was his fourth career 100-yard rushing game. The Orange, N.J. native 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.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: Cory Boyd is just the fourth player in school history to log 1,000 yards rushing (1,619) and haul in 70+ receptions (90). The others are Stanley Pritchett, Brandon Bennett and Harold Green. Boyd needs just 49 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.
DAVIS MAKES IT A SOLID DUO: Junior Mike Davis has matched Cory Boyd yard-for-yard this season, giving the Gamecocks a solid one-two punch in the running game. Coach Spurrier has mentioned that he thinks the Boyd-Davis tandem is as good as any twosome he’s coached. Davis, who eclipsed the 100-yard rushing plateau for the third time in his career against South Carolina State, has rushed 40 times for 252 yards this season, an average of 6.3 yards per carry. He is ninth in the SEC in rushing at 84.0 yards per game. He has rushed for 1,392 career yards for his hometown university.
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 29 games including 11 starts. He came into the season with just four career receptions, but three of those had gone for touchdowns. He has caught five pass this season for 55 yards and a touchdown, raising his career totals to nine catches with four 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 had another pick in the win over South Carolina State. He has led the squad in tackles in nine of the 16 games in which he’s appeared for the Garnet & Black, including five of the last seven.
CASPER’S THE OLDER ONE: Jasper Brinkley’s older brother by a minute, Casper Brinkley, has been just as impressive as his younger brother this season, logging 17 tackles in the first three games. He has one sack while playing primarily at outside linebacker after logging 7.0 sacks as a defensive end a year ago. Jasper and Casper both have started all 16 games since arriving on campus and have combined for 186 tackles in that time, an average of 11.6 tackles per game.
ERIC BRINGS THE WOOD: Sophomore defensive end Eric Norwood has starred for the Gamecocks as well. A Freshman All-American last season, Norwood has recorded 17 tackles this season, including 4.0 tackles for loss. He has 8.0 sacks in his first two seasons in the Garnet & Black.
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 and earning him SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He is 4-for-5 on the season in field goal attempts and is 20-for-27 in his career. He converted 16-of-20 field goal attempts in 2006, including a long of 55 yards against Vanderbilt. He has converted 14 of his last 17 attempts from inside 47. Succop also handles the kick off and punting duties for South Carolina. He is averaging 41.9 yards per punt this season after averaging 43.7 yards per punt in 2006.
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.
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).
FRESH FACES: The Gamecocks have played 13 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, Dion Lecorn 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.
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.
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have a 51-36 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 51 wins is 10 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: Carolina has posted three straight winning seasons (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 18-10 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.
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.
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.
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).
GAME CAPTAINS: The Gamecocks select captains for each game. ULL: Captain Munnerlyn, Brandon Isaac and Justin Sorensen. UGA: Cory Boyd, Eric Norwood, Marque Hall and Andy Boyd. SCSU: Mike Davis, Darian Stewart, Casper Brinkley and William Brown.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks return home for their annual Homecoming game when they host Mississippi State at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs have split 12 games in the series evenly, 6-6. Both teams have won three of six games in their home park. The Gamecocks have won the last four meetings between the two schools, including a 15-0 shutout win in last year’s season-opener. The Bulldogs last win was a 17-0 triumph in Starkville in 1999.