Oct. 4, 2007
Two nationally-ranked SEC East teams get together on a Thursday night as the South Carolina Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 SEC) host the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats (5-0, 1-0 SEC) on Oct. 4. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia. The Gamecocks are ranked 11th in the latest Associated Press poll and 18th in this week’s USA Today/Coaches’ poll, while the Wildcats come in at number eight in both polls.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s game will be televised nationally by ESPN. Chris Fowler will handle the play-by-play call with “The Pony” Craig James and Doug Flutie providing the analysis from the booth. Erin Andrews 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. The game will also be carried on Sirius channel 126.
THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: For the third straight season, the Gamecocks are playing a Thursday night contest. 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. Next year they will open the season with back-to-back Thursdays versus NC State and at Vanderbilt.
SWEET SEPTEMBER: Carolina posted four wins before the calendar turned to October. The last time they had four wins in September was in 2001 when they were a perfect 4-0. They opened October that year with a 42-6 win at Kentucky to run their record to 5-0 and a No. 9 ranking in the Associated Press poll.
SERIES NOTES: This is the 19th meeting between South Carolina and Kentucky. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series, 11-6-1. USC holds a 4-3-1 advantage in games played in Columbia and a 7-3 advantage in Lexington. The Gamecocks have won each of the last seven meetings between the two schools, including a 24-17 win in Lexington in 2006 and a 44-16 decision in Columbia in 2005. The teams first met in 1937, then played a two-game series in 1978 and `81. They have met every year since the 1992 season when USC joined the SEC.
SPURRIER VS. KENTUCKY: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a perfect 14-0 record against Kentucky. That record matches his 14-0 mark against Vanderbilt as his best record against any school. He also has double-digit wins over Georgia (12), LSU (11), Auburn (10), Tennessee (10) and South Carolina (10). His teams have scored at least 38 points in nine of the last 10 times they have faced the Wildcat defense.
HOW CLOSE HAVE THE `CATS COME?: Not very in most years. Spurrier’s teams have rolled up 636 points in the 14 games against Kentucky, an average of 45.4 points per game, while allowing just 241 points, an average of 17.2 points per contest. His squads have put over 50 points on the board five times against the Wildcats, including a 73-7 win in 1994 and a 65-0 whitewash in 1996. The closest Kentucky came to knocking off a Steve Spurrier-led team was in 1993 when they played Florida to a 24-20 decision.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Syvelle Newton threw for 171 yards, rushed for 77 and a score and caught the game-winning TD pass as USC held off a late charge from Kentucky in a 24-17 win in Lexington on Oct. 7, 2006. Carolina opened up a 17-0 lead on the play of Newton and Cory Boyd, who had a then-career-best day with 25 carries for 113 yards. Kentucky scored with three minutes to go, then had one last gasp, but a “Hail Mary” attempt fell incomplete in the endzone as time expired.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET IN COLUMBIA: Blake Mitchell threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third to give coach Steve Spurrier his first SEC victory at South Carolina, 44-16 over Kentucky in Columbia on Oct. 8, 2005. Mitchell had a 1-yard TD run and two scoring passes to Sidney Rice. The Gamecocks were helped by Kentucky fumbles on three straight second-half possessions. After Rafael Little’s 1-yard TD run brought the Wildcats to within 17-16 in the third quarter, Mitchell connected with Rice for a 24-16 lead. Little fumbled for a second straight time, this time with safety Ko Simpson grabbing the loose ball and going 19 yards for a touchdown and a 30-16 lead. On Kentucky’s next play, fullback Arliss Beach was stripped of the ball and Stoney Woodson recovered. Simpson added a fourth-quarter interception that set up Daccus Turman’s 1-yard touchdown run. Syvelle Newton ran in a 16-yard score in the final minutes. Mitchell finished 23-of-34 for 277 yards.
COMING TO WBS UNBLEMISHED: Kentucky will bring their perfect 5-0 record into Williams-Brice Stadium on Thursday. The last time a team came into Columbia with an unblemished record this late in the season was Oct. 31, 1998 when Tennessee was 6-0 en route to a national championship season when they posted a 49-14 win over South Carolina in Columbia.
TWO OF THE NATION’S BEST: This week’s game features two teams ranked in the top 12 in the nation. Kentucky comes in ranked eighth, while the Gamecocks are 11th in the latest A.P. poll. The last time two ranked teams were on the field in Columbia was in 2001 when No. 4 Florida handed No. 14 South Carolina a 54-17 setback. Two teams ranked in the top 11 in the country have not meet at Williams-Brice since No. 5 South Carolina beat No. 11 Florida State, 38-26 on Nov. 10, 1984.
INTO THE POLLS: With the win at No. 11 Georgia on Sept. 8, South Carolina moved into the nation’s Top-25. They entered the polls ranked 17th by the Associated Press and 23rd in the USA Today/Coaches’ poll. It was 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 LATEST RANKINGS: The Gamecocks have moved up to 11th in the Associated Press poll this week and are 18th in the USA Today/Coaches poll. The A.P. ranking is the highest for the Gamecocks since they were ninth in the country on Oct. 7, 2001 following a 42-6 win over Kentucky. Carolina lost to Arkansas the next week.
WEEK-BY-WEEK: Here’s where the Gamecocks have ranked in the national polls this season: Week AP Coaches Pre-Season ARV ARV Week 1 (Sept. 2) ARV ARV Week 2 (Sept. 9) 17 23 Week 3 (Sept. 16) 12 14 Week 4 (Sept. 23) 16 21 Week 5 (Sept. 30) 11 18
PLAYING A RANKED OPPONENT: The Gamecocks are 4-7 against ranked opponents in the Steve Spurrier Era. They are 1-1 this season with a win at No. 11 Georgia and a loss at No. 2 LSU. 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: Coach Steve Spurrier owns a 49-36-1 record when facing ranked opponents, including wins in 15 of his last 25 opportunities. He has an 11-13 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).
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The 16th-ranked Gamecocks used a blocked punt in the third quarter to regain momentum and scored the game’s final 21 points en route to a 38-21 SEC win over Mississippi Sate at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia last Saturday. With the Gamecocks trailing 21-17 in the third quarter, Eric Norwood blocked a punt. The Gamecocks scored a touchdown on the next play and never looked back. Kenny McKinley had a big day, catching four passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Davis tied a school record with three rushing touchdowns. Chris Smelley, taking over the reins at quarterback, completed 19-of-37 passes for 279 yards and two TDs as the Gamecocks rolled up 402 yards of offense compared to 258 for the Bulldogs.
BLOCK THAT KICK: Eric Norwood blocked a punt in the third quarter against Mississippi State. One play later, the Gamecocks scored the go-ahead touchdown. It was the second straight week that the Gamecocks were credited with a blocked punt. Cliff Matthews partially deflected a punt at LSU. Previously, the Gamecocks last blocked punt came in the 2000 season.
NUMBER 100: The win over Mississippi State marked Steve Spurrier’s 100th win over an SEC opponent. He owns a record of 100-25 against SEC competition, which includes a 3-2 record against SEC schools while coaching at Duke. He is 97-23 in games against SEC schools while coaching in the SEC (at Florida and Carolina).
THE FIRST 30: Gamecock Head Coach Steve Spurrier has posted a 19-11 record through his first 30 contests as the head coach at South Carolina. He has matched Warren Giese (1956-58) and Joe Morrison (1983-85) for the most wins at Carolina through 30 games.
SPURRIER SETBACKS: Steve Spurrier has lost 11 times during his three-year stint in Columbia, but those losses have been to some of the nation’s elite teams. Seven of the 11 losses were to teams ranked in the top 12 in the country at the time of the contest. In addition, seven of the losses have been by seven points or less.
KEEPING THEM OFF THE BOARD: The Gamecock defense remains one of the toughest to score on this season. Carolina has allowed just 78 points in four games, an average of 15.6 points per game. The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC and 16th in the country in scoring defense.
DON’T PASS ON ME: The Gamecocks have been especially solid in pass defense this season. They lead the nation in pass defense and in are second in the country in pass efficiency defense:
PASS DEFENSE: Passing Passing Rank Team Games Yards Yds/Gm 1. South Carolina 5 532 106.40 2. Fresno State 4 475 118.75 3. Kansas 4 496 124.00
PASS EFFICIENCY DEFENSE: Rank Team Games Rating 1. LSU 5 67.76 2. South Carolina 5 75.96 3. Kansas 4 81.64
NOT ON THIRD DOWN: The South Carolina defense ranks first in the SEC and fifth in the nation in third-down efficiency, allowing just 25.7 percent of third downs to be converted. Here are the nation’s leaders: 3rd Downs Rank Team Att. Conv. Pct. 1. Wyoming 57 12 21.1 2. South Florida 66 15 22.7 3. Oklahoma 82 19 23.2 4. UCLA 80 20 25.0 5. South Carolina 74 19 25.7
RED ZONE SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have come away with points in 18 of 20 trips into the red zone this season, scoring 14 touchdowns and kicking four field goals. Their 70.0 percent ratio of scoring touchdowns in the redzone is fourth in the SEC behind only Kentucky (83.3), Florida (76.7) and Georgia (75.0).
SMELLEY SNIFFS THE STARTING ROLE: Redshirt freshman Chris Smelley got the starting nod last week against Mississippi State, his second start of the season, but the first time he has gone the distance. He celebrated his 21st birthday by completing 19-of-37 passes for a career-high 279 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His performance earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors. Smelley was also the starter in Week One, when he took the season’s first snap against Louisiana-Lafayette. In that contest the Tuscaloosa, Ala. native became the first redshirt freshman to start a season-opener at quarterback since Todd Ellis did so in the 1986 season.
FOR STARTERS: Chris Smelley is not the only first-time starter this season for the Gamecocks. Nine players have made their first career start in 2007. The list includes (first start): Chris Smelley (ULL), Travian Robertson (ULL), Eric Norwood (ULL), Ladi Ajiboye (UGA), Darian Stewart (UGA), Cliff Matthews (LSU), Jason Barnes (LSU), Seaver Brown (Mississippi State) and Dion Lecorn (Mississippi State).
MITCHELL IN RELIEF: Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Mitchell has been relegated to a backup role. The LaGrange, Ga. native has made 20 career starts for the Gamecocks, winning 13. He is the only Gamecock quarterback to defeat Georgia, Clemson, Florida and Tennessee in his career. Mitchell ranks seventh in the Carolina record books with 4,636 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 was also the best mark in school history.
MCKINLEY RISES TO THE TOP: Junior Kenny McKinley is the top receiving threat for the Gamecocks. He has 27 catches for 314 receiving yards with five of the team’s eight touchdown receptions. He has scored four TDs in the last three games. He has a pair of 100-yard receiving games this season – a seven-catch, 102-yard performance at Georgia and a four-catch, 107-yard, 2-TD outing against Mississippi State, his third and fourth career 100-yard games. He is sixth in the SEC averaging 5.40 receptions per game and is eighth in receiving yards at a clip of 62.8 yards 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 USC’s single-season top 10 list. McKinley has caught 103 passes in his career, which places him 11th on the school’s all-time list, two behind Philip Logan for 10th. He has also caught a pass in 26 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 330 yards rushing, averaging 4.9 yards per carry with four touchdowns. He is averaging 66.0 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. He is also third on the team with 13 receptions for 129 yards. The Orange, N.J. native was the team’s 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 (1,636) and haul in 70+ receptions (94). The others are Stanley Pritchett, Brandon Bennett and Harold Green. He as also gone over the 1,000-yard plateau in both rushing (1,636) and receiving (1,027), joining Stanley Pritchett (1,178 rushing and 1,097 receiving) as the only players in school history to accomplish that feat.
DAVIS MAKES IT A SOLID DUO: Junior Mike Davis has matched Cory Boyd nearly yard-for-yard this season, giving the Gamecocks a solid one-two punch in the running game. Coach Spurrier has said 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 62 times for 321 yards this season, an average of 5.2 yards per carry. He tied the school record with three rushing touchdowns in the win over Mississippi State. He has rushed for 1,461 career yards for his hometown school. He is also the Gamecocks’ second-leading receiver with 15 catches for 150 yards and a touchdown.
TIGHT ENDS CONTRIBUTE: While searching for a solid second wide receiver to go to, the Gamecock offense has turned to its tight ends. A trio of tight ends, Jared Cook (10 catches for 165 yards), Andy Boyd (five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown) and Weslye Saunders (six catches for 58 yards), have combined for 21 receptions for 278 yards.
NO MORE PEPPER: Junior defensive lineman Nathan Pepper suffered a left knee injury when he returned an interception for a TD against South Carolina State and will miss the remainder of the 2007 season.
AND SO IS BRINKLEY: Senior linebacker Jasper Brinkley will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a right knee sprain which required surgery in the Gamecocks’ loss at LSU. Brinkley, a 6-2, 262-pound middle linebacker from Thomson Ga., was on the pre-season watch lists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation’s best linebacker; the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is presented to the best defensive player in college football; the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year; and the Lombardi Award, which honors the nation’s top lineman. He was a consensus pre-season All-SEC first-team selection and an All-America candidate. Brinkley was a first-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press in 2006 after registering a team-leading 107 tackles, including 85 solo stops, the most among the returning SEC players.
PLAYING SHORT-HANDED: Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix must feel like he has one hand tied behind his back, as the Gamecock defense has been playing a little short-handed this season. With the season-ending injuries to Nathan Pepper and Jasper Brinkley, and the loss of defensive end Jordin Lindsey to academics, the Gamecocks are playing without three projected starters. In addition, another starter, defensive back Brandon Isaac has missed the last two games with an injured right shoulder.
ONE BRINKLEY LEFT: Jasper Brinkley’s older brother by a minute, Casper Brinkley, has been impressive this season, logging 23 tackles. He has 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack while playing outside linebacker and defensive end after logging 7.0 sacks a year ago. Jasper (17) and Casper (18) have combined for 35 starts since arriving on campus, totaling 195 tackles in that time.
ERIC BRINGS THE WOOD: Sophomore defensive end Eric Norwood has starred for the Gamecocks as well along the defensive line. A Freshman All-American last season, Norwood has recorded a team-leading 30 tackles this season, including 6.5 tackles for loss, sixth in the SEC. He has 3.0 sacks this season, which also ties him for sixth in the league, and 10.0 sacks in his career in the Garnet & Black. He is just two sacks away from moving into the Gamecocks’ career Top-10 list.
COOKIN’ WITH EMANUEL: One of the Gamecocks’ toughest players has to be safety Emanuel Cook. One of the surest tacklers on the team, the sophomore missed the season opener after being sidelined with an appendectomy, but returned just two weeks later to play against Georgia. Despite missing one game, he is second on the team with 28 tackles, including 19 solo stops. He has at least seven tackles in each of the three games he has started, including a team-high 11 at LSU.
SUCCOP SHINES: The Gamecocks have one of the nation’s best all-around kickers in Ryan Succop. Succop, a 6-2, 214-pound junior from Hickory, N.C., is 6-for-8 in field goal attempts this season. He has been successful on six of his last seven tries with his only miss in that stretch a 50-yarder, after missing his first attempt (a 47-yarder) of the season. He was the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week against Georgia after drilling all three of his field goal attempts in the 16-12 win. He is 22-for-30 in field goal attempts in his career. He has converted 16 of his last 19 attempts from inside 47. Succop also handles the kick off and punting duties for South Carolina. He is averaging 41.0 yards per punt this season after averaging 43.7 yards per punt in 2006, and is averaging 66.1 yards on his kickoffs. He is on both the Lou Groza and Ray Guy watch lists.
PRE-SEASON ACCOLADES: 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.
THE OLDEST GAMECOCK: Despite turning 24 years old on August 15, sixth-year senior 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. It is believed that Davis is the oldest Division I football player in the country this year, although he is not in the “Tim Frisby” category.
EARNING HIS KEEP: Prior to the start of the season, 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 tackle Quintin Richardson (99).5
FRESH FACES: The Gamecocks have played 15 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, Mark Barnes, Matt Clements, Dion Lecorn, Chris Culliver and Joe Hills, 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.
WATCHING FROM ABOVE: Steve Spurrier, Jr. and Ron Cooper are the only full-time Gamecock coaches who work the game from the press box. 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).
NEW DECADE, DIFFERENT RESULTS: The Gamecocks have a 52-37 record since the calendar turned to 2000. The 52 wins is 11 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.
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.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks go out of conference next week when they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to renew their rivalry with the Tar Heels of North Carolina. The Gamecocks and Tar Heels have met 54 times previously on the gridiron, the fifth most-played matchup in South Carolina history, but the teams have not met since 1991. UNC leads the all-time series 34-16-4, including an 18-7-3 advantage in Chapel Hill. USC has won three of the last four meetings.