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Nov. 23, 2007

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The South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5, 3-5 SEC), look to snap a four-game losing streak as they wrap up their 2007 regular season slate against Palmetto State rival Clemson (8-3, 5-3 ACC) on Saturday, Nov. 24. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. ET at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia. The Gamecocks are unranked in this week’s national polls, while the Tigers are ranked 21st by the A.P. and 22nd in the USA Today/Coaches’ poll.

OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s game will be televised nationally by ESPN2. Gary Thorne will provide the play-by-play, with Bob Davie handling the color commentary. Stacey Dales 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 as a sideline reporter. The game will also be on SIRIUS satellite radio.

SENIOR SALUTE: The following 21 Gamecocks are appearing in their Carolina jersey for the final time at Williams-Brice Stadium: Andy Boyd, Cory Boyd, Casper Brinkley, Ryan Brown, William Brown, Jeremy Burgess, Marcus Davis, Ty Erving, Leon Gamble, Chris Hampton, Thomas Hooper, Brandon Isaac, Blake Mitchell, Robert Pavlovic, Joel Reaves, Lanard Stafford, James Thompson, Ranzino Valentine, Cody Wells, Mike West and Greg Wright.

A South Carolina win over Clemson would…

* Give the Gamecocks back-to-back wins over Clemson for the first time since they won three straight in the series from 1968-70. The scores: 1968: 7-3; 1969: 27-13; and 1970: 38-32.

* Give the Gamecocks their third straight 7-plus win season for the first time in school history.

* Snap the Gamecocks’ four-game losing streak, their longest skid since they dropped the final four games of the 2003 season (at Mississippi, at Arkansas, vs. Florida and vs. Clemson).

* Be the Gamecocks ninth straight non-conference win. Their last non-conference loss came to Missouri in the 2005 Independence Bowl. They were 5-0 in non-conference games in 2006, including a win over Houston in the Liberty Bowl, and are 3-0 in non-conference action this season.

* Be the third straight time in this series that the non-ranked team knocked off the ranked squad.

SERIES NOTES: This will be the 105th meeting between the two in-state rivals in a series that dates back to 1896. Clemson holds the all-time lead in the series, 63-37, while four games have ended in a tie. The Tigers hold a 48-29-3 advantage when the game has been played in Columbia and are 15-8-1 in games played in Clemson. CU has won four of the last five contests and eight of the last 10 meetings, but the Gamecocks posted a 31-28 win in Clemson last season. The Tigers earned a 13-9 win in 2005, the last time the teams hooked up in Columbia. For the second-straight year, the game pits a six-win USC team against an eight-win Clemson team. The last time the teams had combined for more wins between them entering the game was in the 2000 season when they had 15 wins combined (CU-8, USC-7).

FOREVER TO THEE: The South Carolina football team will continue to pay tribute to the seven victims, including six USC students, who died in a tragic fire at a North Carolina beach house Oct. 28 by wearing a special helmet decal for the remainder of the season. “It was a terrible tragedy for our university and the families involved,” said Head Coach Steve Spurrier. “For parents who have had teenagers go to college – I’ve had four now – you trust that they’ll be safe and make good decisions. It’s a terrible tragedy any time a family has to bury one of their children. We’ll remember these students and hopefully we can recover, but for the families it will be forever,” said Coach Spurrier. “There’s a phrase in our alma mater, `Forever To Thee.’ That will be on the back of our helmets.” In addition, two black ribbons with seven stars each are painted on the WBS field.

SPURRIER VS. CLEMSON: Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier owns a 2-3 record when facing the Tigers. A ranked team has been involved in every contest, but an unranked team has knocked off the ranked squad in each of the last three meetings. Coach Spurrier was 1-2 against the Tigers as the head coach at Duke University. Clemson was ranked seventh in 1987 when they defeated the Blue Devils, 17-10, in Clemson. The Tigers were ranked 11th in 1988 when they posted a 49-17 home win over the 22nd-ranked Blue Devils. Spurrier and a 1-3 Duke team knocked off the seventh-ranked Tigers by a 21-17 score in Durham in 1989. Clemson edged 19th-ranked South Carolina, 13-9 in 2005 in Columbia in Coach Spurrier’s first season with the Gamecocks, then the Gamecocks returned the favor last season in Clemson, knocking off the 24th-ranked Tigers by a 31-28 margin.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: South Carolina erased a 28-14 second-half deficit by scoring the final 17 points of the game to claim a 31-28 road win over 24th-ranked Clemson on Nov. 25, 2006. The Tigers had a chance to tie the score on the final play of the game, but kicker Jad Dean’s 39-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left to clinch the Carolina win. Blake Mitchell had the Gamecock offense marching up and down the field, completing 23-of-36 passes for 268 yards. Cory Boyd added 16 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown, while Mike Davis contributed 12 carries for 69 yards and two scores. Sidney Rice caught eight passes for 103 yards as the Gamecocks snapped a four-game losing skid to the Tigers.

THE LAST TIME IN COLUMBIA: James Davis rushed for 145 yards and his two-yard TD run lifted Clemson to a 13-9 win over 19th-ranked Carolina on Nov. 19, 2005. Trailing 9-6 in the fourth quarter and facing a 1st-and-35, Charlie Whitehurst completed consecutive passes of 9, 14 and 28 yards to put the Tigers in scoring position. Although the Gamecocks’ offense put up nearly triple Clemson’s first-half yardage, 251-84, they could only manage field goals of 23 and 43 yards by Josh Brown to lead 6-3 at halftime.

PLAYING THE ACC: The Gamecocks are 190-238-22 all-time against teams that currently compete in the ACC, including wins in each of their last two games against ACC teams: a 31-28 win at Clemson last season and a 21-15 win at North Carolina earlier this season. South Carolina was a member of the ACC from 1953-1970. The 104 games against Clemson is easily the high-water mark, but Carolina has played Wake Forest (56), North Carolina State (55) and North Carolina (55) over 50 times each. The Gamecocks hold a winning record against Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks had no answer for Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who rushed for 120 yards and five touchdowns and threw for 304 yards and two scores, as the 17th-ranked Gators outscored Carolina, 51-31 on Nov. 10 in Columbia. USC overcame a fumble and a blocked punt, which gave Florida an early 13 point advantage, by scoring two first quarter touchdowns to take a 14-13 lead. However, the Gamecock defense could not slow down a Florida offense that rolled up 537 yards on the night. Blake Mitchell completed 26-of-42 passes for 316 yards and one touchdown to lead Carolina.

BOWL AGREEMENTS: The Southeastern Conference has agreements to send eight of its member institutions to postseason bowl games following the 2007 season. The winner of the SEC Championships Game will automatically participate in the Bowl Championship Series comprised of the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta Bowls. The Capital One will then make its pick. The Outback, Chick-fil-A and AT&T Cotton Bowls will work with the conference office to determine picks 3-5. In selections 6-7, the AutoZone Liberty and Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowls will make their selections, not in any specific order, but in consultation with the SEC Office. The PetroSun Independence Bowl will receive the eighth selection of available SEC teams. There are a record 10 SEC teams, including South Carolina, that are bowl eligible.

OFFENSE CLICKING: After being held in check for eight quarters (the second half at North Carolina, the Vanderbilt game and the first half at Tennessee) in which they tallied just six points (an average of 0.75 points per quarter), the Gamecock offense has found its stride with Blake Mitchell back at the helm. Over the past 10 quarters (the last two at Tennessee and the Arkansas and Florida games), the Gamecocks have put 91 points on the board, an average of 9.1 points per quarter.

MORE CLICKING NOISES: Over the last three games, the Gamecock offense is clicking on all cylinders. Against Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida, the Carolina offense has generated 82 first downs (27.3 per game), completed 87 passes (29.0 per game) and attempted 145 passes (48.3 per game). They have thrown for 1010 yards (336.7 per game) and totaled 1374 yards of offense (458.0 per game) in those last three contests.

TOUGH SLEDDING: The Gamecocks have faced a very difficult schedule this season. Of their 12 opponents, only three – Louisiana-Lafayette, North Carolina and Vandebilt – have losing records. The 12 opponents have combined for a 81-51 record, a .614 winning percentage. Seven of the 12 opponents have been ranked in the top 25 this season, including five that are currently in the AP top 25. Eight of their opponents are bowl-eligible. According to the NCAA, South Carolina has the sixth-toughest schedule this season behind Oklahoma State, Washington, Texas A&M, Florida, Nebraska and Ole Miss.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD(S): The Gamecocks are looking for consistency from their offensive guards. Through 11 games they have started three different left guards (Garrett Anderson, Gurminder Thind and Seaver Brown), four different right guards (Lemuel Jeanpierre, Garrett Anderson, James Thompson and Heath Batchelor) and six different guard combos. Center Web Brown and offensive tackles, Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen, have started all 11 games.

WORKING OVERTIME: The Gamecocks played just their second overtime game in school history on Oct. 27 at Tennessee, falling to the Vols by a field goal in the extra stanza. It was deja vu all over again for the Gamecocks, as their only other overtime contest had the same result – a three-point loss at Tennessee, that one by a 23-20 margin in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003. Every other SEC team has played at least three OT games since the rule was established in 1996.


* Cory Boyd has rushed for a career-high 829 yards this season and has a chance to become the Gamecocks first 1,000-yard rusher since Derek Watson ran for 1,066 in 2000. He ran for 823 rushing yards last year.

* True freshman Chris Culliver is seventh in the SEC in kickoff returns, averaging 25.2 yards per return, with three 44-yard returns. He has logged 731 kick return yards, the most since Boo Williams had 760 in 1998. The school record is 880, set by Dick Harris in 1970.

* Captain Munnerlyn is fifth in the SEC in punt returns, averaging 9.2 yards per return. He has logged 165 punt return yards, the most since Ryan Brewer had 202 in 2000.

* Junior placekicker Ryan Succop has scored 158 points in his career, tying Jeff Grantz for 10th on the USC career list for points scored.

NO PASSING FANCY: The Gamecocks have been very good in pass defense this season. Despite using six different starting quartets and seven different starters in the secondary, they are No. 4 in the nation in pass defense and are 16th in pass efficiency defense.

START ME UP: The Gamecocks have had just eight players start in all 11 games in 2007. The list includes five on offense (Kenny McKinley, Jamon Meredith, William Brown, Justin Sorensen and Cory Boyd) and three on defense (Eric Norwood, Casper Brinkley and Rodney Paulk).

FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: A dozen 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), Dion Lecorn (Mississippi State), Jonathan Williams (Kentucky), Chris Culliver (Tennessee) and Heath Batchelor (Arkansas).

BREAKING DOWN THE STARTERS: Here’s a breakdown of Carolina’s 242 starters through 11 games by class:

Seniors: 70 starts (28.9 percent)

Juniors: 65 starts (26.9 percent)

Sophomores: 67 starts (27.7 percent)

All Freshmen: 40 starts (16.5 percent)

Redshirt Freshmen: 14 starts (6.7 percent)

True Freshmen: 26 starts (10.7 percent)

Freshmen and Sophomores: 107 starts (44.2 percent)

RED ZONE SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have come away with points in 36 of 42 trips (85.7 percent) in the red zone this season, scoring 26 touchdowns and kicking 10 field goals.

FRESH FACES: The Gamecocks have played 15 members of their highly-touted freshman recruiting class. Travian Robertson started in the season opener against ULL. The others who have seen action 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 and Ladi Ajiboye, linebackers Melvin Ingram and Cliff Matthews and cornerback Addison Williams.

BACK TO BLAKE: Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Mitchell returned to the starting role at Arkansas after coming off the bench with an impressive performance at Tennessee. He completed 31-of-45 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown against the Vols. The completions and pass attempts were both career highs. At Arkansas, he completed 27-of-51 passes for 364 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The 51 passes again set a personal career high. He was 26-for-42 for 316 yards with a touchdown against Florida. Over the past three games, Mitchell has completed 84-of-138 passes (60.9 percent) for 970 yards and four touchdowns. The LaGrange, Ga. native is 13-9 in 22 career starts. He is the only Gamecock quarterback in history to defeat Georgia, Clemson, Florida and Tennessee in his career. He needs 292 yards passing to become the third quarterback in school history to throw for 6,000 yards in his career.

BOYD BY THE NUMBERS: Senior tailback Cory Boyd is finishing his Carolina career with a flurry. The fifth-year senior carried 20 times for a career-high 160 yards and a touchdown at Tennessee. It was his second 100-yard rushing game of the season (he went for 132 on just 11 carries against South Carolina State) and the fifth of his career. He followed that up with a team-high 94 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against Arkansas before tying the school record with three rushing touchdowns against Florida. Boyd leads the team with 829 yards rushing, averaging 5.1 yards per carry with nine touchdowns. He is averaging 75.4 yards per contest which ranks eighth in the SEC. He is also second on the team with 35 receptions for 366 yards. He has 116 career receptions. 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 carry. He also caught 35 passes out of the backfield for 406 yards, an 11.6 yard average.

BOYD AMONG THE BEST: Cory Boyd is just the second player in school history to log 2,000 yards rushing (2,193, 11th on the all-time list, just 41 yards behind Warren Muir for 10th place) and haul in 100+ receptions (116, tying Stanley Pritchett for 8th on the all-time list), joining Brandon Bennett (3,055 yards rushing, 111 receptions). He has also gone over the 1,000-yard plateau in both rushing (2,193) and receiving (1,264), joining Stanley Pritchett (1,178 rushing and 1,097 receiving) as the only players in school history to accomplish that feat. He is just the 13th player in school history with 2,000 yards rushing in a career.

DAVIS MAKES IT A SOLID DUO: Junior Mike Davis provides the Gamecocks with a solid one-two punch in the running game. Davis, who eclipsed the 100-yard rushing plateau for the third time in his career against South Carolina State, has rushed 113 times for 516 yards and five touchdowns this season, an average of 4.6 yards per carry. He tied the school record with three rushing touchdowns in the win over Mississippi State. He has rushed for 1,656 career yards for his hometown school. He is also the Gamecocks’ fourth-leading receiver with 23 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown, including a season-best 57-yard reception at Arkansas.

MCKINLEY CLIMBS: Junior wide receiver Kenny McKinley is Carolina’s top receiving threat and has played like an all-conference performer. He had his career-best game against Tennessee, hauling in 14 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. It was his third 100-yard receiving game of the season and the fifth of his career. Overall, he has 69 catches for 843 yards with seven of the team’s 17 touchdown receptions. He also had 100-yard receiving games this season at Georgia (7 catches, 102 yards) and against Mississippi State (4 catches, 107 yards). He is tied for first in the SEC averaging 6.27 receptions per game and is fourth in receiving yards at a clip of 76.6 yards per game. He has also caught a pass in 32 straight games, the 10th longest current streak in the country and the third longest in school history behind Sterling Sharpe (34) and Jermale Kelly (34).

STEPPIN’ UP: The Gamecocks are getting some much-needed help in the receiving game for Kenny McKinley. While McKinley has still be the top target with 28 receptions for 318 yards and a touchdown in the last three games, Jared Cook has stepped up with 13 catches for 150 yards and two TDs, including a career-high five receptions at Tennessee, while true freshman Dion Lecorn has added 14 receptions for 189 yards and a score in that three-game stretch. Lecorn had career-bests with eight catches and his 109 receiving yards, his first 100-yard receiving game, at Arkansas.

PLAYING SHORT-HANDED: Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has had his Gamecock defense playing short-handed most of the season. Starting defensive end Nathan Pepper suffered a season-ending knee injury when he scored on an interception against South Carolina State. Starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, the Gamecocks only pre-season all-SEC performer, was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury in the loss at LSU. Projected starter at defensive end and the Defensive MVP of the 2006 Liberty Bowl, Jordin Lindsey, has been sidelined all season due to academic issues. In addition, linebacker Dustin Lindsey, has appeared in just one game after suffering an ACL injury in the spring game. Top cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is expected to miss the Clemson game after suffering a broken bone in his left foot during the Arkansas contest.

ERIC BRINGS THE WOOD: Sophomore defensive end Eric Norwood has performed at an all-league level for the Gamecocks along the defensive line. A Freshman All-American last season, Norwood is third on the squad with 60 tackles this season, including 16.0 tackles for loss, fourth in the SEC. He has 5.0 sacks this season, which places him 10th in the league, and 12.0 sacks in his career. He also has been credited with a team-high seven quarterback hurries and three pass break ups. A big-play performer, Norwood has a blocked punt and three fumble recoveries, two of which he’s returned for touchdowns this season.

COOKIN’ WITH EMANUEL: Another Gamecock who deserves post-season accolades and is one of the Gamecocks’ toughest players is 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 and most of a second, he leads the team with 83 tackles, including 68 solo stops. He has at least seven tackles in each of his nine starts, including a career-high 11 each at LSU and versus Vanderbilt, totaling 80 tackles over the last nine games, an average of 8.9 per start. He is currently eighth in the SEC, averaging 8.3 tackles per game.

PICKIN’ AND GRINNIN’: The Gamecocks have 13 interceptions in 11 games, including a team-leading three by Captain Munnerlyn and two each by Emanuel Cook, Darian Stewart, and Jasper Brinkley. Last season, the Gamecocks picked off 14 passes in 13 games. The Gamecocks picked off a season-high three passes in the win at North Carolina, including two by Cook, the first two of his career. He became the first Gamecock to have two INTs in a game since Fred Bennett picked off two against Alabama on Oct. 2, 2004.

KICKIN’ WITH RYAN: 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 13-for-17 in field goal attempts this season. Three of his four misses have come from at least 47 yards out (47, 48 and 50). 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 29-for-39 in field goal attempts in his career (74.3 percent), but is 16-for-17 (94.1 percent) inside 40 yards. He has converted 22 of his last 26 attempts (84.6 percent) from inside 47 yards. Succop also handles the kick off and punting duties for South Carolina. He is averaging 41.8 yards per punt this season, fifth in the SEC, with a long of 58 after averaging 43.7 yards per punt in 2006, and is averaging 63.6 yards on his kickoffs.

RECRUITING SUCCESS: The Gamecocks had their most successful February signing day in school history in 2007. The class was ranked fourth in the country by, sixth by and seventh by It was Carolina’s first top-10 class since 2003 (8th) and the highest-ranked class in school history, bettering the 2002 class that was ranked as high as No. 7 by ESPN’s Tom Lemming. The class features five players on the Rivals100 list including Chris Culliver (19), Cliff Matthews (32), Stephen Garcia (90), Travian Robertson (96) and Quintin Richardson (99).

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).

PLAYING A RANKED OPPONENT: The Gamecocks are 5-8 against ranked opponents in the Steve Spurrier Era. They are 2-2 this season with wins at No. 11 Georgia and over No. 8 Kentucky, and losses at No. 2 LSU and vs. No. 17 Florida. 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 50-37-1 record when facing ranked opponents, including wins in 16 of his last 27 opportunities. He has an 11-13 mark when facing teams ranked in the top five in the country.