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Sept. 18, 2009

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 SEC) begin their 75th year of competition at Williams-Brice Stadium as they host the Owls of Florida Atlantic University (0-1) on Saturday, Sept. 19, at 7:05 p.m. The game is available on a Pay-Per-View basis throughout the Palmetto State and via and ESPN Game Plan elsewhere. It is the second all-time meeting between the schools; South Carolina won the previous meeting, 45-6, on Sept. 23, 2006, in Columbia. FAU had last week off after falling at Nebraska in their opening game, 49-3. The Gamecocks dropped a heartbreaker last week at Georgia, 41-37, to fall to 1-1 on the year.


• Only six times in school history has the home opener been the third game of the season. In those previous years, the Gamecocks are 2-1-3 in their first game in Columbia.

• Senior linebacker Eric Norwood needs just one sack to tie Andrew Provence for the school record in that category; Norwood currently has 25.0 in his career, including 3.0 through two games this year.

• Junior kick returner Chris Culliver needs only two kickoff returns and 155 kick return yards to match the all-time Carolina marks in both categories.

• Stephen Garcia’s 31-for-53, 313-yard, 2 TD performance at Georgia was the best of his career in all categories; Saturday will be his first home start against a non-conference team.

• The Gamecocks are 6-0 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference; 8-0 against schools that were Sun Belt members at the time of the game (two games vs. New Mexico State).


This is the second meeting all-time between South Carolina and Florida Atlantic. The Gamecocks won the previous meeting by a 45-6 score on Sept. 23, 2006, at Williams-Brice Stadium. Florida Atlantic’s first year of football was 2001, and the Owls began Division I Football Bowl Subdivision competition in 2004.


South Carolina opens its 75th season of football at Williams-Brice Stadium when Florida Atlantic comes to town on Saturday. Since joining the SEC, Carolina is 12-5 in their initial home games of the year. In six previous years of opening the season with two straight contests on the road (1999, 1995, 1993, 1962, 1941, 1911), the Gamecocks are 2-1-3 in their first home games following the pair of road trips. In 116 years of intercollegiate football, the Gamecocks are 78-28-7 all-time in their initial home contest of the season.


South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 1-0 record against Florida Atlantic with the sole meeting coming in the Gamecocks’ 45-6 victory in 2006 in Columbia.


Steve Spurrier, a former player and coach at the University of Florida, is 9-12-1 against teams from the state of Florida in his coaching career. He is 2-0 against Central Florida, 1-3 against his alma mater, 5-8-1 versus Florida State, 1-0 against Florida Atlantic, and 0-1 versus Miami.


Saturday’s game will feature two of the 12 active coaches that own National Championship rings. Steve Spurrier carried Florida to the 1996 national title, while FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger led the 1983 Miami Hurricanes to their first championship. Other active coaches that have won national titles include:

• Urban Meyer (Florida – 2006, 2008)

• Les Miles (LSU – 2007)

• Nick Saban (LSU – 2003)

• Mack Brown (Texas – 2005)

• Pete Carroll (Southern Cal – 2003, 2004)

• Bob Stoops (Oklahoma – 2000)

• Jim Tressel (Ohio State – 2002)

• Bobby Bowden (Florida State – 1993, 1999)

• Joe Paterno (Penn State – 1982, 1986)

• Dennis Erickson (Miami – 1989, 1991)


Sidney Rice caught a school record five touchdown passes from Syvelle Newton as South Carolina beat Florida Atlantic 45-6 on Sept. 23, 2006, in Columbia. The Gamecocks (3-1) rolled up 492 total yards. Rice had nine catches for 161 yards, while Newton was 13-for-20 for 216 yards. His five TDs tied a school record. Freshman Taylor Rank, playing for the first time, led the rushers with 101 yards on 15 carries, while Mike Davis ran 15 times for 92 yards, The loss to South Carolina ended a brutal stretch in which Florida Atlantic (0-4) lost by a combined 192-20 at Clemson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and South Carolina. Rice had been held largely in check in 2006. An All-Southeastern Conference receiver as a freshman, he had just 12 catches and no touchdowns in the Gamecocks’ first three games. But Rice put on a clinic playing against the Owls’ secondary, which had no one to stop him. He sold a fake, then dashed past the confused defender to catch his first score, a 23-yarder. Rice set the school record with his fourth receiving TD by catching a deflection off one of four defenders and dashing the last few yards for a 41-yard score. On his fifth touchdown pass, Rice outjumped the defender in the end zone to haul in a 19-yarder. The five passing touchdowns weren’t bad for a team that came into the game with just one score through the air all year – thrown by Newton on a trick play in which he lined up at receiver. It also wasn’t bad for Newton, who usually found himself running when he lines up behind center. The senior came into the game with nine career passing touchdowns. Quarterback Blake Mitchell, whom Spurrier had suspended one game, had a rough return, fumbling on his first play in the second quarter. But with the Gamecocks comfortably in the lead, Mitchell came back in the third quarter, finishing 5-for-11 for 75 yards. One of the few highlights for Florida Atlantic was a four-play 80-yard drive that gave the Owls their first touchdown in the first half of the season. It included a 47-yard run on third-and-7 by quarterback Sean Clayton and a 25-yard TD pass from Clayton to Jason Harmon on the next play. But holder Mike O’Neill bobbled the snap on the extra point and his desperate pass was broken up. Clayton led the Owls with 68 yards on five carries. Charles Pierre ran 10 times for 58 yards and Clayton and Rusty Smith combined to go 8-for-25 for 105 yards and an interception.


South Carolina is 6-0 all-time against opponents from the Sun Belt Conference with the last meeting coming against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2007. The Gamecocks are 2-0 against ULL and Troy and 1-0 against Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee. In 2000 and 2002, Carolina defeated then-SBC member New Mexico State; the Aggies have since relocated to the WAC.


Florida Atlantic is 0-1 on the year with their only game coming against Nebraska, a 49-3 loss in Lincoln. FAU has won two straight bowl games, defeating Memphis in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl and then taking down Central Michigan in the 2008 Motor City Bowl. They are the only current member of the Sun Belt Conference to have won multiple bowl games. The Owls finished 7-6 overall with their bowl victory last season. Since joining Division I, FAU is 1-15 in games against schools in BCS conferences; their lone win came against Minnesota in 2007.


Eight current Gamecocks saw playing time the last time Florida Atlantic came to town on Sept. 23, 2006. Hutch Eckerson, Garrett Anderson, Nathan Pepper and Rodney Paulk were all in the starting lineup, and Moe Brown, Darian Stewart, Eric Norwood and Lemuel Jeanpierre all saw playing time in the contest. These guys made an impact, too: Pepper had four tackles, including a sack; Norwood had three stops, including 1.5 sacks, and Jeanpierre was credited with half a sack and three tackles. In addition, Brown caught two passes for 27 yards.


South Carolina lists 22 players from the state of Florida on its active roster, more than from any other state except South Carolina. They include Patrick DiMarco (Altamonte Springs), Seaver Brown and Kevin Young (Clearwater), Zac Brindise (Fort Myers), Akeem Auguste (Hollywood), Corey Addison, Eric Baker, Gerrod Sinclair, Bradley Terry, Mike Triglia and Shaq Wilson (Jacksonville), Lamar Scruggs (Jacksonville Beach), Stephen Garcia (Lutz), Tony Straughter (Madison), Matt Clements (Naples), Dion Lecorn and Antonio Allen (Ocala), Lemuel Jeanpierre (Orlando), Billy Byrne (Palm Harbor), Jarvis Giles and Andrew Clifford (Tampa).


Rennie Curran broke up Stephen Garcia’s fourth-down pass from the 7-yard line with 22 seconds remaining, and No. 21 Georgia held off South Carolina 41-37 Saturday night at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) avoided their first 0-2 start since 1996. South Carolina (1-1, 0-1) was hurt by a blocked extra point after its final touchdown, which prevented the Gamecocks from going for a tying field goal at the end. Boykin set a school record with a 100-yard kickoff return and set up a score with an interception. South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood returned an interception 35 yards for a TD. Spencer Lanning tied a Gamecocks record with five field goals, pulled off a fake punt but had that crucial extra point blocked. The Bulldogs took a safety when Ty Frix snapped the ball over the punter’s head and through the end zone. Garcia completed 31-of-53 passes for 313 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. Joe Cox, who heard reports during the week that he was suffering from a sore arm or shoulder and might not even start, threw for 201 yards and a pair of TDs, though he also gave up a score on the ill-advised throw to Norwood. Everyone counted on a defensive struggle, based on the series history and the way the teams played in their season openers. Neither team had scored more than 20 points on the other in the last five meetings. Besides, Georgia was coming off a 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State, while South Carolina had eked out a 7-3 win over N.C. State. Instead, this was a shootout right from the start. South Carolina raced to a 17-7 lead in the first quarter, but Georgia rallied for a 31-23 edge at halftime. The Bulldogs looked to be pulling away as they took the second-half kickoff and drove for another score, Cox hitting Michael Moore with a 4-yard TD pass to make it 38-23. But Lanning hit his fourth and fifth field goals, sandwiched around Frix’s errant snap over Drew Butler’s head to give the Gamecocks another two points. Then, South Carolina looked as though it had tied it up when Norwood reached up to grab Cox’s pass, racing the other way for a touchdown that pulled the Gamecocks to 38-37 with just under 13 minutes remaining. DeAngelo Tyson reached up to swat away Lanning’s extra point attempt, keeping Georgia ahead. It was the only thing that went wrong for the South Carolina kicker, who connected on field goals of 21, 39, 22, 35 and 34 yards. When Georgia’s Blair Walsh knocked through his second field goal, a 42-yarder with 6:20 remaining, South Carolina needed a touchdown to pull it out. Garcia led the Gamecocks down the field, converting three straight times on third down. But with 22 seconds left, his fourth-down pass was knocked down by Curran to give Georgia the victory.


South Carolina’s 7-3 win over NC State on Sept. 3 marked the first time in Steve Spurrier’s coaching career – college or professional – that a team led by the Head Ball Coach won a game in which it scored only seven points. It was the lowest-scoring victory for the Gamecocks since a 1971 victory over Memphis State, also by a 7-3 margin.


The Gamecocks’ second game of the season couldn’t have been any more different from the first. Carolina fell in a thrilling shootout at Georgia, 41-37. It was the second-highest scoring contest in the 62-game history between Carolina and Georgia (only a 52-34 affair in 1970 saw more points) and it marked the most points South Carolina had ever scored in a game with Georgia.


In 20 years as a collegiate coach, Steve Spurrier is 82-3-1 when scoring at least 37 points. The 41-37 loss to Georgia was the first time in the Spurrier era at South Carolina that the Gamecocks lost when scoring 37 points or more; they had won the previous eight such occurrences. In fact, the last time South Carolina lost when scoring 37 points or more was Nov. 1, 2003, when Carolina lost at Ole Miss by a 43-40 score.


• Since joining the SEC in 1992, South Carolina is now 7-11 in league openers. Fifteen of those 18 openers have come against Georgia.

• Georgia returned a kickoff for 100 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown against the Gamecocks since Leodis McKelvin of Troy accomplished the feat on Sept. 24, 2005.

• Georgia scored 31 points in the first half; the last team to do that against the Gamecocks was Auburn on Oct. 1, 2005, in a 48-7 Tiger victory.

• Carolina’s 17 points in the first quarter marked the most in an opening period since scoring 17 against South Carolina State on Sept. 15, 2007.

• South Carolina got two points for a Georgia safety in the third quarter when a bad snap on a punt when out of the back of the end zone. It was the first safety for South Carolina since the 2007 Arkansas game.

• Eric Norwood’s interception return for a touchdown was his first career pick and third career defensive score; he returned two fumbles for TDs vs. Kentucky in 2007.

• Darian Stewart equaled a career-high with 11 tackles on the night.

• Bryce Sherman got his first two career carries and tallied 27 total yards, including 23 on a long run to end the first half.


With their win at NC State on Sept. 3, the Gamecocks have now won 10 consecutive season-opening games dating back to the 2000 season. The last season-opening loss came at NC State in 1999.


In the Spurrier Era, South Carolina is now 5-2 in Thursday night contests, with four of those five victories coming in season openers. The Gamecocks have one more Thursday night special this year, a home tilt with Ole Miss next week (Sept. 24).


After two games, South Carolina is outside the top 25, but still received votes in the coaches’ poll. Carolina dropped out of the Associated Press balloting, but picked up one vote in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Three SEC schools on the 2009 Gamecock slate remain consensus top-10 teams: Florida (1/1), Alabama (4/4) and Ole Miss (5/6). Georgia moved up to #20 in the coaches’ poll but dropped to #23 in the AP ballot. In addition, South Carolina State is ranked 15th in the latest FCS coaches’ poll.


The Gamecocks officially return 12 starters from the 2008 squad (five on offense, six on defense and one specialist). The returning offensive starters are OC Garrett Anderson, WR Jason Barnes, OG Terrence Campbell, FB Patrick DiMarco and OT Jarriel King. The returning defensive starters include DT Ladi Ajiboye, FS Chris Culliver, DE Cliff Matthews, LB Eric Norwood, DT Nathan Pepper and S Darian Stewart. Junior Spencer Lanning is the returning punter and will handle placekicking duties this fall as well.


•Seven Gamecocks made their first career starts in the season opener against NC State: CB Akeem Auguste, CB Stephon Gilmore, SPUR Alonzo Winfield, OG T.J. Johnson, OT Quintin Richardson, WR Tori Gurley and DE Devin Taylor.

• LB Shaq Wilson got his first career start at Georgia on Sept. 12.


• With the win at NC State, South Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak dating back to the 11th game of the 2008 season. The Gamecocks dropped games to Florida, Clemson and Iowa to end the `08 campaign.

• The Gamecocks held NC State to 133 yards in the game, the lowest total in the Spurrier Era and the lowest since the 1999 season – also NC State (99).

• Brian Maddox’s first-quarter touchdown gave the Gamecocks their first lead since the end of last year’s Arkansas game, a span of 12-plus quarters.

• NC State’s third-quarter field goal snapped a scoreless streak for the Wolfpack against South Carolina that dated back to the fourth quarter of the 1999 contest, a span of just under eight quarters.


The 2009 Gamecock schedule is rated the nation’s toughest, according to Phil Steele’s 2009 College Football Preview magazine. Carolina is followed by Florida State, Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Minnesota in the top 5. The Gamecocks will face four of the top 13 teams in the country in 2008, according to the preseason polls. Florida is the top-ranked team in both polls. The Gators will make their way to Columbia on Nov. 14 in what is likely to be a nationally-televised contest. Alabama enters the season ranked fifth in both polls. Carolina will travel to Tuscaloosa on Oct. 17. Mississippi is eighth in the AP poll and 10th in the Coaches’ rankings. The Rebels will visit Columbia for a Thursday night ESPN tilt on Sept. 24. Georgia begins the season ranked 13th in both polls. The Bulldogs hosted Carolina on Sept. 12.


Head coach Steve Spurrier is 29-23 in his five seasons in Columbia. His 29 wins ranks seventh on the school’s all-time list, four behind Lou Holtz. He tied the school record for wins (7) in his first season at the helm; tied for the most wins (15) in his first two seasons of any Carolina head coach; recorded the most wins (21) by a Carolina head coach in his first three seasons; and surpassed Warren Giese (25 wins from 1956-59) for the most wins by a coach in his first four seasons on the Carolina sidelines. He has logged a .500 or better record in four straight seasons, the first coach to do that at Carolina since the final four years of the Jim Carlen Era (1978-81). Coach Spurrier is the first coach in Carolina history to take his team to three bowl games in his first four seasons on the sidelines. He also has matched Jim Carlen and Joe Morrison for the most bowl appearances (3) as a Carolina head coach.


The Gamecocks have posted five consecutive seasons of at least a .500 record, going 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 6-6 in 2007 and 7-6 in 2008. It’s the first time they have accomplished that since 1928-34.


Steve Spurrier made numerous changes to his coaching staff in the off-season, promoting Ellis Johnson to assistant head coach-defense and bringing in Jay Graham (running backs/asst. special teams), Jeep Hunter (tight ends/asst. special teams), G.A. Mangus (quarterbacks), Lorenzo Ward (defensive coordinator), Eric Wolford (offensive line/running game coordinator) and Craig Fitzgerald (strength and conditioning).


The Gamecocks averaged 80,529 fans for their seven home games in 2008. That average ranked 17th in Division I football, up two spots from the 2007 season. Seven of the top 20 schools in home attendance hail from the SEC.


The Gamecocks have played just two overtime games in their history, both at Tennessee. They dropped a 23-20 decision in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003, then fell by a 27-24 score on Oct. 27, 2007, also at Neyland Stadium. Every other SEC team has played at least three overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.


South Carolina tied for having the second-most players selected in the 2009 NFL Draft of any school in the nation, matching Oregon State and Ohio State for that honor behind Southern California. Selected were:

• Jared Cook (3rd round, Tennessee)

• Kenny McKinley (5th round, Denver)

• Jasper Brinkley (5th round, Minnesota)

• Jamon Meredith (5th round, Green Bay)

• Captain Munnerlyn (7th round, Carolina)

• Stoney Woodson (7th round, N.Y. Giants)

• Ryan Succop (7th round, Kansas City)


Deep snapper Matthew Grooms joined the Gamecocks after serving as a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years as a mechanic, included a six-month stint in Iraq. Grooms, a junior, is the oldest player on the squad, as he turned 26 on July 8. Grooms is a native of McColl, S.C., where he played for Marlboro County. Walk-on freshman linebacker Matthew Ansley, a member of the Army Reserves, spent 18 months in Iraq, working as a gunner for convoy security and route clearance.


The Gamecocks welcomed in three scholarship players who graduated from high school in December and went through spring drills for the first time in 2009 in Jarvis Giles, Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman. Over the past four seasons, the Gamecocks have seen nine players arrive on campus earlier than the norm. Clark Gaston did so in 2006, while Stephen Garcia and Travian Robertson arrived in January 2007. Jay Spearman, C.C. Whitlock and Shaq Wilson all went through spring drills in 2008 after graduating from high school in the previous December.


The Gamecocks had 24 players named to the 2008 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. Included were Pierre Andrews, Yvan Banag, Tommy Beecher, Ryan Broadhead, Patrick DiMarco, Stephen Flint, Foxy Foxworth, Marque Hall, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Alex McGrath, Jamon Meredith, Travian Robertson, Hardee Sanders, Chris Smelley, Cedrick Snead, Justin Sorensen, Nate Spurrier, Scott Spurrier, Ryan Succop, Charles Turner, Chris Vaughn, Addison Williams, Stoney Woodson and Greg Wright. The Gamecocks also posted the best GPA in team history during the 2009 spring semester with a 2.669.


South Carolina celebrates three major anniversaries during the 2009 season. This year marks the 75th year of competition in what is now Williams-Brice Stadium. The 80,250-seat structure on George Rogers Drive held its first game on Oct. 6, 1934, as South Carolina defeated VMI, 22-6. Two other significant celebrations are on tap this season as well. It’s the 40th anniversary of South Carolina’s only conference championship as the 1969 Gamecocks won the Atlantic Coast Conference title under head coach Paul Dietzel by going 5-0 in league play. This year is also the 25th anniversary of the 1984 “Black Magic” team that posted the winningest season in school history, going 10-2 under head coach Joe Morrison and rising as high as No. 2 in the polls.


South Carolina needs just two more wins in 2009 to make the 2000s the winningest decade in school history. Since 2000, the Gamecocks have 62 overall wins, just one shy of the all-time mark set in the 1980s. In that decade, the Gamecocks rolled up 63 victories, including 10 by the 1984 “Black Magic” team.


South Carolina has just nine players on its roster who are seniors. Of those, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Nathan Pepper and Gerrod Sinclar are fifth-year seniors, while Garrett Anderson, Moe Brown, Eric Norwood and Darian Stewart are in their fourth year. Former walk-ons John Guerry and Scott Spurrier earned scholarships during fall practice. With only nine seniors, the Gamecocks are tied with Duke for the second-fewest seniors in the country. Boise State has the fewest with four.


Although defensive back Captain Munnerlyn has taken his talents to the NFL, the Gamecocks have no shortage of leadership. Four captains were elected for the first time in the Spurrier era, two of them on the defensive side of the ball. Senior LB Eric Norwood and junior DE Cliff Matthews were the two defensive selections, with senior WR Moe Brown and junior FB Patrick DiMarco picked from the offensive side of the ball.


On August 18, coach Steve Spurrier announced that several walk-ons had been awarded scholarships for the 2009-10 school year. The list includes seniors John Guerry and Scott Spurrier, juniors Darantzy Brunson and Blake Baxley, and sophomores Stephen Flint, Cedrick Snead, Brandan Davis and Zac Brindise.


The Gamecocks come in all shapes and sizes. The tallest player on the roster is Clifton Geathers, who checks in at 6-8 this fall. He is followed closely by his backup, Devin Taylor. The shortest players are Cedrick Snead, Bryce Sherman and Scott Spurrier, all listed at 5-6. The Gamecocks have eight players that tip the scale at 300 pounds or better, including seven offensive linemen. Rokevious Watkins is the heaviest player on the squad at 340 pounds, followed by Jarriel King at 312. Kevin Young (310), Heath Batchelor (308), Garrett Anderson (307), Seaver Brown (303), Nathan Pepper (300) and Steven Singleton (300) round out those at three bills. Scott Spurrier (160) and C.C. Whitlock (173) are the only returning players listed under 175 pounds. Newcomers Jimmy Legree (170), DeAngelo Smith (170), Bryce Sherman (155), Brandan Davis (175) and Marty Markett (170) all tip the scales at 175 or less.


Junior linebacker Rodney Paulk suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee in the season-opening win at NC State. It’s the second straight year that a knee injury has sidelined him early in the season.


Senior defensive tackle Nathan Pepper suffered a right ankle sprain early in the Georgia game and will not play this week against Florida Atlantic.


It will be a quick turnaround for the Gamecocks as SEC Western Division foe Ole Miss comes to Columbia on Thursday, Sept. 24, for a 7:45 p.m. game. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN; it will be Carolina’s second Thursday night game of the season.