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Sept. 24, 2009

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 0-1 SEC) will look to defeat a top-10 opponent for the second time in three years as the No. 4/5 University of Mississippi Rebels (2-0, 0-0 SEC) visit Columbia for a Thursday night special on ESPN at 7:45 p.m., Sept. 24. The Gamecocks and Rebels will both be coming off short weeks as Carolina downed Florida Atlantic on Saturday, 38-16, while Ole Miss disposed of Southeastern Louisiana, 52-6, in Oxford.


• This is the second Thursday night game of the year for Carolina and the eighth in the Spurrier Era. With the win over NC State on Sept. 3, the Gamecocks are 5-2 in Thursday night specials since 2005.

• Senior linebacker Eric Norwood tied Andrew Provence for the South Carolina school record in career sacks with his 26th against Florida Atlantic. He needs just 1.5 more sacks to break into the Southeastern Conference’s all-time top 10 in the category.

• Junior kick returner Chris Culliver now holds the Carolina record for career kickoff returns with 78 after amassing four against FAU to break the previous mark of 76, held by Robert Brooks. He is now just 67 yards short of the school record in kick return yardage.

• Jarvis Giles was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week after his 11-carry, 113-yard performance against Florida Atlantic that included his first career touchdown.

• Defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye returns from a three-game suspension for Thursday’s game to give the Carolina defense some added depth up front.

• The No. 4 Rebels will be the fifth top-10 team to visit Williams-Brice Stadium in the Spurrier era. Carolina is 1-3 in those four previous meetings, defeating No. 8 Kentucky 38-23 in 2007.


This is the 15th meeting all-time between South Carolina and Mississippi. Ole Miss leads the all-time series, 8-6. The teams have met just five times since South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference in 1992; Ole Miss is 4-1 in those contests. The Gamecocks held the series edge from 1947-1981, a stretch spanning nine meetings that saw Carolina win five times. This will be the eighth time Ole Miss has visited Williams-Brice Stadium; they are 4-3 all-time in Columbia with the last meeting coming in 2004. Carolina’s last win over Mississippi in Columbia came on Oct. 20, 1979, a 21-14 Gamecock victory.


Eleven of the 14 all-time meetings between South Carolina and Ole Miss have been decided by a touchdown or less. All six of Carolina’s wins in the series have been by seven points or fewer, and five of the Rebels’ eight victories have been that close. The last time a Carolina-OIe Miss game was a double-digit affair was the 1999 season when the Rebels won 36-10 in Columbia. Prior to that, it was all the way back in 1972 when the Rebs took a 21-0 win, also at Williams-Brice Stadium.


In the Spurrier Era, South Carolina is now 5-2 in Thursday night contests, with four of those five victories coming in season openers. This will be the second Thursday night special for the Gamecocks this season; Carolina opened the 2009 campaign with a 7-3 victory at North Carolina State. South Carolina is the only SEC team scheduled to play in multiple weeknight contests this year; Alabama and Auburn will play each other on Friday, Nov. 27, in the only remaining weekday contest involving an SEC school.


South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 3-0 record against Mississippi, having defeated the Rebels twice while at Florida and again last season in his first meeting with Ole Miss as Carolina’s head ball coach. Spurrier first beat Ole Miss in 1994, 38-14, and again in 1995, 28-10. He didn’t face the Rebels again until last season when the Gamecocks won a 31-24 battle in Oxford.


Steve Spurrier has had great success against schools in the state of Mississippi. In his 20-year collegiate coaching career, the Head Ball Coach is 12-2 all-time against schools in the Magnolia State, including a perfect 3-0 mark against both Ole Miss and Southern Miss, and a 6-2 advantage over Mississippi State.


Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix is very familiar with the Gamecocks, as he served as Steve Spurrier’s defensive coordinator at Carolina from 2005-07. But that’s about the only familiar link between the Gamecocks and the Rebels – no natives of Mississippi are on the Gamecock roster, and likewise, no South Carolina natives play for the Rebels.


Chris Smelley threw three touchdown passes, South Carolina’s No. 1 defense held Mississippi to a field goal in the second half and the Gamecocks beat the Rebels 31-24 on Oct. 4, 2008, in Oxford, Miss. Smelley completed 22 of 31 passes for a career-high 327 yards and led an 11-play, 95-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter to put away Ole Miss, which stumbled a week after knocking off then-No. 4 Florida. A pair of Ole Miss fumbles helped the Gamecocks earn a critical win. After Smelley hit Jason Barnes with a touchdown pass on third-and-goal from the 20 early in the second quarter, Gamecocks defensive lineman Nathan Pepper scooped up Jevan Snead’s fumble and returned it 29 yards for a 14-point swing in exactly a minute that gave South Carolina a 17-14 lead. Ole Miss answered to take a 21-14 halftime lead on a 24-yard pass from Snead to Brandon Bolden, but another fumble in the second half turned the game for the Gamecocks. Chris Culliver forced Dexter McCluster to fumble at the South Carolina 6 midway through the third quarter. Emmanuel Cook returned the fumble to the 42. Smelley was especially sharp on the ensuing drive, converting a pair of first downs with quarterback sneaks, including fourth-and-inches at the Ole Miss 10. That set up the second of his two touchdown passes to Barnes, a 6-yarder that put the Gamecocks up 24-21. After Ole Miss downed the ball at the 5 following a punt on the ensuing drive, Smelley and tailback Mike Davis marched South Carolina down the field. Davis rushed for 28 yards on the drive and Smelley hit 5 of 6 passes for 54 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Joe Hills. A Gamecocks defense led by Cook’s 14 tackles held the Rebels to 129 yards and a field goal in the second half.


Brian Maddox scored three touchdowns and Jarvis Giles ran 11 times for 113 yards to help South Carolina to a 38-16 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday night. The Gamecocks (2-1) scored on three straight possessions in the second half to turn a close game at half into a blowout. While Giles averaged 10.3 yards a carry and got his first career touchdown, fellow freshman Kenny Miles looked just as impressive, running for 56 yards on five carries in one first quarter series before sitting out the rest of the game with a shoulder injury. The Owls (0-2) trailed just 17-16 at halftime, but turned over the ball twice on their first three drives after halftime. Stephon Gilmore picked off Rusty Smith’s pass, and Eric Norwood sacked Smith to force a fumble. The Gamecocks took advantage of the short field both times. Gilmore later recovered a fumble as South Carolina forced three turnovers in the second half and stopped Florida Atlantic on a fourth down at the Gamecocks’ 5. The game got out of hand after that. South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia was 20-for-27 for 222 yards, throwing for one touchdown and running for another. The discovery of a running game meant the sophomore didn’t have to match the 53 passes and 313 yards he had in a loss to No. 23 Georgia the previous week. Maddox gained just 23 yards on 10 carries and had just two catches for 8 yards, but managed three touchdowns. South Carolina receiver Tori Gurley had four catches for 100 yards. Moe Brown caught three passes for 20 yards, but had a 50-yard run on the Gamecocks’ first play. South Carolina took a 17-3 lead on Garcia’s 15-yard run with 8:53 left in the first half, but the Owls scored twice before halftime.


• In 20 years as a collegiate coach, Steve Spurrier is 83-3-1 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.

• With the 41-37 loss at UGA and the 38-16 win over FAU, it marked only the second time in the Spurrier era that Carolina scored 37 or more points in consecutive outings. The previous time was in 2007, when the Gamecocks downed Mississippi State 38-21 and Kentucky 38-23 in back-to-back weeks.


Ole Miss comes into this week’s game ranked 4th in the Associated Press poll and 5th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Gamecocks are 5-13 under Spurrier against opponents in the top 25. Here’s a year-by-year breakdown…

• 2005: Carolina was 2-1 against ranked opponents, knocking off No. 23 Tennessee and No. 12 Florida after losing to No. 9 Georgia.

• 2006: Carolina was 1-5 against ranked opponents with their lone win coming against No. 24 Clemson. They had losses against No. 12 Georgia, No. 2 Auburn, No. 8 Tennessee, No. 12 Arkansas and No. 6 Florida.

• 2007: The Gamecocks were 2-3 against ranked opponents, winning over No. 11 Georgia and No. 8 Kentucky, but falling to No. 2 LSU, No. 17 Florida and No. 15 Clemson.

• 2008: Carolina dropped all three contests against ranked foes, falling to No. 2 Georgia, No. 13 LSU and No. 3 Florida.

• 2009: The Gamecocks have lost their only game to a ranked opponent, falling 41-37 at No. 21 Georgia.


South Carolina has played 32 games in its history against teams ranked in the top-5 in the country, posting a 1-31 record in those contests, including losses in each of their last 23 opportunities. They are 0-19 at home against top-5 teams, 1-11 on the road and 0-1 at neutral sites. The lone win was a 31-13 win at No. 3 North Carolina on October 24, 1981. Their most recent game against a top-5 team was a 56-6 loss at No. 3 Florida last season. This is the fourth-straight year in which Carolina has played a top-5 team.


South Carolina’s best win over a ranked opponent came in the 1981 season when they knocked off No. 3 North Carolina by a 31-13 score. It’s the only win over a top-5 opponent in school history.


• Saturday marked the first time since 2007 that the Gamecocks boasted a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in freshman Jarvis Giles (113 yards rushing) and freshman Tori Gurley (100 yards receiving). The last time, it was Cory Boyd and Kenny McKinley turning the trick at Tennessee on Oct. 27, 2007. It’s the first time for a pair of freshmen to pull off the feat since Sidney Rice and Mike Davis did it twice during the 2005 season (vs. Clemson and in the Independence Bowl vs. Missouri).

• Sophomore running back Brian Maddox eclipsed his career high in scores in a big way with three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).

• Moe Brown’s 50-yard end-around on the opening play of the game was easily his career-long rush and was the longest Carolina rushing play since Mike Davis also scampered for 50 against NC State last season (8/28).

• Brian Maddox’s opening-drive touchdown at the 13:39 mark of the first quarter was the quickest score for a Gamecock team since Nov. 6, 2003, at Arkansas, when Carolina kicked a field goal at the 13:53 mark of the opening period. It was the fastest touchdown by a Gamecock team since South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992.

• Ten different Carolina players caught passes against FAU – Tori Gurley (4-100) led the way, followed by Jason Barnes (3-40), Alshon Jeffrey (2-24), Moe Brown (3-20), Scott Spurrier (1-13), Eric Baker (2-10), Dion Lecorn (2-9), Brian Maddox (2-8), Weslye Saunders (1-7) and D.L. Moore (1 for -2).

• Senior Scott Spurrier recorded his first career catch, a 13-yard reception fron Stephen Garcia in the fourth quarter.


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.


The Gamecocks threw the ball 53 times against Georgia, the most passes attempted in the Steve Spurrier Era at South Carolina, completing 31 for 313 yards. They came back against Florida Atlantic and rushed for 287 yards, the most in the Spurrier Era, surpassing the previous high mark by 64 yards.


The Gamecocks have received solid performances from several freshmen this season. Defensive end Devin Taylor, a redshirt freshman from Beaufort, has started all three games and was the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his efforts in the opener at NC State. True freshman tailback Jarvis Giles from Tampa became the first Gamecock frosh to rush for over 100 yards since 2006 when he went for 113 against FAU, earning SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. True freshman and Rock Hill, S.C. native Stephon Gilmore has started all three games at cornerback and has intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and recovered another fumble. He also has a sack among his 13 tackles. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Tori Gurley has caught 12 passes for 180 yards in three games, including a four-catch, 100-yard performance against FAU. Redshirt freshman T.J. Johnson from Aynor, S.C. has started all three games at right offensive guard.


• South Carolina is 7-11 in league openers since joining the SEC in 1992. 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.


• 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.


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.


South Carolina remains outside the top 25 this week, but gained six votes in the coaches’ poll. Carolina had seven votes in this week’s ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, up from one last week, but did not receive a mention in the Associated Press balloting. Three SEC schools on the 2009 Gamecock slate remain consensus top-5 teams: Florida (1/1), Alabama (3/3) and Ole Miss (4/5). Georgia moved up to #17 in the coaches’ poll and #21 in the AP ballot. In addition, South Carolina State is ranked 16th 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.

• LB Tony Straughter and DB Antonio Allen earned their initial career starts against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 19.


The 2009 Gamecock schedule was rated the nation’s toughest, according to Phil Steele’s 2009 College Football Preview magazine. Carolina was followed by Florida State, Oklahoma, Mississippi State and Minnesota in the top 5. The Gamecocks face four of the top 13 teams in the country in 2008, according to the preseason polls. Florida was the top-ranked team in both polls. The Gators will make their way to Columbia on Nov. 14. Alabama entered the season ranked fifth in both polls. Carolina will travel to Tuscaloosa on Oct. 17. Mississippi was 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, which hosted Carolina on Sept. 12, began the season ranked 13th in both polls.


Head coach Steve Spurrier is 30-23 in his five seasons in Columbia. His 30 wins ranks seventh on the school’s all-time list, three 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.


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.


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).


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)


Reserve 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.


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.


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 needs just one more win in 2009 to make the 2000s the winningest decade in school history. Since 2000, the Gamecocks have 63 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.


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, junior 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.


The South Carolina coaching staff is taking part in the fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy by wearing the Coach to Cure MD patch this week. Coach to Cure MD is a national charity project of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).


In-state FCS rival South Carolina State makes the short trip from Orangeburg to Columbia on Saturday, Oct. 3. Kickoff time is 7 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN Classic.