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Oct. 23, 2009

The 23rd-ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2, 2-2 SEC) look to get back on the winning track this week as Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rival Vanderbilt (2-5, 0-4 SEC) visits Columbia for a 7 p.m. tilt on Saturday, October 24, at Williams-Brice Stadium. It’s homecoming week for the Gamecocks and it’s also the final weekend of the South Carolina State Fair, held right across George Rogers Drive from Williams-Brice Stadium. Both teams are looking for a win: last week, soon-to-be-No. 1 Alabama snapped Carolina’s four-game winning streak with a 20-6 win in Tuscaloosa, while Georgia handed the Commodores their third straight loss, 35-10, in Nashville. The Gamecocks are looking to snap a two-game losing skid against Vanderbilt after winning the previous seven contests. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series, 14-4, including a 6-2 mark in Columbia.


• Head coach Steve Spurrier is 14-2 all-time against Vanderbilt, but has lost the last two meetings.

• South Carolina leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt, 14-4.

• A win today would give Coach Spurrier his 105th conference win as an SEC head coach, tying him with Vince Dooley for third all-time, trailing only Bear Bryant (159) and John Vaught (106).

• Senior linebacker Eric Norwood was named a mid-season All-American by Phil Steele’s magazine.

• Stephen Garcia topped the 2,000-yard mark in career passing yardage two weeks ago against Kentucky. He needs 192 more yards to move into the all-time top 15 in South Carolina history.

A South Carolina win over Vanderbilt would…

* Snap a two-game losing streak to the Commodores.

* Be the seventh consecutive victory for South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium, dating back to the Tennessee game last season.

* Set a school record with five straight wins over SEC opponents at Williams-Brice Stadium.

* Guarantee at least a .500 record for the sixth straight year and make the Gamecocks bowl eligible.

* Pull head coach Steve Spurrier ahead of Lou Holtz with his 34th career win at South Carolina.

* Give head coach Steve Spurrier his 105th career conference win as an SEC head coach, tying him with Vince Dooley for third all-time. Only Bear Bryant (159) and John Vaught (106) have won more.


This is the 19th meeting all-time between South Carolina and Vanderbilt. South Carolina leads the all-time series, 14-4, but Vanderbilt has won the previous two contests. Last year, the Commodores took a 24-17 decision in Nashville on Sept. 4. The last time in Columbia, Vanderbilt upset then-No. 6 South Carolina, 17-6, on Oct. 20, 2007. Of the previous 18 meetings, only one came before the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992; the teams have met every year thereafter. Since joining the SEC, the Gamecocks are 13-4 against the Commodores, averaging 26.5 points per game while only surrendering an average of 13.0.


Gamecock fans can typically rest easy when South Carolina hits 20 points against Vanderbilt. When scoring 20 or more, the Gamecocks are 13-0 all-time against Vanderbilt. When held to less than 20 points, Carolina is 1-4 against the Commodores.


Despite their loss at Alabama, South Carolina only dropped one spot in both major polls. The Gamecocks are ranked 23rd in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ polls, which were released Sunday. This marks the third straight week South Carolina will compete as a ranked team; it’s the third time under Spurrier the Gamecocks have been ranked for that many consecutive weeks.


Senior linebacker Eric Norwood was named to the first-team Midseason All-America team by Phil Steele, it was announced last week. In addition, he was named to Steele’s 2009 Midseason All-SEC first team. Defensive end Cliff Matthews and punter Spencer Lanning earned spots on the All-SEC second team, while safety Chris Culliver was a third-team All-SEC selection.


The Gamecocks have posted six straight wins at Williams-Brice Stadium, defeating Tennessee and Arkansas last season and topping Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss, South Carolina State and Kentucky to start the 2009 campaign. The last time the Gamecocks won at least six straight games at home was from the 1986-88 seasons when they posted 13 straight home wins. That streak, oddly enough, started following a loss to Florida State, then was snapped with another loss to the Seminoles.


No. 24 South Carolina’s fourth quarter comeback effort against Vanderbilt fell short and the Gamecocks fell 24-17 in Nashville on Sept. 4, 2008. South Carolina (1-1) extended its streak of quarters without yielding a point to five by keeping Vanderbilt (2-0) scoreless in the first. The Commodores’ third quarter touchdown on a Chris Nickson pass to Brandon Barden marked the first time an opponent reached the end zone against the Gamecocks in 2008. Vanderbilt had little offense in the first half and was outgained 133-50 by the Gamecocks. Quarterback Chris Smelley threw for two scores: a 19-yard strike to Kenny McKinley in the first quarter and another five-yarder to Freddie Brown. The latter brought South Carolina within a touchdown in the game’s final five minutes, but could not produce the equalizer on the team’s last possession.


Vanderbilt pulled off a major upset over No. 6 South Carolina on Oct. 20, 2007, with a 17-6 victory. The win was Vanderbilt’s first over Spurrier in 15 tries and the highest-ranked opponent it defeated in more than 70 years. The Commodores had two touchdown passes from Mackenzi Adams, two interceptions by D.J. Moore and a defense that was so stout it didn’t make a difference which quarterback Spurrier called on. Little went right for South Carolina. The offense was held to 195 yards. Starter Chris Smelley threw two interceptions and Vanderbilt registered seven sacks. Vanderbilt had lost seven straight to South Carolina since last winning in 1999. Spurrier was 2-0 against the Commodores at Duke, then continued the winning at Florida (10-0) and South Carolina (2-0).


Not only are the Gamecocks currently touting two Top-25 teams (football – No. 23 and women’s soccer – No. 5), but the Carolina student-athletes have gotten it done in the classroom as well. South Carolina has led the SEC in student-athletes on the academic honor roll for five consecutive semesters. They placed 24 football players on the 2008 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. In the spring of 2009, Steve Spurrier’s Gamecock squad posted its highest team GPA on record. Eric Norwood was honored at the spring game as the Harris Pastides Scholar-Athlete Award winner for football, while Kenny Miles, Addison Williams and Scott Spurrier were honored as recipients of the Harold White GPA Award. As part of its commitment towards academic success, the Gamecocks will move into the Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center in the spring of 2010. “The Dodie,” named for Dolores F. Anderson of Greer, S.C., is a three-story, 40,000-square foot center located in the Roost footprint. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

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. It’s also 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. As part of the Homecoming festivities this week, the Gamecocks will recognize both the 1969 and 1984 squads during the Vanderbilt game.


Mark Ingram rushed for a career-high 246 yards and a game-clinching touchdown, powering No. 2 Alabama to a 20-6 victory over No. 22 South Carolina on Saturday night. Ingram’s runs and a punishing defense helped the Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) overcome four turnovers–doubling their season total. Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks (5-2, 2-2) had never beaten a team ranked higher than No. 3 and were hoping for their second win over a top-five team this season. Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia wound up 20-of-46 for 214 yards after completing just 4 of 18 passes in the first half. South Carolina managed just 64 yards rushing. South Carolina couldn’t get points off two drives into Alabama territory late in the third quarter. The Gamecocks marched just across midfield on 12 plays before having to punt. Then Clifton Geathers stripped the ball from McElroy to give them back the ball. But the Alabama defense held again and Spencer Lanning’s 50-yard field goal attempt was short. The Gamecocks scored on field goals of 22 and 31 yards by Lanning in the final 3:14 of the first half but missed chances for more points. Garcia had hit freshman Alshon Jeffery on a 52-yarder and leading receiver Moe Brown on an 8-yarder down to the 5, setting up the first field goal. Garcia set up the second kick, made as time expired, with runs of 21 and 12 yards on consecutive plays.


The Gamecocks rank sixth in the SEC and 30th in the country in turnover margin at plus-4 (13 takeaways – eight fumbles and five interceptions – and nine turnovers – five fumbles and four interceptions). While that might not seem impressive, through seven games last season, the Gamecocks were 10th in the league and 107th in the country with a turnover margin of minus-7. Through seven games in 2008, the Gamecocks had an equal number of takeaways – 13 – but had committed 20 turnovers, 11 more than this season to date. Saturday’s loss at Alabama saw the Gamecocks force four turnovers by the Crimson Tide, equaling Alabama’s total through six previous games this season.


Head coach Steve Spurrier and his staff must be coming up with some key halftime adjustments or inspirational speeches, as the Gamecocks have come out like gangbusters in the third quarter this season. Carolina has outscored its opponents by a 64-13 margin in the third stanza, easily their highest scoring quarter and their fewest points allowed quarter. The Gamecocks have outscored their opponents by 40 points this season, but have a 51-point edge in the third quarter.


Under Steve Spurrier, South Carolina has been a Top 25 team coming into 13 contests. The Gamecocks are 5-8 in those opportunities as a ranked team. Here’s a year-by-year breakdown…

• 2005: After defeating Florida, the Gamecocks were ranked 19th with Clemson coming to town for the annual Palmetto State showdown. But the Tigers upset Carolina by a 13-9 score.

• 2006: South Carolina was never ranked.

• 2007: The Gamecocks were ranked in eight contests, going 4-4 in those games. At No. 17, they defeated South Carolina State, 38-3, and moved up to 12th before losing at LSU, 28-16. As the No. 16 team, Carolina then defeated Miss. State, 38-21, to move up to No. 11. They then defeated No. 8 Kentucky, 38-23, to jump into the top 10 for the first time since 2001. As the No. 7 team, they beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 21-15, to jump to No. 6. But losses to Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Arkansas over the next three contests dropped Carolina from the polls.

• 2008: South Carolina dropped both contests as a ranked team, both times as No. 24. Vanderbilt downed the Gamecocks in Nashville during the second week of the season, 24-17, and No. 3 Florida beat Carolina 56-6 in Gainesville in mid-November.

• 2009: South Carolina moved into the polls for the first time at No. 25 prior to their game with Kentucky. They defeated the Wildcats on Oct. 10 in Columbia, 28-26. After moving up to No. 22 in both polls, the Gamecocks dropped a 20-6 decision at No. 2 Alabama on Oct. 17. However, the pollsters only dropped South Carolina one spot to No. 23 headed into the Gamecocks’ contest with Vanderbilt.


South Carolina has just nine players on its roster who are seniors. Of those, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Nathan Pepper and Gerrod Sinclair 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 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.


The Gamecocks have had 15 players make their initial collegiate start this season:

•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.

• CB C.C. Whitlock, OL Kyle Nunn and RB Kenny Miles got their first career starts vs. South Carolina State on Oct. 3.

• TE Justice Cunningham and LB Josh Dickerson made their first career starts against Kentucky on Oct. 10.


The Gamecocks have received solid performances from several freshmen this season. Defensive end Devin Taylor, a redshirt freshman from Beaufort, started the first five 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. Three weeks later, redshirt freshman Kenny Miles hit the century mark with exactly 100 yards against Kentucky. He leads the team in rushing with 308 yards on the year. True freshman and Rock Hill, S.C., native Stephon Gilmore has started all seven games at cornerback and has intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and recovered another fumble. He also has a sack among his 25 tackles, and he had a 35-yard punt return against South Carolina State. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Tori Gurley is the Gamecocks’ second-leading receiver. He has caught 18 passes for 256 yards in seven games, including a four-catch, 100-yard performance against FAU. Redshirt freshman T.J. Johnson from Aynor, S.C. has started all seven games at right offensive guard. And true freshman Alshon Jeffery had a big coming-out party against Kentucky with a seven-catch, 138-yard performance that saw him score three touchdowns, earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors and give him the team lead in touchdowns scored. Overall, the Gamecocks list 14 freshmen on their two-deep this week.


Here is a rundown of the various awards and honors earned by the Gamecocks during the 2009 season:

• Devin Taylor – SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week (Week 1 vs. NC State)

• Jarvis Giles – SEC Freshman of the Week (Week 3 vs. Florida Atlantic)

• Eric Norwood – SEC Defensive Player of the Week (Week 4 vs. Ole Miss)

• Alshon Jeffery – SEC Freshman of the Week (Week 6 vs. Kentucky)

• Eric Norwood – Rotary Lombardi Semifinalist (10/14)

• Eric Norwood – Phil Steele’s Midseason All-America first team (10/15)

• Eric Norwood, Cliff Matthews, Spencer Lanning, Chris Culliver – Phil Steele’s Midseason All-SEC Team (10/15)

• Eric Norwood – Sporting News Midseason All-America first team (10/21)

• Eric Norwood – Lott Trophy quarterfinalist (10/21)


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 the next week against Florida Atlantic and rushed for 287 yards, the most in the Spurrier Era, surpassing the previous high mark by 64 yards.


Head coach Steve Spurrier is 33-24 in his five seasons in Columbia. His 33 wins ties him with Lou Holtz for sixth on the school’s all-time list. 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.


• In 20 years as a collegiate coach, Steve Spurrier is 85-3-1 when scoring at least 37 points. The 41-37 loss to Georgia on Sept. 12 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. 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.


Under Coach Spurrier, South Carolina is 1-8 in contests where it fails to score more than 10 points. The only win came in a 7-3 victory over NC State in the `09 season opener.


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. One more win in 2009 would give the Gamecocks their sixth straight regular season at .500 or better.


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.


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.


• Junior DT Travian Robertson tore his ACL in the win over Ole Miss and will miss the rest of the season.

• 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.


With the win over Ole Miss, South Carolina made the 2000s the winningest decade in school history with their 64th win since 2000; that total now stands at 66. They surpassed the mark held by the 1980s Gamecocks that rolled up 63 victories, including 10 by the 1984 “Black Magic” team.