There is no more heated football rivalry than that between the Gamecocks and Tigers. Clemson had…
Defensive Scores Nothing New for Norwood
"I just told Eric Norwood I think it's the first time I've had a defensive player score two touchdowns in a game, so that was some game he had, obviously. He had an All-American type game." Steve Spurrier said right after the game. "So if you think you might want to put somebody for All-American, it might be Eric Norwood. He is an active player that really makes things happen."
Freshman tight end Wesley Saunders fumbled on the Kentucky one yard line after an exciting 48 yard catch and run to set up Norwood's first touchdown. Sophomore defensive tackle Jonathan Williams and freshman linebacker Cliff Matthews sacked Wildcat Quarterback Andre Woodson at the ten two plays later and Norwood scooped up the fumble at the two and fell into the end zone to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead and USC never trailed. The last time a USC defender scored on a fumble return was by Ko Simpson, a 19 yard return in 2005 against - guess who - Kentucky.
Never before has a USC defender scored two touchdowns in one game, but for Norwood scoring is not something new. Quarterbacks tend to get much of the post-game attention after a big win, but on this night, Chris Smelley sat in relative anonymity while Norwood sat a few feet away surrounded by the bulk of the media doing interviews after the game. His huge smile lit up the room as he downplayed the significance of a defensive player scoring: "I've scored since Pee Wee."
Facing the Carolina defense and Norwood seemed new to Woodson, who had a respectable 23-40-227 yard night, but was intercepted in the end zone by Captain Munnerlyn to kill one potential scoring drive, and threw the backward pass resulting in Norwood's second TD while in the arms of defensive end Casper Brinkley and trying to avoid a sack.
Did the Carolina pressure rattle the Heisman Trophy candidate who had thrown 325 straight passes without an interception until last week's 45-17 win over Florida Atlantic. Emmanuel Cook was unsure after the game, but Norwood was more certain.
"He's a good quarterback. But he's like any other quarterback, when they get pressure on, they throw it up in the air. That was key, getting pressure on him…I think he was rattled. He hadn't seen pressure all year." Norwood said.
Cook feels that the main rattler on the USC defense may be Norwood. "Norwood is a great athlete," he said. "He's a good person to be around. He's a great player to play with. He's a great team mate all around."
Norwood actually could have had another score, as he twice got his hands on Woodson passes in the Kentucky back field but could not gather the ball in. On at least one occasion it looked like he had a better than even shot at making the end zone.
Spurrier said that in practice he often has to ask Norwood to ease off and slow down so the offense can run their plays: "He's active. He loves to play. He loves to play full speed. I have to slow him down during practice a lot. I say, "We don't go that fast against team mates. Quit hitting them so hard. Let the quarterback throw the ball… We have to slow him down occasionally just to practice against our defense… But he's good at watching the (opposing) quarterback and jumping up and picking it off."
Norwood was proclaimed a Freshman All-American by The Sporting News and other publications last season after recording 7 sacks, and has turned into a big play performer for the Gamecocks.
Last season he tied Casper Brinkley for the team lead in sacks and led the team win hurries (5). He had five tackles, all solo, to help limit Kentucky to 23 points, the first time this season it scored below 40, despite out-gaining USC 384-382 yards in total offense and out-rushing USC by over 70 yards.
Coming into the Kentucky game Norwood not only led the Gamecocks in total tackles (30) and tackles for a loss (6.5), but also sacks (3). Now he leads the USC defense in scoring, too. Norwood's two defensive scores also tied a National record.
A national tv audience and about 80,000 Gamecock fans will long remember Eric Norwood's two scores to lead Carolina to a win over the third highest ranked team it has defeated in its football history. And so will Andre Woodson and the Kentucky Wildcats, who came to Columbia looking to inch into the top five and instead found Kentucky etched into the wrong side of the Carolina and NCAA football record books. Performances like like that of Norwood's Saturday night don't come along often.
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