Gamecocks Top Gutsy Wofford 23-13
Brian Maddox
GamecockAnthem.com
Posted Sep 20, 2008
Doug Jolley


The South Carolina passing game struggled. The defense also struggled in the first half against the flexbone offense of the Wofford Terriers, but kept making constant adjustments and figured out how to keep the option out of the end zone in the second half. The Gamecocks then used a last minute touchdown to ice the game and hold off the smaller school from the upstate, winning 23-13.

A season and a half after the NCAA changed the name of football’s second tier from Division 1-AA to the Football Championship Subdivision, few people in the media - much less the public - can remember what to call it, and still refer to it as Division 1-AA. Whatever you call it, the Wofford Terriers of the second tier used their flexbone offense to give South Carolina of the mighty SEC all they could handle for the second time in a row. The Gamecocks prevailed 23-13, with a collective “whew” heard throughout the stadium when it was finally over.

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson suggested after the game that perhaps the Gamecocks should “pull a Nick Saban” and drop the smaller teams who play a wishbone offense from their schedule. Saban did exactly that as soon as he took over LSU a few years ago.

Head Coach Steve Spurrier struggled to finds positives to discuss after the game. “It was an ugly game,” he said. “We’re happy to get a win and move on.” He struck a positive note long enough to say, “It was a good game for us. I thought our guys played with a pretty good effort most of the time.”

In what has been a consistent theme for the first four games, he continued to praise the defensive effort of his team, saying, “Our defense played really well, better than two years ago.”

Wofford came into the game with the nation’s top rushing offense, averaging 400 yards per game. The stingy USC defense limited them to only 185 yards on the ground, fifty of them in their only touchdown of the game.

Gamecock fans' hearts were stuck in their throats when the Terriers went on top on a 50 yard touchdown run by quarterback Ben Widmyer with 10:50 left in second quarter. It was the longest rushing play in the senior’s career, who went the distance untouched.

Spurrier found some pleasure in reading the post-game stats, citing the defense limiting the Terriers to only seven out of 15 third down conversions, and one of two fourth down conversion attempts.

The biggest pleasure he found in his offensive stats were those related to keeping the Terriers' offense off the field. USC never punted; they converted seven of their eleven third down attempts and their only fourth down attempt, a bold choice at their own forty yard line, with a meager three point lead of 16-13 at the time.

That gamble paid off, as Carolina marched down to the Wofford 17, where Chris Smelley hit Dion Lecorn with a bullet in the left end zone sideline to seal the victory for the Gamecocks.

The win moves South Carolina back to .500 on the season at 2-2 after losing two straight to Vanderbilt and Georgia. They return to action at 7 pm next week against a struggling University of Alabama-Birmingham. Wofford drops to 2-1 on the season, and will travel to Georgia Southern next Saturday night.

The question that Carolina fans, reporters, and Steve Spurrier himself had after the game was, "What is lacking in the struggling USC offense." After Smelley was intercepted on the second play of the game, Spurrier said they largely took the deep ball out of their offensive package, relying on the running game and shorter routes.

Starting running back Mike Davis was most effective as a receiver tonight. Davis caught six passes for 51 yards, and was the leading receiver for USC on the night. The running game was placed on the shoulders of the two younger running backs, Brian Maddox and Eric Baker, and they responded well. Maddox scored his first touchdown as a Gamecock, a seven yard burst with 8:10 left in the first half, that put USC up 10-7. The score gave the Gamecock faithful their breath back, who watched Wofford take the lead 7-3 on the previous drive when quarterback Ben Widmyer scampered 50 yards for the score.

Maddox had 49 yards on the night, getting the ball ten times. Baker got the ball 11 times and rushed for 47 yards, but was unable to punch the ball into the end zone on three straight attempts from inside the four yard line, causing USC to settle for a Ryan Succop field goal. Spurrier attributed the goal line struggle to the offensive line more than Baker.

“Brian (Maddox) did some good things,” Spurrier said. “(Baker) had some nice runs in there. I think Mike Davis had one of his best games; he caught those little screens nicely.”

Chris Smelley lost the ball three times in the game, twice on interceptions and once on a fumble at the 50 yard line. The Carolina defense kept Wofford from scoring on all three of the resulting possessions, which was a key stat in the game.

Though repeatedly stating that Smelley didn’t play too bad, Spurrier said that Stephen Garcia will likely play next week, and may even be given the chance to start. “We’re a struggling bunch,” he said. “We’ve got to start hitting passes down the field and see if we can’t do a little better."

Smelley passed for 204 yards, completing 23 of 34 attempts, and rushed for 32 yards, twice for first down completions. The Gamecocks ran a season-high 76 plays for a season-high 376 yards of total offense, and their thirty first downs were also a season high.

Smelley said, “It was an unusual game. There weren’t any punts; we just couldn’t score any touchdowns.”

Senior kicker Ryan Succop continued his march through South Carolina’s record book, hitting field goals in the second, third, and fourth quarters. The three field goals tied his personal best for a game, and moved him up to third place on the all-time list. He is four field goals from tying the second place mark.


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