The Gamecocks have sandwiched a trio of non-conference wins over NC State, Wofford and UAB around back-to-back SEC seven-point losses at Vanderbilt and to second-ranked Georgia. Ole Miss shocked No. 4 Florida, 31-30, in The Swamp last Saturday, bouncing back from a home loss to Vanderbilt the week before. They were 2-1 in non-conference action to open the season with home wins over Memphis and Samford and a road loss at Wake Forest.
The South Carolina-Ole Miss game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis in the state of South Carolina with Mike Morgan and Brad Muller calling the action. It will also be available throughout the rest of the country as part of ESPN's GamePlan package. However, the game will be blacked out in the state of Mississippi and in Memphis. The game can be heard on the Gamecock Radio Network, including the flagship station, WNKT-FM (107.5 The Game) in Columbia, with Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs describing the action. The game will also be carried on XM Satellite 144 and can be heard at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on 88.5 FM.
A South Carolina win over Ole Miss would...
* Snap a five-game losing streak to the Rebels. The Gamecocks last win over Ole Miss was a 21-14 win in Columbia on October 20, 1979.
* Be the Gamecocks second win in Oxford. Their only previous victory on the Rebels' home field came in 1974 by a 10-7 score. They have dropped their last three contests in Oxford.
* Snap the Gamecocks' six-game SEC losing streak. The Gamecocks last conference win came exactly one year ago - on Oct. 4, 2007 over Kentucky by a 38-23 score.
* Give Steve Spurrier 25 wins in his first four seasons at the Gamecocks' head coach, tying Warren Giese (1956-59) for the most wins by a head coach in his first four seasons in Carolina history.
COCKS AND REBELS
This is the 14th meeting on the gridiron between South Carolina and Ole Miss, but the first time the teams have met since the 2004 season. The Rebels have won the last five games to take an 8-5 lead in the series. The teams first met in the 1947 campaign, then did not see each other again until 1972. They played seven times in the '70s, once in the `80s and twice in the `90s. This is the third meeting between the two squads since the turn of the century. Ole Miss has won three of the previous four games in Oxford, with USC's only win coming by a 10-7 score in the 1974 season. The Gamecocks last win over Ole Miss was a 21-14 decision in Columbia on Oct. 20, 1979.
IT'S USUALLY CLOSE
Three of the last four meetings between South Carolina and Ole Miss have been decided by three points or less, with the Rebels winning each of those contests - a 30-28 win in 1998, a 43-40 victory in 2003 and a 31-28 win in 2004. Ten of the previous 13 meetings, including 10 of the last 11 contests have been decided by a touchdown or less, including all five of South Carolina's wins.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
South Carolina (4-2, 2-2 SEC) entered the game ranked 25th in the nation, but that ranking was short-lived as the Gamecocks were knocked off by Ole Miss, 31-28, in a Homecoming contest in Columbia on Oct. 9, 2004. Using a three-quarterback platoon system, Ole Miss (3-3, 2-1) jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. The Rebels held a 21-14 lead at the intermission after rolling up 319 yards of offense against a USC defense that had surrendered just 256 yards per game. Despite a shaky beginning in his first SEC start at quarterback, Syvelle Newton threw for 291 yards and rushed for another 65, leading Carolina on three touchdown drives to get back into the contest. Demetris Summers' 17-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter gave South Carolina a 28-24 lead. The Rebels scored the game winner with just over a minute remaining on the clock when Ethan Flatt connected with Bill Flowers on a 29-yard pass play in the left corner of the end zone on a 4th-and-10 play, culminating a seven-play, 73-yard drive.
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.
IT'S NOT OVER
The Gamecocks are 0-2 in league play after suffering setbacks at Vanderbilt and to No. 2 Georgia, but history would indicate that they still have hope to get back in the race. The last time they opened the conference slate with back-to-back losses was in 2005 when they dropped their first three decisions to Georgia, Alabama and Auburn before bouncing back with five straight SEC wins, topping Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida in succession.
THE LAST TIME OUT
Although the score may not indicate it, the Gamecocks had little trouble in disposing of UAB, 26-13, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia last Saturday night. Redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia came off the bench to lead the Gamecock offense, which rolled up 353 yards, while the Carolina defense limited UAB to just 207 yards of offense. Garcia completed 13-of-20 passes for 131 yards and his first career touchdown pass, and rushed for a game-high 86 yards on 18 carries, including his first career rushing touchdown. Ryan Succop had a career night with a personal best four field goals, connecting from 44, 48, 26 and 24 yards out. The Gamecock defense held UAB without a first down until midway through the second quarter. It was the Gamecocks' 11th win in their last 12 non-conference games.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME
The Gamecocks had several "firsts" in last week's win against UAB. Redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia completed his first pass, tossed his first touchdown pass and rushed for his first touchdown. Redshirt freshman Matt Clements caught his first two passes. Freshman linebacker Shaq Wilson logged his first pass interception.
The Gamecocks posted some of their best numbers in the Steve Spurrier Era against UAB:
* 45 Rushing Attempts - the most in past four seasons.
* 25 Rushing Attempts, Opponents - the second-fewest in the last four years, just two more than Tennessee ran in 2006.
* 12 First Downs Allowed - tying for the third-fewest since Coach Spurrier took over the program.
* 67 Rushing Yards Allowed - the third-fewest allowed in the Spurrier Era.
* 207 Total Yards Allowed - the fourth-fewest allowed in the Steve Spurrier Era.
* 34:59 Time of Possession - the second-highest mark, surpassed only by the 36:25 logged at Tennessee in 2007.
Senior placekicker Ryan Succop was a bright spot for the Gamecocks against UAB, scoring 14 points after connecting on all four of his field goal attempts and both extra points. His field goals came from 44, 48, 26 and 24 yards. It was a personal high for him after hitting three field goals in a game on three previous occasions. It was also the most field goals in a game for a Carolina kicker since Steve Florio hit four against East Carolina on Sept. 20, 1997. His efforts earned him SEC Special Teams Player of the Week accolades.
UNDER COACH SPURRIER
Head coach Steve Spurrier is 24-18 in his fourth season in Columbia. He recorded the most wins by a Carolina head coach in his first three seasons (21), topping Joe Morrison's mark of 20 from 1983-85. The most wins for a South Carolina coach in his first four seasons with the program is 25, recorded by Warren Giese from 1956-59 (7, 5, 7 and 6 wins).
The win over UAB was a bit of a milestone win for head coach Steve Spurrier. It represented his 24th victory at South Carolina, moving him past Brad Scott and into a tie with Sparky Woods for ninth place on the school's all-time wins list. He has coached just 42 games at South Carolina, while it took Scott 56 games to record 23 wins and Woods 55 games to log 24 victories.
The Gamecocks have kept the ball on the ground more this season than in recent history. In fact, this season has produced the top three "Most Rushing Attempts" games in the Spurrier Era. The Gamecocks rushed 45 times last week against UAB, the most since Coach Spurrier took over the program. The previous high was 42 rushes, set twice previously this season - vs. NC State in the season opener and against Wofford.
The Gamecocks put up 24 first downs against UAB after rolling up a season-high 30 first downs against Wofford. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in first downs this season, totaling 112 through the first five games, an average of 22.4 first downs per game. That average ties for the 26th highest total in the nation. The total has been inflated by their opponents' mistakes as the Gamecocks have accumulated 15 first downs by penalty, nearly double the next SEC teams (Alabama and Florida with eight each). The 15 first downs by penalty ties Washington for the most in Division I football this season.
Nine Gamecocks have made their first collegiate start this season. Redshirt junior quarterback Tommy Beecher and sophomore fullback Patrick DiMarco, made their first start in the season-opening win over NC State. Sophomore left tackle Jarriel King earned his first collegiate start at Vanderbilt. Sophomore wide receiver Joe Hills made his first collegiate start against Georgia. Sophomore tight end Weslye Saunders and sophomore offensive guard Terrence Campbell each made his first collegiate start against Wofford. Sophomore tailback Brian Maddox, sophomore defensive end Clifton Geathers and senior tight end Larry Freeman made their first career starts against UAB.
The scoreboard has been pretty much silent in the first quarter of games this season. South Carolina has tallied just 17 first quarter points - a touchdown pass at Vanderbilt and a field goal and a touchdown pass versus UAB, while the Gamecock defense has surrendered just three first quarter points - a field goal by UAB - through the first five games. Oddly, in 2007, the first quarter was the highest scoring quarter for both South Carolina (100 points) and for its opponents (95 points).
While the offense has started 23 players in the first five games, the Carolina defense has used just 12 different starters. The only defensive regular to not start all five games is Jordin Lindsey, who sat out the UAB game after violating the class attendance policy. The starting defense is composed of three seniors (Jordin Lindsey, Jasper Brinkley and Stoney Woodson), five juniors (Nathan Pepper, Eric Norwood, Darian Stewart, Emanuel Cook and Captain Munnerlyn), and thee sophomores (Ladi Ajiboye, Cliff Matthews and Chris Culliver).
Senior Larry Freeman was a wide receiver last season, moved to linebacker at the start of fall drills and was recently moved to tight end, where he is now listed on the second team. Freshman C.C. Whitlock was moved from wide receiver to cornerback after the Wofford game. At that same time, junior Chris HaIL made the transition from safety to wide receiver and freshman Akeem Auguste moved from cornerback to safety. Hail actually began his USC career as a wide receiver in the 2006 season and caught three passes for 16 yards.
THE REST OF THE STORY
While the Gamecocks are one of the nation's worst in turnover margin, ranking 11th in the SEC and 109th in the country at -1.40 per game, the defense has minimized the damage. Carolina has surrendered just 13 points following their 15 turnovers, while they have put up 27 points following their eight takeaways.
WINNING MORE OFTEN
The Gamecocks have posted four consecutive seasons of at least a .500 record, going 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006 and 6-6 in 2007. It's the first time they have accomplished that feat since 1987-90 (8-4, 8-4, 6-4-1, 6-5). The last time they went five or more consecutive seasons with a .500 record or better was from 1928-34.
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 four overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.
The Gamecocks remain on the road in the Southeastern Conference next Saturday when they travel to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series, 12-6-1, including a 7-3 advantage in Lexington. Head coach Steve Spurrier is a perfect 15-0 all-time against the Wildcats. The game will be televised by Raycom with kick set for 12:30 p.m. ET.
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