Ronda Templeton's Gridiron and Grits column each week puts a little lipstick on the football, and…
Gamecocks set for Halloween night showdown
• Head coach Steve Spurrier is 11-7 all-time against Tennessee, 2-2 as head coach at South Carolina.
• The Gamecocks are 1-13 all-time at Neyland Stadium with the lone victory coming in 2005, Coach Spurrier's first season at Carolina.
• A win today would give Coach Spurrier his 106th conference win as an SEC head coach, tying him with Johnny Vaught (106) for second all-time, trailing only Bear Bryant (159).
• Senior wide receiver Moe Brown is only 43 yards away from 1,000 receiving yards in his career. He would become the 22nd player at South Carolina to achieve that milestone.
• Stephen Garcia moved into 14th all-time at Carolina in passing yards with 2,606 for his career, passing Dan Reeves and Mike Fair on Saturday against Vanderbilt. Next on the list is Ron Bass (from Remember the Titans fame) at 2,933.
• Eric Norwood is tied with Derrick Harvey for eighth in SEC history in tackles for loss with 51.5. With 2.0 vs. Vanderbilt, he passed Florida's Huey Richardson (50.5) and Tennessee's Reggie White (51.0) on the all-time list.
GAMECOCKS AND VOLS
This is the 28th meeting all-time between South Carolina and Tennessee. The Volunteers hold a 21-4-2 alltime advantage, including a 13-1 edge in games played in Knoxville. Carolina won the last meeting, 27-6, in Columbia on Nov. 1, 2008. The last trip to Knoxville saw the Gamecocks drop an overtime heartbreaker, 27-24, on Oct. 27, 2007. South Carolina has only won once in Knoxville - on Oct. 29, 2005. Josh Brown hit a 45-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to give Carolina a 16-15 win in Coach Spurrier's first season at the helm.
THE HBC AND TENNESSEE
South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier owns an 11-7 career record against Tennessee, including a 5-5 mark in Knoxville. He is the only coach to take three different schools (Duke, Florida and South Carolina) into Knoxville and leave with a victory. He faced the Vols every year from 1988 to 2001, the first two with Duke (where he was 1-1) and the final 12 when he was the head coach at Florida (8-4). Tennessee is one of seven schools against which he has posted double figures in wins. He also owns double-figure career wins over Kentucky (17), Vanderbilt (15), Georgia (12), LSU (11), Auburn (10) and South Carolina (10).
MOVIN' ON UP
South Carolina is a nationally-ranked squad for the fourth straight week. After their win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, the Gamecocks moved up two spots to No. 21 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls, which were released Sunday. It's the highest ranking for South Carolina since the ninth week of the 2007 season, when the Gamecocks were rated No. 15. Coincidentally, that week's opponent - at Tennessee. The Gamecocks are 22nd in the BCS Standings.
WINNING THE CLOSE ONES
South Carolina has amassed a 4-1 mark in contests decided by a touchdown or less this season. The Gamecocks have wins over NC State (7-3), Ole Miss (16-10), Kentucky (28-26) and Vanderbilt (14-10) by six points or less. The only single-digit defeat came in a 41-37 loss at Georgia. Last season, Carolina did not have any of its 13 games decided by less than seven points, although five were by exactly seven points (2-3).
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Freshman Stephen Garcia threw two touchdown passes and South Carolina defeated Tennessee 27-6 on Nov. 1, 2008, in Columbia. Garcia passed for 139 yards and his two scoring throws before a third-quarter knee injury sent him to the sidelines. It was the Gamecocks' first win over the Vols at home in 16 years. Tennessee's offense had no solution for South Carolina's top-rated SEC defense.
Gamecocks cornerback Stoney Woodson jumped in front of a Nick Stephens' pass and took it 68 yards for a touchdown to give South Carolina, at 14-0, its largest lead ever over the Vols in 16 years in the SEC. Garcia hit Kenny McKinley on a slant pattern for another score and a 21-0 lead. The Vols could only muster two second-half field goals as the Gamecocks got their biggest win over UT since the teams' initial meeting in 1903 (a 24-0 Carolina victory).
THE LAST TIME AT NEYLAND
The 15th-ranked Gamecocks spotted Tennessee a 21-0 halftime lead, roared back to take a 24-21 lead with just over a minute remaining in regulation, but could not hold on as the Vols escaped with a 27-24 overtime victory on Oct. 27, 2007. The Gamecocks dominated the statistics, rolling up a season-high 501 yards, 31 first downs and 36:25 time of possession to Tennessee's 317 yards, 16 first downs and 23:35, but four Carolina turnovers proved to be the difference. Ryan Succop, who hit from 49-yards out with just 1:54 remaining in regulation, missed a game-tying 40-yard field goal in OT after Tennessee's Daniel Lincoln connected from 27 yards.
LAST TIME OUT: VANDY
Stephen Garcia threw two touchdown passes and No. 23 South Carolina ended Vanderbilt's two-game series win streak with a 14-10 victory last Saturday night. Garcia connected with freshman Alshon Jeffery on a 43-yard TD pass with 12:51 remaining for the winning score, capping a 99-yard drive. Earlier, freshman D.L. Moore caught a 35-yard touchdown from Garcia. The Commodores got the ball one last time with 4 minutes left and drove to South Carolina's 25. However, quarterback Larry Smith was called for intentional grounding on 3rd down, then did not get close to the necessary yardage on fourth-and-32. Ryan Fowler's 21-yard field goal in the third quarter put the Commodores ahead 10-7 and for a while, it looked like a mix of stellar defense and special teams play would keep them out front. Garcia completed 22 of 33 passes for 312 yards. Freshman tailback Kenny Miles had 102 yards rushing on 18 carries. while Jeffery finished with 161 receiving yards. GOING 100 The Gamecocks have had three 100-yard rushing games this season, all by freshmen - Kenny Miles against Kentucky (100) and Vanderbilt (102) and Jarvis Giles versus Florida Atlantic (113). Last season, Mike Davis logged the only 100-yard rushing game, going for 101 against NC State in the season opener. The Gamecocks also have had four 100-yard receiving games this season - Tori Gurley against Florida Atlantic (100), Moe Brown versus South Carolina State (100), and Alshon Jeffery against both Kentucky (138) and Vanderbilt (161).
Senior linebacker Eric Norwood was named to the firstteam Midseason All-America teams by Phil Steele, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, 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. HOLD THAT BALL The Gamecocks rank fifth in the SEC and 37th 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 eight games last season, the Gamecocks were 10th in the league and 110th in the country with a turnover margin of minus-9. Through eight games in 2008, the Gamecocks had one more takeaway with 14 but had committed 23 turnovers, 14 more than this season to date. Saturday's win over Vanderbilt was the first time all season that the Gamecocks played a contest where neither team committed a turnover.
WINNING MORE OFTEN
With the win over Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks are guaranteed at least a .500 regular-season record for the sixth straight year. Prior to this season, the Gamecocks went 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.
•The Gamecocks have posted seven straight wins at Williams-Brice Stadium, defeating Tennessee and Arkansas last season and topping Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss, South Carolina State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt to start the 2009 campaign. The last time the Gamecocks won at least seven 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.
•For the first time ever, South Carolina has defeated five straight SEC opponents at home. The streak started with a win over Tennessee on Nov. 1, 2008, followed by a win over Arkansas the next week. The streak continued in 2009 with wins over Ole Miss, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. A win over Florida on Nov. 14 would make the Gamecocks undefeated in SEC play at home during a season for the first time ever.
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 64-16 margin in the third stanza, easily their highest scoring quarter and their fewest points allowed quarter. The Gamecocks have outscored their opponents by 45 points this season, but have a 48-point edge in the third quarter.
AS A RANKED TEAM
Under Steve Spurrier, South Carolina has been a Top 25 team coming into 14 contests. The Gamecocks are 6-8 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: 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: 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. Carolina would pull out a 14-10 victory over the Commodores to move up to No. 21 before heading to Tennessee.
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. FRESH FACES 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 pulled off the feat again with 102 against Vanderbilt. He leads the team in rushing with 410 yards on the year. True freshman and Rock Hill, S.C., native Stephon Gilmore has started all eight games at cornerback and has intercepted a pass, forced a fumble and recovered another fumble. He also has a sack among his 27 tackles, and he had a 35- yard punt return against South Carolina State. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Tori Gurley is the Gamecocks' third-leading receiver. He has caught 21 passes for 318 yards in six 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. He then bested that feat with an eight-catch, 161- yard performance and the game-winning touchdown in the win over Vanderbilt. Overall, the Gamecocks list 15 freshmen on their two-deep this week.
PLAYING THE BEST
South Carolina has played 34 games in its history against teams ranked in the top-5 in the country, posting a 2-32 record in those contests. They are 1-19 at home against top-5 teams, 1-12 on the road and 0-1 at neutral sites. Carolina got its second all-time win over a top-5 team on Sept. 24, 2009, when it downed No. 4 Ole Miss, Tracking the 2009 Opponents Opponent (Date vs. Carolina) W-L Last Game Next Game at NC State (9/3) 3-4 Boston College 52, NC State 20 at Florida State (10/31) at Georgia (9/12) 4-3 Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 10 vs. Florida (10/31) Florida Atlantic (9/19) 2-4 FAU 51, La.-Lafayette 29 Middle Tennessee (10/31) Ole Miss (9/24) 5-2 Ole Miss 30, Arkansas 17 at Auburn (10/31) South Carolina State (10/3) 6-1 SCSU 21, Hampton 9 Delaware State (10/31) Kentucky (10/10) 4-3 Kentucky 36, La.-Monroe 13 Mississippi State (10/31) at Alabama (10/17) 8-0 Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 LSU (11/7) Vanderbilt (10/24) 2-6 South Carolina 14, Vanderbilt 10 Georgia Tech (10/31) at Tennessee (10/31) 3-4 Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 South Carolina (10/31) at Arkansas (11/7) 3-7 Ole Miss 30, Arkansas 17 Eastern Michigan (10/31) Florida (11/14) 7-0 Florida 29, Mississippi State 19 vs. Georgia (10/31) Clemson (11/28) 4-3 Clemson 40, Miami 37 (OT) Coastal Carolina (10/31) Opponents' Overall Record 51-37 (.580) 16-10, snapping a 23-game losing streak. Three weeks later, the Gamecocks lost at No. 2 Alabama by a 20-6 score. The lone other win was a 31-13 win at No. 3 North Carolina on October 24, 1981. This is the fourth straight year in which Carolina has played at least one top-5 team; the Gamecocks have faced then-No. 4 Ole Miss and then-No. 2 Alabama with No. 1 Florida still looming in November.
AND DEFEATING THE BEST
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 one of only two wins over a top-5 opponent in school history; the other came on Sept. 24, 2009, in a 16-10 victory over No. 4 Ole Miss. Here are the other top wins: BEST SOUTH CAROLINA WINS BY RANKINGS:
Date Opponent Rank Score
10/24/81 at North Carolina 3 31-13
09/24/09 vs Ole Miss 4 16-10
09/24/88 vs Georgia 6 23-10
10/04/07 vs Kentucky 8 38-23
11/21/87 vs Clemson 8 20-7
11/14/53 at West Virginia 8 20-14
09/09/00 vs Georgia 9 21-10
10/23/58 vs Clemson 10 26-6
09/08/07 at Georgia 11 16-12
11/10/84 vs Florida State 11 38-26
11/12/05 vs Florida 12 30-22
09/29/84 vs Georgia 12 17-10
• One "upset" that often escapes notice was a 20-20 tie with Auburn in 1932 before rankings began. The Tigers were 9-0 and a likely contender for the Rose Bowl before the Gamecocks ruined their perfect season on Dec. 3 in Birmingham. It was Auburn's final game as a member of the Southern Conference; the SEC was chartered the next year.
THE HBC LIKES BIG NUMBERS
• 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.
BY LAND OR BY AIR
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.
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.
The Gamecocks have had 16 players make their initial collegiate start this season.
• NC State: CB Akeem Auguste, CB Stephon Gilmore, SPUR Alonzo Winfield, OG T.J. Johnson, OT Quintin Richardson, WR Tori Gurley, DE Devin Taylor.
• Georgia: LB Shaq Wilson
• FAU: LB Tony Straughter, DB Antonio Allen
• S.C. State: CB C.C. Whitlock, OL Kyle Nunn and RB Kenny Miles
• Kentucky: TE Justice Cunningham, LB Josh Dickerson
• Vanderbilt: WR Stephen Flint
UNDER COACH SPURRIER
Head coach Steve Spurrier is 34-24 in his five seasons in Columbia. His 34 wins puts him sixth on the school's all-time list, one ahead of 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.
• Coach Steve Spurrier got his 105th career conference win as an SEC coach, tying for third all-time with Vince Dooley. Only John Vaught (106) and Bear Bryant (151) have more.
• The Gamecocks won their seventh straight overall game at Williams-Brice Stadium and set a school record with their fifth consecutive home win over an SEC opponent.
• Freshman D.L. Moore caught his first career touchdown pass to give Carolina a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. The 35-yard reception was also a career long.
• Alshon Jeffery caught 8 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, a career high in yardage. It was the best receiving game by a Gamecock since Sidney Rice also went for 161 against FAU on Sept. 26, 2006.
• Stephen Garcia completed 22-of-33 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns, falling one yard short of his career-high passing game.
• Alabama's Mark Ingram rushed for 246 yards, the most against a Carolina defense since Arkansas' Darren McFadden went for 321 yards on Nov. 3, 2007.
• Spencer Lanning saw his consecutive field goals made streak come to an end at 12 as he missed from 50 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter. He hit from 22 and 31 yards earlier in the game.
• Alabama was held to 92 yards through the air, marking the first time Carolina has lost this season when holding an opponent under 200 pass yards.
• Coach Steve Spurrier remained undefeated against Kentucky, never losing in 17 meetings with the ‘Cats. The win, however, was the closest call yet at two points.
• The Gamecocks have won 10 straight against Kentucky, their longest active streak against an FBS school.
• Freshman Alshon Jeffery caught 7 passes for 136 yards and 3 TDs (all career highs), becoming the first Gamecock to catch three touchdown passes in a game since Sidney Rice caught five against FAU in 2006.
• Kenny Miles ran for 100 yards to give the Gamecocks a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver (Jeffery) in the same game for the second time this season (Jarvis Giles and Tori Gurley vs. FAU).
• Chris Culliver became the school's all-time leader in kick return yardage, passing Dick Harris' total of 1,946 on his second return of the day in the first quarter.
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE
• Eric Norwood blocked a field goal - the first of his career - and had an interception in the game. It was Carolina's first blocked field goal since Jordin Lindsey blocked one against Kentucky last year (it was returned 81 yards for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn).
• Moe Brown turned in the first multi-touchdown game of his career, catching scoring passes of 9 and 40 yards. He amassed 100 receiving yards, his second career 100+ yard game.
• Reid McCollum hit Alshon Jeffrey for a 20-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, the first career scoring plays for both freshmen. Adam Yates kicked the extra point after the score, also the first of his career.
• It was the second time in school history for South Carolina to knock off a top-5 team. It was the first-ever victory over a top-5 opponent at Williams-Brice Stadium.
• The win over No. 4 Ole Miss came 21 years to the day after Carolina's previous best win by ranking at Williams-Brice Stadium. On Sept. 24, 1988, the Gamecocks knocked off No. 6 Georgia, 23-10.
• Linebacker Eric Norwood became the all-time leader in sacks at South Carolina with his 27th in the first quarter. He finished the game with 28 for his career, moving into a tie for 8th place all-time in SEC history.
• The Gamecocks' first offensive play of the third quarter was a 69-yard pass from Stephen Garcia to Moe Brown, the longest pass completion for South Carolina since Sept. 18, 2004, when Syvelle Newton hit Troy Williamson for a 74-yard gain against South Florida.
• The FAU game 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.
• 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 his career-long rush and was the longest Carolina rushing play since Mike Davis also scampered for 50 against NC State on 8/28/08.
• 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 joining the SEC in 1992.
• 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 did so on Sept. 24, 2005.
• 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.
• 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.
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).
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.
PIPELINE TO THE NFL
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)
SERVING OUR COUNTRY
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, 26, is the oldest player on the squad 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.
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.
O CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN...
Season captains were elected for the first time in the Spurrier era. Senior LB Eric Norwood and junior DE Cliff Matthews were the two defensive selections, with senior WR Moe Brown and junior FB Patrick DiMarco were picked from the offensive side of the ball.
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 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 seasonending 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.
• Senior WR Moe Brown missed the Vanderbilt game after suffering a concussion in the Gamecocks' loss at Alabama. His status is undetermined for this week's game at Tennessee.
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 67. They surpassed the mark held by the 1980s Gamecocks that rolled up 63 victories, including 10 by the 1984 "Black Magic" team.
The Gamecocks will play their final road contest of the season on Saturday, Nov. 7, as they make the long trek to Fayetteville, Ark., to face the Arkansas Razorbacks. Kickoff is set for 12:21 p.m. at Reynolds Razorback Stadium with the game to be televised on the SEC Network.
GARCIA'S THE GUY
Redshirt sophomore Stephen Garcia is without question the Gamecocks' top quarterback and has taken every significant snap this season. The 6-2, 219-pounder from Lutz, Fla. has completed 58.8 percent of his passes this season (151-for-257) for 1,794 yards with 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions. After a solid but unspectacular start in the season opener at NC State in which he completed 13-of-22 passes for 148 yards, he turned heads in Sanford Stadium and all around the SEC on Sept. 12 with his 31-for-53, 313-yard, two-touchdown performance in a heartbreaking loss to Georgia. All of those statistics were career highs. His 53 attempts equaled the second-most ever by a Carolina quarterback, and his 31 completions tied for the fourth-best day by a Gamecock signal-caller. Garcia completed 22-of-33 passes for 312 yards last week against Vanderbilt. Garcia and Arkansas' quarterback Ryan Mallett are the SEC's only two quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 300 yards in a game this season twice.
MORE ON NO. 5
Garcia has played 16 games for the Gamecocks, starting 11 over the past two seasons. He is 7-4 as a starter. He has completed 57.0 percent of his passes (216-for-379) for 2,606 yards with 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He ranks second in the SEC in total offense in 2009, accounting for an average of 236.6 yards per game. He is also third in the league in passing average yards per game at 224.2.
GAME-BY-GAME WITH GARCIA
In his first significant action at Carolina, Garcia played the bulk of three quarters against UAB on Sept. 27, 2008, and completed 13-of-20 passes for 131 yards and rushed for a game-high 86 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He came off the bench two weeks later at Kentucky to lead the Gamecocks to a come-from-behind victory while playing only one-and-a-half quarters. Garcia completed 10-of-14 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors and a start the next week against LSU. In that game, he was 14-of-26 for 215 yards and a touchdown. He got his first win as a starter two weeks after that in a 27-6 victory over Tennessee, where he completed 9-of-19 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. But all of those performances pale in comparison to his night at Georgia on Sept. 12 when he completed 31-of-53 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs. He was also the Gamecocks' leading rusher in the game with 10 carries for 42 yards. Garcia kept up his strong play against Florida Atlantic with a 20-for-27 night, the best passing percentage (.741) of his young career. He was 16-for-34 for 220 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions while playing with bruised ribs against Ole Miss. He was 13-for-19 for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win over South Carolina State. He followed that up with a career-best three touchdowns and 233 yards on 16-of-23 passing in the win over Kentucky. In the loss at No. 2 Alabama, Garcia was 20-of-46 for 214 yards with one interception, and it was only the second game all year he failed to complete at least one touchdown pass. He came back with a 22-for-33, 312-yard performance with two touchdowns in a win over Vanderbilt, one yard short of a career high. In the game winning 99-yard drive, Garcia completed three passes - 43 yards to Tori Gurley, 23 yards to Alshon Jeffery and a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery - a total of 109 yards (with a penalty in the middle).
ALSHON'S ALL RIGHT
After only catching five passes through his first five games at Carolina, true freshman Alshon Jeffery had a huge coming-out party against Kentucky. He hauled in 7 passes for 138 yards and 3 touchdowns, earned SEC Freshman of the Week accolades and becoming the first Gamecock to score 3 receiving TDs in a game since Sidney Rice hauled in 5 TD passes against FAU in 2006. It was the best game for a Carolina receiver since Kenny McKinley had 151 yards vs. Tennessee in 2007. He also led in receiving yards against Alabama with 83 in the game, including a career-long 52-yard reception in the second quarter. He put together another stellar night with eight catches for 161 yards in the win over Vanderbilt; it marked the most receiving yardage in a single game since Sidney Rice also went for 161 against Florida Atlantic in 2006. In the last three games, he has caught 19 passes for 382 yards (127.3 per game) and four touchdowns.
JUGGLING THE O-LINE
The Gamecocks, under new offensive line coach Eric Wolford, have used the same starting five along the offensive line in back-to-back games just twice this season, going with King-Campbell-Anderson-Johnson-Richardson from left to right in each of the first two games and going Nunn-King-Jeanpierre-Johnson-Eckerson in each of the last two contests. In all, nine different offensive linemen have earned at least one start. Only right guard T.J. Johnson has made every start at the same position through eight games. Two linemen have made starts at multiple positions. Lemuel Jeanpierre has started once at left guard and four times at center. Jarriel King started five of the first six games at left tackle, but shifted to left guard to start the Alabama game. Four different players have started at left guard - Terrence Campbell, Heath Batchelor, Jeanpierre and King.
GAMECOCKS IN THE NFL
A total of 22 former Carolina Gamecocks are on National Football League rosters - either on the active roster or the practice squad. Below is a list of former Gamecocks on NFL rosters:
Bengals: Jonathan Joseph
Bills: Jamon Meredith
Broncos: Andre Goodman, Kenny McKinley
Buccaneers: Rod Wilson
Chiefs: Ryan Succop
Eagles: Sheldon Brown, Stoney Woodson (practice squad)
Falcons: John Abraham
Jaguars: Troy Williamson
Jets: Emanuel Cook (practice squad)
Lions: Ko Simpson
Panthers: Captain Munnerlyn, Travelle Wharton
Saints: Jamar Nesbit
Seahawks: Lance Laury, Na'Shan Goddard (practice squad)
Texans: Fred Bennett, Dunta Robinson
Titans: Jared Cook
Vikings: Jasper Brinkley, Sidney Rice
THE STRENGTH OF THE SQUAD
Ellis Johnson took over the Gamecock defense at the start of the 2008 season, and success followed quickly. The Gamecocks had the second-ranked passing defense in the nation last season, allowing just shy of 160 yards per game through the air, and the overall defense was rated 13th in the NCAA, allowing 292.92 yards per game. Johnson is still running the show on the defensive side of the ball, but the addition of defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward only helps solidify the South Carolina defensive unit. Through eight games of 2009, the Gamecocks are 14th in the nation in total defense, allowing 288.88 yards per game, and third in passing defense at 141.25 yards per contest, despite losing two starters to season-ending injuries.
THOSE RESPONSIBLE HAVE BEEN SACKED
South Carolina's defense is among the SEC leaders with 18 sacks, an average of 2.25 per game. Only Alabama (23 sacks in 8 games), Ole Miss (21 sacks in 7 games) and Florida (20 sacks in 7 games) have more total sacks than Carolina. The Carolina D matched its high from last season with six sacks against NC State, including two by Eric Norwood, two by Cliff Matthews. The Gamecocks added two more sacks at Georgia and another two against Florida Atlantic, four more against Ole Miss, one at Alabama and three against Vanderbilt.
The Gamecocks return six of 11 starters on the defensive side of the ball. These include DT Ladi Ajiboye, FS Chris Culliver, DE Cliff Matthews, LB Eric Norwood, DT Nathan Pepper and S Darian Stewart. DE Devin Taylor and DBs Stephon Gilmore and Akeem Auguste made their first career starts at NC State, and LB Shaq Wilson made the first start of his career at Georgia. LB Tony Straughter and SPUR Antonio Allen made their first career starts against Florida Atlantic, CB C.C. Whitlock made his initial start against South Carolina State, and LB Josh Dickerson started for the first time against Kentucky.
Team captains Eric Norwood and Cliff Matthews have proven to be one of the most dynamic defensive duos in the league and around the country. Between the two they have amassed 84 tackles on the year, including a combined 11 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. Norwood and Matthews are first and third, respectively, in the SEC in sacks; Norwood and Matthews are 1-2 in tackles for loss. Matthews' 5.0 sacks this season has already surpassed his career total coming into the season.
Junior free safety Chris Culliver and senior strong safety Darian Stewart give the Gamecocks solid play in the secondary. Culliver is third on the squad with 46 tackles, including 29 over a four-game span (11 vs. Alabama; nine vs. Ole Miss; six against SC State, three against Kentucky). Stewart is fourth on the squad with 37 stops including a season-high 11 against Georgia. He also has recorded 4.0 tackles for loss.
A DEVIN(E) DEBUT - SEC DL OF THE WEEK
Redshirt freshman Devin Taylor couldn't have started his career any better. Named a starter for his first collegiate game, the defensive end from Beaufort, S.C., forced a fumble on NC State's first offensive play, leading to the Gamecocks' only touchdown of the night. He also blocked a punt later in the quarter, forced another fumble and registered six tackles on the night, including a sack and three for a loss. For his efforts, Taylor was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. Through eight games, Taylor has 19 tackles, including a sack and 4.5 for loss.
BEAMING WITH PRIDE
Shane Beamer, in his third year at South Carolina, now has his third different coaching responsibility. With the departure of Ray Rychleski to the NFL, Beamer now holds the title of special teams coordinator along with his duties as coach of the Spurs and strong safeties and recruiting coordinator. Beamer comes from a strong special teams background - his father, Frank Beamer, head coach at Virginia Tech, has long been lauded for having one of the strongest special teams units in the nation. Beamer was also named one of the country's 25 best recruiters by ESPN. Some of Frank Beamer's special teams success may be paying off, as Carolina has blocked three kicks this season - two punts and one field goal. DOUBLE DUTY Replacing "Mr. Irrelevant" Ryan Succop would not be an easy task for anyone - he finished his career second in Carolina history with 49 field goals made and fifth in field goal percentage at .710 (49 of 69). But junior Spencer Lanning is handling both the punting duties, a job which he took over last season, and the placekicking responsibilities that Succop handled over the last three years. Lanning battled with walk-on Adam Yates for the placekicking chores and took the job midway through the fall. Despite a shaky start at NC State, Lanning jumped into the field goal kicking role in a huge way, connecting on 5-of-5 field goal attempts at Georgia to tie a 19-year-old school record held by Collin Mackie. He ran his streak to 12 straight field goals made, as he hit his only attempt vs. Florida Atlantic, connected on all three attempts vs. Ole Miss, then made his only attempt vs. South Carolina State before hitting his first two at Alabama then missing on a 50-yard attempt in the fourth quarter. He is tied for fourth in the SEC with his 12 field goals and is tied for 20th in the nation. Last season, Lanning punted 48 times for 2,019 yards, an average of 42.1 yards per kick, tying for fifth in the SEC and 28th in the nation. His longest punt went for 53 yards against Arkansas, and he downed 13 kicks inside the opponent's 20. This season he ranks fourth in the SEC and 38th in the country in punting, averaging 42.3 yards per punt with a long of 56 yards.
Junior Chris Culliver broke the school record for kickoff returns on Sept. 19 vs. Florida Atlantic when his third return of the night was the 77th of his career, passing Robert Brooks who held the record since 1991. He then topped Dick Harris' 38-year-old school mark for kickoff return yards (1,946) on his second return against Kentucky on Oct. 10. In his three years at Carolina, Culliver has amassed 2,169 yards on his 90 kick returns and averaged 24.1 yards per return. His yardage total is fifth all-time in SEC history. His longest return came last season against Tennessee when he ran one back for 67 yards. This season, he has had a 61-yard return against Kentucky and a 57-yard runback against Georgia.
SOUTH CAROLINA CAREER RECORDS:
MOST KICKOFFS RETURNED
1. Chris Culliver (2007-present) 90
2. Robert Brooks (1988-91) 76
MOST KICKOFF RETURN YARDS
1. Chris Culliver (2007-present) 2,169
2. Dick Harris (1969-71) 1,946
SEC CAREER RECORDS:
MOST KICKOFF RETURN YARDS
1. Derek Pegues, Mississippi State (2005-08) 2,498
2. Brandon James, Florida (2006-09) 2,430
3. Derek Abney, Kentucky (2000-03) 2,315
4. Mark Johnson, Vanderbilt (1986-88, 90) 2,263
5. Chris Culliver (2007-present) 2,169
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