Sept. 29, 2007
By PETE IACOBELLI, AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Freshman Chris Smelley threw for a career-best 279 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 16 South Carolina to a 38-21 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday.
Smelley was given the starting job by coach Steve Spurrier before the Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) left the locker room at LSU's Death Valley last week after a 28-16 loss.
And Smelley's play made Spurrier look like a genius -- again.
Smelley, who replaced fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell, connected with receiver Kenny McKinley on touchdown passes of 20 and 27 yards, the latter which put South Carolina ahead for good, 24-21, with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
The Gamecocks' defense also looked strong without its best player in injured middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley, who damaged a knee ligament in last week's LSU defeat, had season-ending surgery this past Wednesday.
The Gamecocks gave up only 45 rushing by halftime in stopping Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2), which came to Williams-Brice Stadium with a three-game winning streak.
Mike Davis added two of his three rushing touchdowns (3, 2 and 12 yards) for South Carolina in the final quarter.
The Bulldogs looked like they had taken the game over in the third quarter. Anthony Dixon's second TD run from 2 yards out put Mississippi State ahead 21-17. Then its defense held, forcing the Gamecocks into a missed 50-yard field goal try.
However, South Carolina defensive lineman Eric Norwood blocked Blake McAdams' punt.
One play later, Smelley hit McKinley with a perfect throw and the junior wideout spun out of a tackle and into the end zone for the go-ahead score.
McKinley finished with four catches for 107 yards, his second game over 100 yards receiving this season.
Smelley was 19 of 37 with an interception. His previous high in yardage came last week with 174 yards in relief of Mitchell.
Dixon led the Bulldogs with 83 yards and his two rushing scores. Mississippi State didn't do much through the air against the Gamecocks with 118 yards.
Quarterback Josh Riddell was 9 of 21 for 101 yards and an interception.
South Carolina figured to be tested on defense with standout linebacker Jasper Brinkley in a wheelchair after season-ending surgery on his knee.
Things seemed worse for the Gamecocks once the game began as leading rusher Cory Boyd grabbed his right knee after the first play and rolled around on the ground in pain. But after icing down the knee, and talking with coach Spurrier, Boyd returned to action later in the period.
He also figured in on one of Spurrier's tricks right before halftime that put South Carolina out front.
Boyd took a flip from tight end Jared Cook after a completion from Smelley for 16 yards on third-and-20. On the next play, Ryan Succop hit a 45-yard field, his sixth straight this season, to send the Gamecocks into the break with the lead.
Boyd ended with 58 yards on 11 attempts. Davis went for 59 yards on 18 carries.
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