No. 11 South Carolina Cruises By No. 8 Kentucky 38-23|
Oct. 4, 2007
Kentucky's perfect start was spoiled by the one ball coach who knows better than almost anyone how to humble the Wildcats. South Carolina defensive end Eric Norwood tied an NCAA mark with two touchdown returns and Steve Spurrier improved to 15-0 all-time against No. 8 Kentucky (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) in the 11th-ranked Gamecocks' 38-23 victory Thursday night.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Kentucky's perfect start was spoiled by the one ball coach who knows better than almost anyone how to humble the Wildcats.
South Carolina defensive end Eric Norwood tied an NCAA mark with two touchdowns on fumble returns and Steve Spurrier remained unbeaten against No. 8 Kentucky in the 11th-ranked Gamecocks' 38-23 victory Thursday night.
While at Florida, Spurrier beat Kentucky 73-7 in 1994, then 65-0 two years later. Even this summer, Spurrier rankled Kentucky fans with his words: "We thought we did something big beating Clemson, then Kentucky beat them also." The Wildcats defeated Clemson 28-20 in the Music City Bowl last December.
With both teams ranked for the first time when facing each other, Spurrier got the best of Kentucky for the 15th time - and now has the Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) in the thick of the SEC Eastern Division race.
It was the poorest performance of the season for Kentucky (5-1, 1-1), which was held to half its SEC-leading average of 46.6 points a game.
Andre Woodson, the hero of the Wildcats' surprising start, was pressured into several errors.
He fumbled after Jonathan Williams' sack on Kentucky's first series, and Norwood picked it up for a 2-yard TD return that put the Gamecocks ahead 7-0. Then tied at 10-all in the second quarter, Woodson drove Kentucky to the Gamecocks 9, but threw his second interception of the season to end the threat.
The mistakes continued after halftime. Woodson's lateral attempt to fullback John Conner was muffed, and this time Norwood grabbed it and ran 53 yards for his second score and a 24-10 lead.
Norwood's touchdown returns matched an NCAA record accomplished three times before, the last by Southern Methodist's Alvin Nnabuife against Nevada in 2004.
Woodson finished 23 of 40 for 227 yards, but was sacked three times. Rafael Little had his fifth 100-yard game of the year with 135 yards rushing.
None of it was enough.
The Wildcats closed to 31-23 on Woodson's 6-yard touchdown pass to Steve Johnson with 6:59 left, but Cory Boyd's 27-yard TD catch on South Carolina's next drive secured the Gamecocks' eighth straight win in the series.
Freshman Chris Smelley, making his second straight start for South Carolina, completed 17 of 30 for 256 yards and two touchdowns.
Not even some pregame rain could stop the festive atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium.
NFL coaching great - and long-ago Gamecock - Dan Reeves took part in the opening coin flip. Several former South Carolina players currently in the pros, like Philadelphia defensive back Sheldon Brown and Minnesota receivers Troy Williamson and Sidney Rice, were introduced to the crowd in the opening half.
They all saw what Spurrier has talked about since the end of last season: he wants his guys to think like they can challenge for an SEC title.
With this victory, that's a goal within reach. The Gamecocks, who already knocked off SEC heavyweight Georgia last month, should move into the top 10 for the first time since 2001.
South Carolina's next conference game comes Oct. 20 against Vanderbilt. Then the Gamecocks travel to Tennessee and Arkansas, before closing the league schedule at home in what could be an Eastern Division showdown against defending national champion Florida on Nov. 10.