Gamecocks Host Arkansas Saturday Afternoon

Nov. 7, 2008

South Carolina vs. Arkansas  |  1 p.m.
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It's Senior Day and Homecoming as the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-3, 3-3 SEC) host the Arkansas Razorbacks (4-5, 1-4 SEC) in a Southeastern Conference matchup on Saturday, Nov. 8. Game time is set for 1 p.m. ET at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Carolina has won five of its last six games, including a 27-6 victory over Tennessee last Saturday. Two of the Gamecocks' three losses this season have been seven-point setbacks to two of the nation's premier teams in Georgia and LSU. Arkansas has split its last four contests evenly after a rugged stretch in which the Razorbacks lost to Alabama, Texas and Florida on consecutive Saturdays. The Razorbacks last two wins have come over ranked opponents - No. 20 Auburn and No. 19 Tulsa.


This is the 17th meeting between South Carolina and Arkansas. The Razorbacks lead the all-time series, 10-6, but the teams have split eight games in Columbia evenly. The teams have met every year since 1992 when they both joined the Southeastern Conference. The Razorbacks have won the last two games in the series, posting a 26-20 win in Columbia in 2006, then outscoring the Gamecocks,48-36, in a shootout last year in Fayetteville. Three of the last four games have been decided by six points or less.


The Gamecocks had no answer for the running back tandem of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in a 48-36 Razorback win in Fayetteville on Nov. 3, 2007. McFadden rushed for an SEC-record-tying 321 yards on 34 carries, while Jones added 165 yards and three touchdowns on 13 rushes. The Gamecocks dug themselves an early deficit but fought back in the second half to make things interesting. Blake Mitchell, making his first start in several weeks, completed 27-of-51 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, as the Gamecocks put up a season-best 26 second-half points.


The Gamecocks could not stop the one-two punch of Darren McFadden (a career-high 219 yards rushing) and Marcus Monk (192 yards receiving) and 12th-ranked Arkansas held off a late Carolina rally for a 26-20 victory in Columbia on Nov. 4, 2006. The Gamecocks trailed 26-6 midway through the third quarter before junior quarterback Blake Mitchell came off the bench to lead Carolina to 92 and a 99-yard scoring drives. Mitchell completed 15-of-21 passes in the second half for 213 yards and a pair of scores but, with a chance to take the lead late in the game, threw an interception and the Razorbacks were able to run out the clock. The Gamecocks threw the ball 40 times for 289 yards, but surrendered 495 yards.


South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier owns a 4-2 career record against Arkansas, winning two of three in Fayetteville (wins by scores of 42-7 in 1996 and 14-10 in 2005 before a 48-36 loss in 2007), once in Gainesville (56-7 in 1997) and once at a neutral site (34-3 in Atlanta in the 1995 SEC Championship Game). He is 0-1 in Columbia, a 26-20 setback in 2006. Two of his Florida teams (1996 and 1997) were ranked No. 1 in the country and his 1995 squad was ranked second in the nation when it defeated the Hogs.


The Gamecocks soundly defeated Tennessee by a 27-6 score last Saturday night in Columbia. It was the Gamecocks first win at home over the Volunteers since the 1992 season. Stephen Garcia, making his second career start, completed 9-of-19 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Stoney Woodson returned an interception 68 yards for another score. Ryan Succop added a pair of 31-yard field goals. The Gamecock defense held Tennessee to just 11 first downs and 207 total yards, including just 34 yards on the ground in 28 rush attempts. The win made the Gamecocks bowl eligible for the fifth straight season.


* Tennessee rushed for just 34 yards, the fewest a Gamecock defense has allowed in four seasons under head coach Steve Spurrier.

* The six points allowed tied for the fourth-fewest yielded by Carolina under Coach Spurrier.

* Carolina's 44 rushing attempts, including 26 by Mike Davis, were the second-most in the Spurrier Era.

* The Gamecocks had not led Tennessee by more than eight points in any game since joining the SEC until Saturday night's contest. The Gamecocks opened up a 24-point lead in the third quarter against the Vols.


With the Gamecocks now bowl-eligible, we can look ahead just a bit. The SEC has agreements to send nine of its member institutions to postseason bowl games following the 2008 season. The winner of the SEC Championship Game will automatically participate in the Bowl Championship Series comprised of the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta Bowls. The Capital One will make its pick following the BCS selections. The Outback and Cotton Bowls are next, followed by the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Liberty and Music City Bowls will pick sixth and seventh, not in any specific order. The Independence Bowl has the eighth selection, while the Bowl will pick ninth.


The win at Kentucky gave Steve Spurrier his 100th victory as an SEC coach against SEC competition (he also has three wins against SEC teams while coaching at Duke). The win over Tennessee was No. 101. He is just the fourth coach in history to record 100 career SEC wins. Only Bear Bryant (159), John Vaught (106) and Vince Dooley (105) have won more regular-season SEC conference games. "Shug" Jordan fell just short with 98 wins, while Phillip Fulmer is sixth on the list with 96.


Head coach Steve Spurrier is 27-19 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, and has surpassed Warren Giese (25 wins from 1956-59) for the most wins by a Gamecock coach in his first four seasons on the Carolina sidelines.


The win over Tennessee was No. 27 for Steve Spurrier as the Carolina head coach. One more win will tie him with Warren Giese for seventh place on the Gamecocks' all-time list. Giese won 28 games from 1956-60, going 28-21-1 during that stretch (7-3, 5-5, 7-3, 6-4, 3-6-1).


Kenny McKinley caught seven passes at Kentucky to move into the top spot on USC's all-time receptions list, passing Sterling Sharpe's mark of 169. McKinley is also the SEC active leader in receptions with 181.


Kenny McKinley is just 26 yards away from becoming South Carolina's all-time leader in career receiving yardage. He enters the Arkansas game with 2,472 career yards, trailing only Sterling Sharpe's school record of 2,497 receiving yards.


Kenny McKinley is not only leaving his name all over the South Carolina record books, but also is moving up the charts on the SEC career statistical leaders list. McKinley leads the SEC active players with 181 career receptions. He needs seven catches to tie Vanderbilt's Boo Mitchell (188) for 10th place in the SEC's all-time list. He also leads the SEC active players with 2,472 career receiving yards. He needs 342 yards to tie Tennessee's Joey Kent (2,814) for 10th place in that category.


Senior placekicker Ryan Succop is tied with Michigan State's Brett Swenson for the NCAA Division I lead in field goal attempts this season with 23. Succop is one of 10 kickers to record 15 or more field goals this year.


The Gamecocks have played just five true freshmen this season. Interestingly, all five went through the team's spring drills in 2008. The five include Antonio Allen, Akeem Auguste, Eric Baker, C.C. Whitlock and Shaq Wilson. Allen, Auguste and Baker all spent the fall of 2007 at a prep school, while Whitlock and Wilson graduated from high school early to enroll at Carolina in January.


Not surprisingly, the success rate of the Gamecock offense on third downs is usually linked to its winning and losing. In its six wins this season, the Carolina offense has been successful on 44.3 percent (39-of-88) of its third down conversions. Conversely, in its three losses, the USC offense has been successful just 33.3 percent of the time (12-for-36) in third down opportunities. For the season, the Gamecocks rank fifth in the SEC and 50th in the nation in third down conversions, hitting at a 41.1 percent clip (51-for-124). They converted just 35 percent of their third down opportunities a year ago. Defensively, the Gamecocks are allowing 32.0 percent of their opponents' third down opportunity to be successful (39-for-122), which ranks fifth in the SEC and 18th in the nation.


While the Gamecocks are one of the nation's worst in turnover margin, ranking 12th in the SEC and 99th in the country at -0.78 per game, the defense has minimized the damage. Carolina has surrendered just 27 points following its 24 turnovers, while they have scored 65 points following their 17 takeaways. Of the teams ranked below the Gamecocks in turnover margin, only Nebraska (5-4) and Pittsburgh (6-2) have winning records.


The win over Tennessee guaranteed Carolina at least a .500 regular season record and made them bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season. The Gamecocks went 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006 and 6-6 in 2007. The last time they went five or more consecutive seasons with a .500 record or better was from 1928-34.


While the offense has started 24 different players this season, the Carolina defense has used just 15 different starters. 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).


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 wrap up SEC action on Saturday, Nov. 15 when they travel to "The Swamp" to face the Florida Gators. Florida leads the all-time series, 21-3, including a perfect 11-0 mark in Gainesville. The Gamecocks almost pulled the upset two years ago, falling by a 17-16 score to the eventual national champions.



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