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Mistake-prone Gamecocks cruise

Published on 09/16/07
BY CHARLES BENNETT
The Post and Courier

No. 17 South Carolina 38, S.C. State 3

COLUMBIA — Saturday night's football game between South Carolina and South Carolina State will go down in history, and that's probably where both teams would prefer to leave it.

In a less than memorable performance, 17th-ranked South Carolina endured six turnovers but managed to beat the Bulldogs of the Football Championship Subdivision, 38-3, in front of a Williams-Brice Stadium crowd of 73,095 in the first meeting between the two schools.

"Our defense played super and defensively we ran the ball pretty well," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. "Passing-wise, we struggled. We struggled mightily. We've just got to re-evaluate our passing game and figure out if we can throw or not. It was a struggle."

The expected blowout by the Gamecocks (3-0) was slow in materializing.

South Carolina led 17-3 at the half and the Gamecocks were fortunate the score wasn't closer.

But a 91-yard drive on the Gamecocks' first possession of the second half culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Blake Mitchell to Mike Davis, and Cory Boyd's 29-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter erased the last shred of doubt as to the outcome.

Mark Barnes caught a 6-yard scoring pass from Mitchell to close out the scoring.

Boyd finished with 132 yards on 11 carries, while Davis rushed for 102 yards on 16 carries.

Despite three touchdown passes, Mitchell also threw three interceptions. He finished the game 14 of 21 for 147 yards.

"I just didn't play very well," said Mitchell. "I just didn't throw it very well. I've got to stop trying to guide it and just let it go."

South Carolina rolls past S.C. State

Mitchell's play earned him a spot on the bench in the first half.

Spurrier turned to backup Tommy Beecher for three series in the first half, but Beecher fared just as poorly, throwing two interceptions.

"Whether or not we can throw the ball well is still questionable," Spurrier said. "We've got to see if we can get some guys more wide open, pass block better or make some better throws. It's one of those three areas right there."

The Gamecocks' defense was solid throughout against a South Carolina State team that never got anything going offensively.

"It was kind of like a cat playing with a mouse," said South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough. "He lets you run a little bit, then he stops you."

South Carolina State finished with 264 yards in total offense and 12 first downs.

"I'm really, really proud of our defensive team," Spurrier said. "If we're going to have a big year, our defense obviously has to keep playing extremely well and we've got to take care of the ball and hit some passes when we get our chances."

South Carolina State (1-2) came into the game hoping to make a good impression, and the Bulldogs got off to a good start, forcing five first-half turnovers to keep it close.

The Bulldogs trailed 17-3 at the half, but missed out on a critical scoring chance late in the second quarter that could have tightened the game considerably.

South Carolina State drove to the Gamecocks' 16-yard line, but fumbled the ball back to South Carolina on second and 10 with 38 seconds to play before halftime.

South Carolina State's defense was solid throughout the first half, and in fact was instrumental in setting up the Bulldogs' first score.

Defense back Markee Hamlin picked off a Mitchell pass and returned it 41 yards to the South Carolina 12-yard line.

That led to a 37-yard field goal by Aaron Haire and a 3-0 lead for the Bulldogs with 12:21 to play in the first quarter.

South Carolina's scores came on a 19-yard interception return by Nathan Pepper, a 12-yard scoring pass from Mitchell to Kenny McKinley and a 40-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.

"We had a chance to score a bunch of points tonight," Spurrier said. "We had enough chances to score about 60 points, but we couldn't do it. Give South Carolina State credit."

Reach Charles Bennett at

cbennett@postandcourier.com.

GO GAMECOCKS!