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Bogged down in the bayou

By Joseph Person
gogamecocks.com
Published: September 23, 2007
BATON ROUGE, La. — After weathering the storm of a tropical depression that dumped intermittent showers on Tiger Stadium and the deluge of the LSU defense, South Carolina players boarded the bus Saturday under steel gray skies.

But there were a couple of silver linings in the clouds: The rain had finally stopped, and it will be another year before the Gamecocks are scheduled to face LSU again.

The second-ranked Tigers used a smothering run defense to down No. 12 USC 28-16 before 92,530 fans, many of whom donned yellow ponchos that blended into the seats at the storied stadium.

The Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) had their six-game winning streak snapped and dropped their 21st consecutive game to a top-5 team, dating to a 31-13 win at North Carolina in 1981.

LSU (4-0, 2-0) won its 16 consecutive home victory and 11th overall.

Afterward, USC coach Steve Spurrier was asked whether the Gamecocks would take any positives from the trip to the soggy Bayou.

“Our guys hung in there and kept playing, regardless of (how) it looked hopeless there for a while,” Spurrier said. “But we’re not anxious to play LSU again. Let’s put it that way.”

USC became the first team this season to hold a lead against LSU, which entered the game ranked first nationally in total defense and third in rushing defense. With defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, LSU’s All-American candidate, plugging the middle, the Tigers held the Gamecocks to 17 rushing yards on 27 carries.

It was USC’s worst rushing performance since the Gamecocks had zero yards in a 33-7 loss to LSU in 2003.

“We should have thrown more,” Spurrier said. “We couldn’t budge them up front.”

Down 21-7 at halftime, Spurrier replaced an ineffective Blake Mitchell (7-of-16 for 70 yards with one interception and two sacks) with Chris Smelley, making his first appearance since spraining his shoulder in the opening-week win against Louisiana-Lafayette.

After an interception on his second series, Smelley settled down to throw for 174 yards and lead USC to a pair of fourth-quarter scores. Spurrier said Smelley played well enough to start next week against Mississippi State.

“Smelley’s going to start. You can write that down,” Spurrier said. “We don’t need any suspense.”

But much of the post-game talk centered on a pair of fourth-down decisions — one that Spurrier went for and another he chose to kick.

With USC facing a fourth-and-1 from its 30-yard line on its first possession of the second half, Spurrier kept the offense on the field and called a running play for Cory Boyd behind the right side of the line. Linebacker Luke Sanders sliced into the backfield and hit Boyd behind the line.

Five plays later, Jacob Hester’s 9-yard touchdown run put LSU up 28-7.

Spurrier said he wanted to keep the LSU offense off the field.

“If he would’ve made it, it would have been a great call,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “But he didn’t.”

After USC drove to the LSU 5 for a first-and-goal in the fourth quarter, a Boyd run and two incompletions brought up a fourth-and-goal from the 6. This time Spurrier sent out the field goal unit. Ryan Succop’s 23-yard kick pulled USC to 28-10 with 7:44 left.

“They were flooding the end zone back there. We didn’t have a play we didn’t think we could score with,” Spurrier said. “I didn’t know what to call. Didn’t have a run. When they zone up, you usually try to run. But we couldn’t budge those guys. They were too big, too strong up front for us.”

The Gamecocks’ longest run — a 9-yard gain by receiver Kenny McKinley on an end-around — ended in a fumble.

After Mike Davis’ 1-yard plunge gave the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead, the Tigers needed a minute and 30 seconds to tie the score. It helped that LSU had a track star moving them down the field.

Tailback Trindon Holliday, a 5-foot-5, 159-pounder who blistered through the 100-meter dash in 10.02 seconds to break the school record, ripped off consecutive runs of 11 and 33 yards, the latter pulling the Tigers even at 7-all with 1:16 left in the opening quarter.

Matt Flynn’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Richard Dickson gave LSU a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

The Gamecocks looked like they would survive a pair of second-quarter turnovers with little or no damage.

Colt David missed a 42-yard field goal attempt after a Kenny McKinley fumble. After a Mitchell interception, David lined up for another field goal try from 32 yards.

Instead, Miles pulled out the type of trick play Spurrier is famous for. Taking the center snap, Flynn flipped a no-look spiral over his right shoulder to David, who raced untouched into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 1:10 left in the first half.

Spurrier could not help but smile on the visitors’ sideline.

But the smiles were harder to come by outside the USC locker room after what Boyd called “a long day.”

“We don’t take no moral victory. The best team came out here and they won the game,” Boyd added. “We put forth our best players and our best plays and the score showed at the end.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

GO GAMECOCKS!