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Gamecocks-Wofford: The Post and Courier
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Terriers test Gamecocks

Woeful South Carolina survives visit from Wofford

Published on 09/21/08
The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — There was a funny aroma wafting over Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday night, and it seemed to be emanating from the South Carolina Gamecocks.

They absolutely reeked of desperation.

South Carolina had to fight for its life to escape from the Wofford Terriers, eventually holding on for a 23-13 victory.

"We knew Wofford would give us

all we could handle and more and

certainly they did," said USC coach Steve Spurrier. "It was interesting that our offense never punted, but it was a struggle."

How close were the Gamecocks to losing to the Terriers?

Very close.

Leading 16-13, South Carolina chose to go for it on fourth and one at its own 39-yard line with 6:17 to play.

A quarterback sneak by Chris Smelley got the Gamecocks the first down.

"I did something I've never done," Spurrier said. "I said, 'Ask Ellis what he wants us to do.' "

Ellis Johnson, South Carolina's defensive coordinator, told Spurrier to go for it.

South Carolina went on to put the game away, finishing off a 75-yard drive that took 5:52 off the clock and culminated in Smelley's 17-yard touchdown pass to Dion LeCorn.

The score came with 1:58 to play.

"I thought our chances of making one yard were better than punting and getting them three and out," Spurrier said. "Fortunately we stuck it up in there and made it."

Smelley said he had confidence in the call.

"We knew we could make it," he said. "We wanted to stay out there and go for it. I guess it was a pretty big play in the game as it turned out."

South Carolina (2-2) struggled on both offense and defense all night against Wofford (2-1).

The Terriers finished with 285 yards in total offense, including 185 rushing.

The Gamecocks finished with 376 yards in total offense, including 172 rushing.

Smelley completed 23 of 33 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown, but also threw two interceptions and had a fumble.

Most of his success came in the short passing game.

"I went out there and played as hard as I could," Smelley said. "I tried to put the team in position to win a game, which was the overall goal. Did we play as well as we'd like to? No. But we won."

Spurrier said he may go with redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia at quarterback next week.

"Right now we can't score a lot of points against the air out there," Spurrier said. "Somehow or another we've got to find a way to score some touchdowns."

It was the second time in three seasons Wofford almost upset the Gamecocks.

The Terriers lost 27-20 in 2006, and Saturday night came dangerously close once again to pulling off the biggest upset in school history.

Ryan Succop's third field goal of the game, this one from 19 yards out, had the Gamecocks clinging to a 16-10 lead with 14:49 to play, but Wofford countered with a 36-yard field goal by Patrick Mugan with 7:50 to play to cut the lead to 16-13.

In the third quarter, Succop connected from 38 yards out. Both field goals were greeted by a smattering of boos from the crowd of 76,599, frustrated over the Gamecocks' inability to finish drives and put the Terriers away.

"That was OK," Spurrier said of the boos. "I was all right with it."

Trailing 10-7 at the half, the Terriers had tied the game on their opening possession of the third quarter, driving for a 25-yard field goal by Patrick Mugan.

Thanks to a 7-yard touchdown run by Brian Maddox with 8:10 to play in the half, the Gamecocks had a rather tenuous 10-7 lead at halftime.

And while the Gamecocks' defense only allowed one score, South Carolina's confusion against Wofford's triple option was evident from the outset.

The Terriers controlled the ball for 16 plays and ate 7:38 off the clock on their first possession, but Mugan missed a 37-yard field goal.

South Carolina countered with a long drive of its own and drove 75 yards in 18 plays, but had to settle for Succop's 22-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The lead didn't last long.

Quarterback Ben Widmyer scored on a 50-yard run, the longest of his career, on Wofford's next position to put the Terriers ahead 7-3 with 10:50 to play in the second quarter.

"We had our chances, but I'm proud of our kids," said Wofford coach Mike Ayers. "I think we're a better football team coming out of this game than we were going in."

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