STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Without the high-powered offense he's
used to, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier resorted to trickery
to earn his 150th career victory.
Wide receiver Syvelle Newton threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to
Cory Boyd after a lateral from quarterback Blake Mitchell early in
the fourth quarter to seal the Gamecocks' 15-0 win over Mississippi
State on Thursday night.
"I really didn't see him," Newton admitted after the game. "I
caught the ball (and) I know what spot he was supposed to be in."
Spurrier, whose Fun-n-Gun offense helped Florida rule the
Southeastern Conference for most of the 1990s, relied on his kicker
to build a 6-0 lead in a lethargic performance that opened his
second season with the Gamecocks.
Ryan Succop finished with three field goals and was the team's
leading rusher midway through the third quarter after converting a
botched punt for a first down with a 16-yard run. He also averaged
48.7 yards on six punts, pushing the ball out of deep Gamecocks'
territory several times.
"Our offense was worse than I expected," Spurrier said.
It wasn't until the Bulldogs freshman Anthony Dixon was dropped
for a yard loss on fourth-and-1 at the Gamecocks' 45 that South
Carolina showed life. The pass on the next play to Boyd, who
slipped undetected out of the backfield down the right side of the
field with 13:43 left, was South Carolina's longest play of the
game and made up for an apparent touchdown that had been overturned
by the NCAA's new instant replay rule.
The gimmick play is simply called double pass and it couldn't
have worked much better. Two receivers lined up on the left side of
the field, drawing Mississippi State's secondary. When Mitchell
tossed the ball to Newton, the linebacker assigned to cover Boyd
was nowhere to be found.
"Sure enough, they chased it," said Spurrier, who picked up
his first win in this eastern Mississippi town on his third visit.
Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom took the blame for the loss,
Mississippi State's first shutout in a season opener since 1967.
"Coach lost the game on fourth-and-1," Croom said. "It's that
Mississippi State's defense rattled South Carolina from the
opening play when linebacker Quinton Culberson picked off Mitchell
at the 26. But the Bulldogs' Adam Carlson missed a 38-yard field
goal attempt and Mississippi State never threatened to score again.
The Bulldogs' deepest foray into Gamecocks territory after the
first-quarter interception was the South Carolina 45 -- the scene of
their ill-fated fourth-and-1.
Both offenses were brutalized in the first half, earning just
four first downs apiece and having their quarterbacks knocked from
Mitchell returned after being cut on his left ankle, but
Mississippi State's Michael Henig broke his left collarbone in the
second quarter and won't be available to the team for weeks.
South Carolina was held to zero yards rushing on 14 attempts in
the first two quarters. And half of the team's 86 total yards came
on backup quarterback Chris Smelley's 42-yard pass to Kenny McKinley, which set up the Gamecocks' only first-half points --
Succop's 39-yard field goal with 12:11 remaining in the second
The Gamecocks appeared to build on their 3-0 halftime lead when
officials ruled that wide receiver Sidney Rice wrestled a
third-down pass away from two Mississippi State defenders in the
end zone for an 18-yard touchdown catch midway through the third
But Croom challenged the call under the new rule, which allows
coaches to request a replay review at the risk of losing a timeout
if the call stands.
Croom said his players lobbied for him to challenge the call.
"I challenged it because of them," Croom said. "That's how
much I trust them."
The replay showed all three players had hands on the ball before
it fell to the ground, obscured by Rice's legs. Rice scooped it up
and the official standing behind him signaled touchdown.
Succop hit a 35-yard field goal on the next play with 8:08
remaining in the third quarter and finished off the Bulldogs with a
47-yard field goal.
Croom said he saw encouraging things on the field from his
offense. But with redshirt freshman Tray Rutland now calling plays,
the team will have to capitalize on a handful of opportunities it
missed if it has any chance of beating No. 4 Auburn, due in town on
"When the plays were there, we just did not make them," Croom
said. "We've got to work on making plays."
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