COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Kentucky's perfect start was spoiled by
the one ball coach who knows better than almost anyone how to
humble the Wildcats.
South Carolina defensive end Eric Norwood tied an NCAA mark with
two touchdowns on fumble returns and Steve Spurrier remained
unbeaten against No. 8 Kentucky in the 11th-ranked Gamecocks' 38-23
victory Thursday night.
This was supposed to be the Wildcats' chance to prove themselves
worthy league contenders and finally give the sharp-tongued
Spurrier some long overdue payback.
While at Florida, Spurrier beat Kentucky 73-7 in 1994, then 65-0
two years later. Even this summer, Spurrier rankled Kentucky fans
with his words: "We thought we did something big beating Clemson,
then Kentucky beat them also." The Wildcats defeated Clemson 28-20
in the Music City Bowl last December.
With both teams ranked for the first time when facing each
other, Spurrier got the best of Kentucky for the 15th time - and
now has the Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) in the
thick of the SEC Eastern Division race.
It was the poorest performance of the season for Kentucky (5-1,
1-1), which was held to half its SEC-leading average of 46.6 points
Andre Woodson, the hero of the Wildcats' surprising start, was
pressured into several errors.
He fumbled after Jonathan Williams' sack on Kentucky's first
series, and Norwood picked it up for a 2-yard TD return that put
the Gamecocks ahead 7-0. Then tied at 10-all in the second quarter,
Woodson drove Kentucky to the Gamecocks 9, but threw his second
interception of the season to end the threat.
The mistakes continued after halftime. Woodson's lateral attempt
to fullback John Conner was muffed, and this time Norwood grabbed
it and ran 53 yards for his second score and a 24-10 lead.
Norwood's touchdown returns matched an NCAA record accomplished
three times before, the last by Southern Methodist's Alvin Nnabuife
against Nevada in 2004.
Woodson finished 23 of 40 for 227 yards, but was sacked three
times. Rafael Little had his fifth 100-yard game of the year with
135 yards rushing.
None of it was enough.
The Wildcats closed to 31-23 on Woodson's 6-yard touchdown pass
to Steve Johnson with 6:59 left, but Cory Boyd's 27-yard TD catch
on South Carolina's next drive secured the Gamecocks' eighth
straight win in the series.
Freshman Chris Smelley, making his second straight start for
South Carolina, completed 17 of 30 for 256 yards and two
Not even some pregame rain could stop the festive atmosphere at
NFL coaching great - and long-ago Gamecock - Dan Reeves took
part in the opening coin flip. Several former South Carolina
players currently in the pros, like Philadelphia defensive back
Sheldon Brown and Minnesota receivers Troy Williamson and Sidney
Rice, were introduced to the crowd in the opening half.
They all saw what Spurrier has talked about since the end of
last season: he wants his guys to think like they can challenge for
an SEC title.
With this victory, that's a goal within reach. The Gamecocks,
who already knocked off SEC heavyweight Georgia last month, should
move into the top 10 for the first time since 2001.
South Carolina's next conference game comes Oct. 20 against
Vanderbilt. Then the Gamecocks travel to Tennessee and Arkansas,
before closing the league schedule at home in what could be an
Eastern Division showdown against defending national champion
Florida on Nov. 10.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)