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Kentucky at South Carolina

No. 11 Gamecocks capitalize on Woodson's turnovers, upend No. 8 Wildcats

CBSSports.com wire reports
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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier spoiled Kentucky's perfect start and found himself right where he loves to be -- in the thick of the Southeastern Conference race.

"Our guys are starting to believe the ball can keep bouncing our way," Spurrier said.

It certainly did Thursday night in the 11th-ranked Gamecocks' 38-23 victory against previously unbeaten No. 8 Kentucky.

Defensive end Eric Norwood tied an NCAA record with two touchdown returns and Spurrier stayed unbeaten against the Wildcats (5-1, 1-1 SEC).

While Spurrier was excited with South Carolina's eighth consecutive victory against Kentucky, he brushed aside talk of what could be ahead in the SEC race during the season's second half.

"It's way too early for that," Spurrier cautioned.

Not true, coach, not with the Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1) poised for the top 10 and the lead in the SEC Eastern Division.

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 beat 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.

"It's extremely disappointing to be in a position to go two-and-oh in the league and now we're way back in the pack," Brooks said.

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 a game.

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 with the teams tied at 10 in the second quarter, Woodson drove Kentucky to the 9, but suffered his second interception of the season.

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.

Norwood blocked a punt that changed the momentum in South Carolina's 38-21 victory against Mississippi State last Saturday. His play is even more critical since the Gamecocks have lost defensive starters in linebacker Jasper Brinkley and lineman Nathan Pepper since Sept. 15.

"I knew it was time to step up," Norwood said. "When they went down, I think it was pretty evident that I had to do it along with the other guys on defense."

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 consecutive victory in the series.

"We definitely made a lot of mistake, especially me personally," Woodson said. "It's something we haven't been doing all year."

Freshman Chris Smelley, making his second successive start for South Carolina, completed 17 of 30 for 256 yards and two touchdowns.

Not even some pregame rain could stop the festive atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium.

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.

Kentucky's Brooks isn't ready to give up on his team's rise. The Wildcats had hoped to go 6-0 for the first time since Bear Bryant's eventual SEC champs started 10-0 in 1950.

Now that that's over, Brooks is ready for his team to get back to work.

"I still believe we're a very, very good football team," the coach said.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Jonathan Williams forces Andre' Woodson to fumble in the first quarter ...
 
Jonathan Williams forces Andre' Woodson to fumble in the first quarter ... (AP)
 

 

Latest Video

September 13, 2014
Georgia vs South Carolina recap (3:36)
1 September 13, 2014
Spurrier on win over Georgia
(0:46)
2 September 13, 2014
Georgia at South Carolina highlights
(3:07)
3 September 13, 2014
South Carolina scores another TD
(0:42)
 
Scoring Summary
SCERIC NORWOOD 2 YD FUMBLE RETURN (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)
KYLONES SEIBER 27 YD FG
SCRYAN SUCCOP 29 YD FG
KYJACOB TAMME 18 YD PASS FROM ANDRE' WOODSON (LONES SEIBER KICK)
SCMIKE DAVIS 3 YD RUN (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)
SCERIC NORWOOD 53 YD FUMBLE RETURN (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)
KYLONES SEIBER 41 YD FG
KYLONES SEIBER 23 YD FG
SCPATRICK DIMARCO 7 YD PASS FROM CHRIS SMELLEY (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)
KYSTEVE JOHNSON 6 YD PASS FROM ANDRE' WOODSON (LONES SEIBER KICK)
SCCORY BOYD 27 YD PASS FROM CHRIS SMELLEY (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)
 
Team Stats
 KYSC
First Downs2618
Third Down Efficiency3-116-13
Fourth Down Efficiency1-20-0
Plays-Net Yards78-38466-342
Rushes-Yds38-15736-86
Passing Yds227256
Kick Return Yds17197
Punt Return Yds70
Passes23-40-117-30-0
Punts3-1396-252
Fumbles-Lost5-31-1
Penalties-Yds5-496-44
Time of Poss.30:329:57
 
Individual Stats
RUSHING
KY: Rafael Little 25-135, Tony Dixon 7-49, Derrick Locke 2-22, Andre' Woodson 4--49
SC: Mike Davis 17-62, Cory Boyd 14-57, Chris Smelley 5--33
PASSING
KY: Andre' Woodson 23-40-227-1
SC: Chris Smelley 17-30-256-0
RECEIVING
KY: Keenan Burton 7-76, Steve Johnson 4-38, Dicky Lyons 3-31, Tony Dixon 3-24, Rafael Little 3-23, Jacob Tamme 2-35, John Conner 1-0
SC: Kenny McKinley 5-68, Cory Boyd 3-47, Jared Cook 2-36, Freddie Brown 2-26, Mike Davis 2--2, Weslye Saunders 1-50, Dion Lecorn 1-24, Patrick DiMarco 1-7