NC State Falls to South Carolina in Season Opener
Aug. 28, 2008
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -South Carolina overcame four interceptions by first-time starter Tommy Beecher to give Steve Spurrier his 16th-straight opening game victory, 34-0 over NC State on Thursday night.
Mike Davis and Taylor Rank had rushing touchdowns, and Dion LeCorn and Jared Cook caught TD passes from backup Chris Smelley to lift the Gamecocks and keep alive Spurrier's first-week streak which began in 1990 at Florida.
The Wolfpack, shutout 37-0 by Maryland to end last season, were held scoreless in consecutive games for the first time since 1956.
For Spurrier, it was also the first taste of victory since last October when a 21-15 win at North Carolina pushed the Gamecocks to 6-1 and had him cocky about bigger things ahead.
Instead, South Carolina collapsed with five-straight defeats, the longest stretch of Spurrier's stellar career.
And for three quarters, this had to be torture for South Carolina's head ball coach, famed for his quick trigger on bad quarterbacks.
Beecher was given the job by Spurrier in April despite throwing three interceptions in South Carolina's closing spring scrimmage. Ever since, Spurrier has stood solidly in Beecher's corner repeating the junior would have a chance to go the distance for the Gamecocks this season.
Beecher looked shaky from the start. He was intercepted by Jimmaul Simmons less than three minutes in, then took the first of his five sacks to end South Carolina's next series.
Beecher was picked off twice more before the half. Spurrier finally showed his trademark fire, tossing his visor, headset and game notes after Beecher's third interception sailed over receiver Moe Brown and into the hands of Justin Byers.
Maybe he bit his tongue, or repeated a calming mantra, but Spurrier continued to send Beecher back out in spite of the mistakes.
Beecher finally left in the final quarter, with the Gamecocks citing a head injury.
Beecher finished 12 of 22 for 106 yards. He was two interceptions shy of the Gamecocks single-game mark, set by Glenn Morris in a 17-7 loss to Clemson in 1971.
Lucky for the Gamecocks' their defense was there to clean up the mess.
The group, headed by new coordinator Ellis Johnson, bottled up the Wolfpack throughout. NC State had just 117 yards and eight first downs through three quarters.
The closest the Wolfpack came to scoring was Josh Czajkowski missing a 49-yard field goal attempt.
South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood recovered a botched shotgun snap at the Wolfpack 9 right before halftime that led to Ryan Succop's 29-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Then on the Wolfpack's second play after halftime, Carlos Thomas stepped in front of a Daniel Evans pass for an interception at the North Carolina State 9. Four plays later, Davis lept into the end zone.
Succop added a 46-yarder at the end of the third quarter.
That was more than enough points to hold off the Wolfpack.
Smelley made a push to regain the starting job he had for six games last season, leading three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. His 5-of-5 performance included sharp scoring throws of 20 yards to LeCorn and 13 yards to Cook.
Davis finished with 101 yards, the senior's fourth career game of at least 100.
The game's most frightening moment came when Wolfpack freshman Russell Wilson, starting his first game, was carted off the field. Wilson was motionless as he was strapped to backboard and rolled onto a cart. He extended his thumbs upward to acknowledge the cheers of the players and fans at Williams-Brice Stadium.
North Carolina State officials announced Wilson had a grade-three concussion and was doing well after going to the hospital. He was scheduled for more tests.