By CHRIS TALBOTT
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Without the high-powered offense he’s used to, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier resorted to trickery Thursday night 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 Gamecock’s 15-0 win over Mississippi State.
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 sparkless performance that opened his second season with the Gamecocks.
Ryan Succop knocked in 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 50 yards on five punts.
It wasn’t until the Bulldogs failed 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.
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 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.
Both starting quarterbacks were forced out of the game by hard hits. Mitchell returned, but Mississippi State’s Michael Henig broke his left collarbone in the second quarter and won’t be available to the team for weeks.
Mississippi State put up 73 total yards in the first 30 minutes with Henig completing 2-of-8 passes for 19 yards.
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 quarter.
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 quarter.
But Mississippi State coach Sylvester 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.
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 referee 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 with 8:19 left in the game to make it 15-0.