NOTEBOOK: ALL SIGNS POINT TO NEWTON AS BACKUP QB
The first indication something was up came Thursday night during his weekly radio call-in show when USC head coach Steve Spurrier questioned the spring time decision to move Syvelle Newton – who started five games at quarterback last season - to wide receiver.
Spurrier praised Newton Thursday for his willingness to call audibles and his excellent leadership skills.
Saturday, following USC's 44-16 victory over Kentucky in which Newton ran 16 yards for a touchdown on a well-disguised keeper and caught five passes, Spurrier all but confirmed that Newton will become the new backup quarterback for the Gamecocks, replacing redshirt freshman Antonio Heffner, who struggled in his first career start at Auburn last Saturday.
When asked during the post-game press conference whether Mitchell and Newton were his two quarterbacks, Spurrier responded: "Yes, that's probably where we are right now."
For his part, Newton did not deny that he had become USC's backup quarterback, and even identified his replacement in the starting lineup.
"As I said before the season, it's not about me, it's about the team," Newton said. "That's been a problem around here for a little while. Everybody wanted to worry about what they were going to do for themselves. When coach came up to me and told me to move to quarterback and that they were going to let Carlos (Thomas) start at "Z," I didn't argue. I knew I was going to be behind Blake and that Carlos was going to start. It didn't really matter to me. Everybody can go out and make plays. If I have to take a backup role on the team and that's what coach wants me to do, that's what I'll do."
KEY PLAYER: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Sidney Rice just continues to make plays. He caught a touchdown pass for the fifth consecutive game and finished with eight receptions for 125 yards. Two of his receptions went for third-quarter touchdowns. An honorable mention goes to Rover Ko Simpson, who recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, made his first interception of the season, and led USC with 13 tackles, including nine solo, an incredible number for a defensive back.
KEY MOMENT: Rafael Little mishandled a pitch from Kentucky quarterback Andre' Woodson on the third play of the fourth quarter and the ball bounced to the turf. Ko Simpson scooped up the ball and raced 19 yards for a touchdown to give USC a 30-16 lead with 13:54 left in the game. The Wildcats were never the same.
TURNING POINT: With USC clinging to a 17-16 lead with just under six minutes left in the third quarter, Mitchell connected on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rice, who was wide open in the right corner. The score gave USC a 24-16 lead and, thanks to four consecutive UK turnovers, the Gamecocks were never threatened again.
TROUBLING TREND: USC continues to have trouble stopping the run. Kentucky had 113 yards rushing in the first half – 61 by South Carolina native Rafael Little – and 213 yards for the game. Kentucky had a 12-play drive and a 16-play drive on its first two possessions. After that, the most plays Kentucky ran in a single possession was six.
ALL-TIME SERIES: With Saturday's victory, USC now leads the all-time series over Kentucky, 10-6-1. USC has won six in a row over the Wildcats. USC is 4-3 against Kentucky at Williams-Brice Stadium since joining the SEC in 1992.
SACK ATTACK: USC had five sacks on Saturday, and now has a total of 19 this season. Five different players had one sack apiece. USC had 12 sacks all of last season.
THIRD QUARTER GOLD MINEUSC had 202 yards of offense and scored two touchdowns in the third quarter Saturday. Kentucky had outscored its opponents by a 45-14 margin in the third quarter of its first four games.
CONFUSION: Before USC had even run a play in the third quarter, it had to call a timeout when Noah Whiteside and Sidney Rice had a mix-up in the formation. Spurrier walked away from the team huddle in disgust and allowed the players to solve the miscommunication problem among themselves.
EXTRA POINT BLUESKentucky and USC combined for two missed extra points on Saturday. It was the first missed extra point for Kentucky's Taylor Begley in 92 career tries. Josh Brown missed his second extra-point of the season.
SPURRIER V. KENTUCKY: Steve Spurrier now owns a lifetime record of 13-0 against Kentucky. He will try to match that perfect mark in to weeks when USC faces Vanderbilt.
INJURY REPORT: Chris Hampton suffered a sprained right ankle on Kentucky's first series of the game and did not return. Marque Hall suffered a shoulder stinger. Running back Mike Davis has a bruised shoulder. Carlos Thomas has a sprained ankle.
SEASON AND CAREER FIRSTS: USC players registered a number of season and career firsts on Saturday:
- Sophomore linebacker Dustin Lindsey recovered the first fumble of his career.
- Orus Lambert's sack of Kentucky QB Andre Woodson was his first of the season.
- Blake Mitchell scored on a one-yard QB sneak for his first touchdown of the season.
- Sidney Rice caught two touchdown passes for the first time in his career. He tied the USC record of most consecutive games with a touchdown pass – five – held by Jermale Kelly. Rice became the first USC receiver to top 100 yards receiving in a game this season.
- Lance Laury recovered his first fumble of the season.
- Ko Simpson intercepted a pass for the first time this season.
- Stoney Woodson recovered a fumble for the first time in his career.
FIELD POSITION: For the first time this season, USC enjoyed an advantage in field position. The Gamecocks' average starting field position was its 37. Kentucky's average starting field position was its 31.
OFFENSVE STARTERS: QB Blake Mitchell; FB Daccus Turman; WR Sidney Rice; WR Kenny McKinley; WR Noah Whiteside; WR Carlos Thomas; LT Jabari Levey; LG Freddy Saint-Preux; C Chris White; RG Na'Shan Goddard; RT Jamon Meredith.
DEFENSIVE STARTERS: DT Chris Tucker; DT Marque Hall; DE Orus Lambert; OLB Ryan Brown; MLB Ricardo Hurley; OLB Mike West; OLD Cody Wells; ROV Ko Simpson; CB Tremaine Tyler; CB Fred Bennett; FS Chris Hampton.
Florida 35, Mississippi State 9
Ole Miss 27, The Citadel 7
Georgia 27, Tennessee 14
LSU 34, Vanderbilt 6
Arkansas 44, Louisiana-Monroe 15
OPEN DATE: Alabama, Auburn