12:30 PM ET, November 18, 2006
Williams-Brice Stadium, COLUMBIA, SC
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Blake Mitchell passed for a career-high 388 yards and four touchdowns and South Carolina became bowl-eligible for the second straight year under Steve Spurrier with a 52-7 victory over Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
Should the Gamecocks (6-5) get a bowl bid -- nine Southeastern Conference teams have at least six victories -- Spurrier would be the first South Carolina coach to play in the postseason in each of his first two years.
Mitchell continued his strong play since regaining his starting spot a week ago as the Gamecocks broke a three-game losing streak.
The starter coming into the year, Mitchell was benched in favor of Syvelle Newton after South Carolina was shutout by Georgia, 18-0, on Sept. 9. Mitchell sat patiently on the sidelines and got a second chance when Spurrier put him in for the second half against Arkansas and he nearly rallied the team from a 17-point deficit before losing 26-20. Against Florida last week, Mitchell put up 275 yards passing in a 17-16 loss.
Against the Blue Raiders (7-4), Mitchell looked as sharp as he has ever been.
His 15-yard TD pass to Andy Boyd put South Carolina ahead for good, 14-7. Then Mitchell connected with his favorite target, Sidney Rice, on scoring throws of 37 and 27 yards that put the Gamecocks up 28-7 at halftime.
Mitchell's final touchdown pass was a 19-yard toss to Cory Boyd in the third quarter.
Mitchell, who finished 21-of-28, came out of the game in the final period. His 388-yard performance surpassed his previous career best of 330 yards against UCF to start the 2005 season.
South Carolina put up its most points since a 52-14 win against Vanderbilt in 1995.
The victory ended South Carolina's three-game losing streak, which tied the second-longest of Spurrier's career and came against SEC powers No. 22 Tennessee (31-24), No. 5 Arkansas and No. 3 Florida.
Middle Tennessee entered with a four-game win streak and motivation for a good showing. Coach Rick Stockstill was Spurrier's recruiting coordinator a year ago.
Mitchell drove the Gamecocks 85 yards the next time they got the ball, and Cory Boyd's 4-yard scoring run tied things at 7-all.
Boyd was key to South Carolina's next TD drive, too. He broke at least five tackles on a 52-yard pass from Mitchell before Andy Boyd's touchdown catch two plays later.
The Blue Raiders big game comes next week when they take on Troy. A win would give them the Sun Belt Conference championship and a berth in the New Orleans Bowl.
The Blue Raiders managed just 200 yards of offense while allowing 545.
Spurrier has said that reaching a second-straight bowl game would be a good goal for his building program. Former South Carolina coach Sparky Woods was bowl eligible his first two years, going 6-4-1 in 1989 and 6-5 in 1990. But the team did not play in a bowl either year.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-12||7-9|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-1|
|TD||14:30||DESMOND GEE 73 YD PASS FROM CLINT MARKS (COLBY SMITH KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||4:02||CORY BOYD 4 YD RUN (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 85 yards.
|TD||0:12||ANDY BOYD 15 YD PASS FROM BLAKE MITCHELL (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||8:56||SIDNEY RICE 37 YD PASS FROM BLAKE MITCHELL (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 51 yards.
|TD||3:46||SIDNEY RICE 27 YD PASS FROM BLAKE MITCHELL (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 56 yards.
|FG||10:17||RYAN SUCCOP 28 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 54 yards.
|TD||4:35||CORY BOYD 19 YD PASS FROM BLAKE MITCHELL (RYAN SUCCOP KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 49 yards.
|TD||9:08||MIKE WEST 3 YD PASS FROM TOMMY BEECHER (JORDAN DODDS KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 72 yards.
|TD||4:42||BOBBY WALLACE 88 YD RUN (THOMAS HOOPER KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 88 yards.