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October 9, 2005

Newton will become dual threat on offense

Syvelle Newton will continue to perform the dual roles of wide receiver and backup quarterback for the foreseeable future, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday during his weekly teleconference with beat reporters.

"We just felt like we needed to give Syvelle a chance to play more and possibly play quarterback if Blake (Mitchell) couldn't finish a game," Spurrier said. "We'll continue using Syvelle at flanker and at quarterback. I think he can handle both. He's got a lot of football sense. We have to figure out where we can let Syvelle help us the most."

Newton flourished in both roles against Kentucky on Saturday. He caught five passes for 63 yards and ran three times for 49 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run with 2:47 left in the fourth quarter that concluded the afternoon's scoring. He also completed the only pass he attempted.

During his freshman and sophomore seasons, Newton showed off his triple threat skills, rushing for 262 yards, catching 22 passes, and passing for 1,093 yards and six touchdowns. Spurrier was impressed with Newton's ability to shake defenders with the ball in his hands.

"Obviously, the way he ran with the ball yesterday you can see he's a natural runner. Somehow or another, he needs to run with the ball more," Spurrier said. "He can make guys miss. He's got natural instincts on where to go. So, we're just trying to figure out how to use him the best way we can."

Newton will split time between quarterback and wide receiver in practice. "He can do a little of both, I think, with no problem," Spurrier said.

Although USC cruised to victory with a 34-point second half, the contest was hotly contested well into the second half. The Gamecocks led, 17-16, until Blake Mitchell connected with Sidney Rice on an 8-yard touchdown completion with 5:35 left in the third quarter. The score jumpstarted USC's 27-0 blitz over the final 20-1/2 minutes of the game. Four consecutive turnovers by Kentucky helped USC's cause.

"The score looked like we clobbered 'em but at times that game was pretty close," Spurrier said. "It was a close game at halftime. We didn't play all that great but the guys hung in there and made a few plays here and there. Our run defense early wasn't very good but it got a little bit better in the second half."

It was far from a flawless effort, though, as Spurrier is quick to point out. One discouraging aspect of Saturday's victory was the large number of major penalties called on USC, which was flagged a total of nine times for 97 yards.

USC was penalized 15 yards on three occasions for clipping (Noah Whiteside in the first quarter, Chris White and Kris Clark in the fourth quarter), as well as for 12 men on the field and illegal substitution.

"Maybe we'll do some extra running for these guys that had some careless, late penalties," Spurrier said. "Slapping the head, clipping behind the line after the play, stuff like that. We've got to get rid of that crap. Maybe (we need to) suspend them a game or suspend them a half, there's a lot of things you can do to guys who can't play within the rules. We have to address that right now."

Also, a touchdown reception by Rice was negated by an illegal motion penalty on Michael Flint in which the senior receiver "barely flinched," noted Spurrier.

"We had some careless penalties," Spurrier said.

As a result, while USC undoubtedly took a step forward with Saturday's victory, it was not a significant one because of the penalties and other potentially costly mistakes, Spurrier said.

"I don't know if we can say it was a huge step forward", Spurrier said. "We got a bunch of turnovers, which was good, and Sidney Rice had another outstanding game. A lot of other guys played pretty well too. But other than that, we have to realize Kentucky was a hurting team. They have a lot of injuries, and they're probably going to struggle throughout this season with the rest of the conference teams. But it was good to win a game and it was good to win another one here at home. We have won three out of four here. It worked out for us. Hopefully we can learn a lot from that game."

NOTES:

-- Spurrier described rover Ko Simpson's performance on Saturday as "spectacular." Simpson, a pre-season All-SEC selection, led USC with 13 tackles, had a fumble return for a touchdown and recorded his first interception of the season.

-- Spurrier said he is still trying to get USC to play at a quicker pace.

-- Mitchell made some "really, really good throws" in the game but has to improve his decision-making, Spurrier said.

-- USC will practice on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week before the players will be able to enjoy a three-day break. The players will return to campus on Sunday afternoon for meetings to begin preparations for Vanderbilt.

-- Jamon Meredith made his first start of the season at right tackle, and Na'Shan Goddard moved inside to right guard. Both did "okay," Spurrier said. "I think the (offensive) line played fairly decent. We had some mistakes here and there like we always do. Jamon, for the first time out, I think he did okay. I'm pretty sure we'll stay with this lineup. Freddy Saint-Preux played well at guard when he was in there."

-- Spurrier lamented the lack of big runs by USC's running backs. Daccus Turman led USC with 81 yards on 18 carries. Mike Davis had just three yards on two carries. "Our running backs didn't have a lot of big runs," Spurrier said.

-- It was evident to Spurrier early in the game that Kentucky's strategy was to play conservatively on offense and keep the clock moving in order to keep its maligned defense off the field. The strategy worked for most of the first half, as the Wildcats had drives of 16 plays and 12 plays on its first two possessions. "Kentucky was purposely milking the clock down," Spurrier said. "Their quarterback would get up there and just stand there until the clock ran down to about six or seven seconds. Their plan was, 'Hey let's don't let our defense play too much if we can help out and stay out on the field. They did it very well in the first half."

-- USC will work this week on getting players into and out of the game and lining up in the proper formations, Spurrier said. Additionally, Spurrier will work with the quarterbacks on their communications with the other 10 offensive players. "Early in the season we coached it a lot better than (how) we coached it this game," Spurrier said.

-- Although Rice caught eight passes - two for touchdowns - Spurrier says USC didn't throw in his direction enough. "To tell you the truth we should have looked for him more (Saturday) than we did," Spurrier said. "We made some decisions to throw elsewhere when Sidney was the guy that we should have been throwing at. But those are things hopefully that Blake can learn and see and go from there. Spurrier named Kenny McKinley and Kris Clark as two receivers who did well.

-- Spurrier added that the secret is out on Rice and that teams will start scheming to stop him, meaning Rice will have to make adjustments to get open. "Sidney is a very good wide receiver, I think we all know that now," Spurrier said. "He's not going to sneak up on anybody now. They will probably put a couple of guys on him or play in and out on him, things of that nature. We're probably going to have to move him around a little bit and put him in motion a little bit more. He's only played five games so let's let him earn his way here. But he certainly has a bright future as a wide receiver."

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