for this game

Mitchell's three TDs help South Carolina crush South Carolina St

Sep 16, 2007 - 4:12 AM COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Ticker) -- Blake Mitchell started off shaky but was in cruise control at the end.

Mitchell passed for two touchdowns as No. 17 South Carolina posted a 38-3 victory over Football Championship Subdivision South Carolina State on Saturday.

Cory Boyd rushed for a career-high 132 yards and a score and defensive end Nathan Pepper returned an interception for a 20-yard TD for the Gamecocks (3-0), who are off to their best start since 2001.

South Carolina, which has also won six straight dating to last season, helped coach Steve Spurrier gain his 160th career victory. Spurrier, who is 160-50-2 in 17 years as a college coach, is 17-4 in three seasons with the Gamecocks.

Mitchell completed 12-of-19 attempts for 107 yards and was intercepted three times.

He started the game by being sacked on South Carolina's first play before his first pass was intercepted by defensive back Markee Hamlin and returned 41 yards to the Gamecocks 12.

"We had a lot of bad plays but still won the game," Spurrier said.

However, the South Carolina defense stiffened and held the Bulldogs to a 37-yard field goal.

Pepper changed the score with 11:08 in the quarter when he picked off a pass by Cleveland McCoy and rumbled 20 yards into the end zone to give the Gamecocks a 7-3 lead.

"The defense played well the whole game," Spurrier said. "We forced a bunch of punts, forced some turnovers and scored on defense."

On South Carolina's next possession, Mitchell led the offense on a nine-play, 57-yard drive that ended with Ryan Succop's 40-yard field goal with 4:42 left in the first period.

The 6-3, 217-pound Mitchell took his team on a six-play 41-yard drive that ended with him hitting wide receiver Kenny McKinley from 12 yards out to make it 17-3 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Mitchell tossed a nine yard TD pass to running back Mike Davis with 4:59 left in the period to give the Gamecocks a 24-3 lead.

"We didn't get the job done in the first half," Boyd said. "We had a little miscommunication on offense. In the second half we showed we can play big man football."

Davis, who caught two passes for 11 yards, also rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries.

"(Boyd) and (Davis) ran it well," Spurrier said. "We had some good holes for them. Obviously, we do that a lot better than we throw it right now."

"Cory and I feed off of each other," Davis said. "That's us. It's how we play. Cory and I and the rest of our running backs can do it. We want to go in there and play hard."

Boyd broke off a 29-yard scoring run 10 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it 31-3, before Mitchell completed the scoring by tossing a six-yard score to freshman wide receiver Mark Barnes.

"We have to get a lot better," Mitchell said. "The young receivers did a good job. Barnes made a nice catch to help me. The receivers are doing a good job, we just have to get the ball to them."

McCoy went 9-of-18 for 65 yards and three interceptions for the Bulldogs (1-2), who are 0-2 all-time vs. schools from the Football Bowl Subdivision. South Carolina State lost to Air Force, 34-3, to open the season.

"The biggest problem we had maybe wasn't scoring," South Carolina State coach Oliver Pough said. "We couldn't sustain anything on offense long enough to let our defense come to the sideline to rest some when they came off the field."