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Smelley leads South Carolina past Mississippi State

Sep 30, 2007 - 12:15 AM COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Ticker) -- Chris Smelley gave South Carolina's offense a boost.

Smelley passed for two touchdowns and Mike Davis ran for three more as the 16th-ranked Gamecocks held off Mississippi State with a 38-21 victory in a Southeastern Conference matchup on Saturday afternoon.

Kenny McKinley caught two TDs for South Carolina (4-1, 2-1 SEC East), which rebounded from a 28-16 loss at second-ranked Louisiana State last Saturday.

But after this Saturday's win, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier already is looking forward to next week's contest vs. Kentucky.

"Kentucky obviously is one of the best offensive teams in the conference. That will be a fun game, one of the biggest we've had it in a while," Spurrier said. "We're trying to maximize this season. We'll play good players, it doesn't matter whether they are first year or fourth year. We're trying to win a championship."

After the offense stalled against the Tigers last week, Spurrier benched fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell in favor of Smelley, who relieved Mitchell last week and went 12-of-26 for 174 yards, a touchdown and a pick.

After a blocked punt gave the Gamecocks the ball at the the Bulldogs' 27-yard line, Smelley found McKinley on the next play for the go-ahead TD to make it 24-21 with 3:43 left in the third quarter.

"Eric (Norwood, who blocked the punt) is one of our best players," Spurrier said. "That's why we've got him on punt block. We've got to put our best players in to make plays. He got a game ball."

The duo also hooked up for a 20-yard score to snap a 7-7 tie on the first possession of the second quarter. McKinley had four catches for 107 yards.

"I felt good the whole time," Smelley said. "I have been practicing for weeks. I was comfortable the whole time. I don't worry, I can't think about mistakes and play quarterback."

Davis capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive with a three-yard plunge to start the scoring at the 10:22 mark of the opening quarter. The junior running back, who ran for 59 yards on 18 carries, added two fourth-quarter scores - the last one to provide the final margin.

Anthony Dixon had two touchdowns for Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2 West), which had its three-game winning streak snapped. The Bulldogs' lone loss entering Saturday's play also came against LSU.

"We missed a great opportunity," Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom said. "We didn't play with the discipline I expected us to play with. We had far too many penalties. We had a blocked punt. We didn't tackle well, all things that we work on extensively."