Week 2: South Carolina
Time: Saturday, Sept. 6.
Site: Brice-Williams Stadium.
2002 record: 5-7, 3-5 SEC.
2002 result: Virginia 34, South Carolina 21.
Coach: Lou Holtz (238-120-7, 31 years; 22-25, 4 years at USC).
When Virginia beat South Carolina last year, it seemed like an upset. After all, the Cavaliers were 0-2 at the time, while the Gamecocks were 1-0 and ranked No. 22. But in retrospect, it wasn’t. As the rest of the season demonstrated, Virginia was much better than expected. USC was worse. The Gamecocks crashed and burned, dropping their final five games to finish 5-7, ending the program’s rapid ascension under Lou Holtz. Even worse, they now have the fewest returning starters (9) in the SEC, so it would be hard to predict much improvement from Holtz’s crew in his fifth season in Columbia. Still, there are reasons for optimism. For one, things can’t get much worse in the injury department. South Carolina players lost 1,289 days to injuries last season, forcing Holtz to use many young players before they were ready. The Gamecocks also were turnover-prone (seven vs. Virginia), so a little more luck in those departments could go a long way. In terms of personnel, USC is largely unproven except for senior cornerbacks Deandre’ Eiland and Dunta Robinson. Junior quarterback Dondrial Pinkins, who became the starter late last season, is a 245-pounder with a strong but erratic arm. Sophomore receiver Troy Williams on is an outstanding athlete. The key to the offense may be the academic eligibility of Demetris Summers, one of the nation’s top tailback recruits. Nevertheless, when the Cavaliers face the Gamecocks on Sept. 6 at Brice-Williams Stadium, it will once again be considered an upset if the home team wins.
Offense: WR Troy Williams on, T Travelle Wharton
Defense: CB Dunta Robinson, CB Deandre’ Eiland, DE Moe Thompson
For the first time, Holtz says he is giving son Skip, the team’s offensive
coordinator, play-calling duties. Because of that, the Gamecocks are
expected to shift from a power-running scheme to a controlled passing game. … USC has a new defensive coordinator in Chris Cosh, who replaces Charlie Strong. Strong, now at Florida, used a funky 3-3-5 set, while Cosh favors a more conventional defense based on the 4-3. … Only 32 of 56 lettermen return from last year. … The last time Virginia played at South Carolina, the Gamecocks won 58-10. That was in 1987.