College Sports

Marketing campaign may ruffle feathers

COLUMBIA -- The new marketing campaign South Carolina has produced is liable to ruffle a few feathers, or at least one victim's in particular.

The USC athletic department has begun a new Web site, LetsShowCorso.com, specifically targeting ESPN analyst Lee Corso and his comments of three years ago. When Steve Spurrier was first hired, Corso infamously said Spurrier would never challenge for the SEC title with the Gamecocks because he couldn't beat Tennessee, Florida or Clemson and couldn't recruit with USC's facilities.

The video, which was also played on the stadium video board 15 minutes before kickoff, featured Corso's comments intercut with footage from USC's most recent wins over Tennessee, Florida and Clemson. The video also directed fans to the Web site, where they can log on and play a video game of themselves throwing a football at a running Corso.

Corso's appearance on the video board was loudly booed by the crowd.

Athletics director Eric Hyman said Corso was aware of the video, although he had not yet seen it, and the process of putting it together had been given permission by ESPN. He said the campaign was the first chapter of a season-long process designed to encourage fans to get behind the Gamecocks as they challenge for SEC and national titles.

"We're trying to build a winning program, and we have to build a foundation," Hyman said. "We want to achieve what Gamecock nation wants us to achieve."

Hyman also mentioned USC's new battle cry would be "The Game is On" when referring to the anti-Corso propaganda and should not be tied in with the "We Are Carolina" chant Spurrier is trying to popularize.

• NO THOMPSON: USC's offensive line took another hit before the game ever started.

Projected starting right guard James Thompson was not in the starting lineup, replaced by former defensive lineman Lemuel Jeanpierre. He also did not participate in pre-game warmups, although he was on the sideline in his game jersey with no pads.

"James got suspended, university policy, again," Spurrier said. "He's out for a few games, it appears. I think he's going to be out three."

It's the second straight season the senior from Sumter has missed the first few games due to suspension. A highly regarded prospect who committed to former coach Lou Holtz, Thompson was projected to start last year after he played sparingly during his first two years.

He was suspended for the first four games a day before last year's season-opener for a violation of team rules. It turned out to be theft from a teammate, when he admitted he took money from former player Stanley Doughty. Thompson didn't confess until Spurrier threatened to administer lie detector tests to the entire team.

Thompson returned to the team for last season's game against Auburn but was mostly a substitute for the rest of the year.

• NEW LOOK: Williams-Brice Stadium got a facelift before the game, the four ramps to the upper decks each adorned with a USC logo and a new awning above the entrance to the locker room.

A new banner stretches across the southwest corner of the stadium, covering where the Gamecocks run out to start the game. It reads "Protect This House" beneath the Under Armour logo.

The field also featured two of the SEC's 75th anniversary logos painted on each 35-yard line.

• HANDY ANDY: Tight end Andy Boyd, beginning his sixth season with the Gamecocks, immediately made his presence felt. He hauled in a 33-yard catch over the middle from Chris Smelley on the game's second play and hooked up with Smelley again at the end of the drive, catching a 2-yard fade for a touchdown.

Boyd's career stats were updated to six career catches, four for touchdowns.

• WARMING UP?: An hour before the game, a peek through binoculars revealed suspended starting quarterback Blake Mitchell throwing the ball around.

Mitchell was nowhere to be found when the starting lineup was introduced on the video board, which featured a rousing ovation for Smelley.

• BAD SIGN: Linebacker Jasper Brinkley, the Gamecocks' top returning tackler from 2006, was injured on the game's first series, although he returned. The prognosis was a sprained ankle, the same injury that kept him out of the last week of preseason camp.

Without Brinkley, USC immediately gave up an 80-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by several spinning runs through broken tackles. He came back but Louisiana-Lafayette kept chewing up the yards, tying the score at 14-all midway through the second quarter.

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