College Sports

Injuries force USC to re-adjust

COLUMBIA -- Steve Spurrier mentioned South Carolina may have to win with rushing and defense from now on, following a 38-3 win over S.C. State.

The defense will have to be re-adjusted.

Defensive tackle Nathan Pepper will have an MRI today to check the damage on his left knee, determining if it's a sprain or a ligament tear. If the ligament is torn and requires surgery, Pepper will miss the rest of the season.

Starting safety Brandon Isaac is also expected to miss at least one game after dislocating his shoulder. The shoulder was popped back into joint and Isaac could recover in time for Saturday's game at No. 2 LSU, but Spurrier will have to wait and see.

"I'm sure he'll be out a game or two," Spurrier said of Isaac. "It's not a season-ending thing, I don't believe."

Pepper intercepted a pass and rumbled 19 yards for the Gamecocks' first touchdown against S.C. State. He collapsed in the end zone and was dogpiled by his teammates before having to be helped up.

Spurrier said it looked like Pepper planted his foot wrong at the goal line and that's where the injury happened. It was ironic, considering Pepper's career-defining play before then.

Last year against Clemson, Pepper intercepted a pass and ran toward the goal line. He had a clear field in front of him but began to slow down, allowing Tigers tailback James Davis to catch up, strip the ball and cause it to roll out of the end zone.

Against S.C. State, Pepper didn't lag but didn't get to celebrate because of his knee.

"If you're going to get hurt, you'd rather get hurt scoring," defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. "I bet that was the first thing going through his head -- that he's not going to pull up, that he's not going to embarass himself again. We're all proud of his effort."

Pepper had five tackles and the interception for the season. USC is solid behind him with Jonathan Williams, Ladi Ajiboye and Joel Reaves.

Isaac may be more difficult to replace. A starter who was turning heads with career-best performances, Isaac was sixth on the team with 10 tackles (two for loss). He also tied for the team lead with three pass break-ups.

Isaac replaced Stoney Woodson at corner after Woodson practiced all week in place of Carlos Thomas, who was suspended for the first half against S.C. State. If Thomas returns to his corner spot, Isaac could be replaced by Woodson or Chris Hampton.

The only other injury was to offensive lineman Gurminder Thind, who sprained his ankle. Spurrier said Thind was walking with no difficulty Sunday and should be fine for Saturday.

USC should also return wide receiver Chris Hail (one-game suspension), offensive lineman James Thompson (three-game suspension) and quarterback Chris Smelley (shoulder) for the LSU game.

• GAMECOCKS GOING NATIONAL: USC's game at LSU Saturday will be broadcast by CBS (cable channel 5 in Rock Hill).

The Gamecocks, who rose to No. 12 in the country, will kick off at 3:30 p.m. against the Tigers. Each team is 3-0, 1-0 in the SEC.

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