South Carolina-Ole Miss: The Sweet "Smelley" of Success

c dockensCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2008

On Thursday, coach Steve Spurrier announced that current starting quarterback Chris Smelley would remain the starter for the game against Mississippi, giving him the edge over backup Stephen Garcia.

Smelley's play so far this season has, well, stunk. Through the first five games of the season, Smelley has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions. In less than half of this season, Smelley was one interception shy of throwing as many as he did all of last year.

It became clear that the Ol' Ball Coach wasn't going to let this subpar play at quarterback continue, and no one knew this better than Chris Smelley.

Chris Smelley is arguably the most important player on the Gamecock offense. He had thrown the ball more than 30 times in three of the first five games, and two of those were losses. In the other two games Smelley threw only 14 pass attempts but completed two for touchdowns.

In the two losses Smelley threw the ball 39 times and completed 23 passes in each game: 23 for 39 is a 59 percent completion percentage. Smelley also threw for three touchdowns and three interceptions.

In games where the Gamecocks have to rely on Smelley to carry them, he has struggled.

When he took the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Chris Smelley knew his back was up against the wall. South Carolina needed to win this game to have any chance of being relevant in the SEC East come the final week of the season. The Gamecocks were 3-2, 0-2 in the SEC, and couldn't afford to start the season with three straight conference losses.

On their first drive Smelley engineered a 38-yard scoring drive, ending with a field goal. On their next possession, Smelley capped off a 71-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jason Barnes. Thanks to a fumble recovery for a touchdown, the Gamecocks would go into the half trailing by just three points.

The Gamecocks had the opening drive of the second half but were unable to capitalize on it.  The third quarter remained scoreless until there were under two minutes left, when Chris Smelley tossed another touchdown, this time from six yards, to Jason Barnes.

With a 20-14 lead and the clock winding down to about the eight-minute mark, Chris Smelley made an attempt to put the game out of reach. The result was a four-yard touchdown pass to Joe Hills. Ole Miss would kick a field goal later in hope of getting the ball back but failed.

Chris Smelley would finish the game 23 of 32 with 327 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. The final score was South Carolina 27, Ole Miss 20.