COLUMBIA, S.C., OCT. 17 -- Sometimes, real life can make what happens on a football field appear very trivial in comparison. So it was for Virginia today as South Carolina handed the Cavaliers their worst defeat in nearly three years, 58-10, before 67,638 in Williams-Brice Stadium.
Friday night, the Cavaliers learned of the death of their former teammate, defensive end Craig Fielder, whose battle with cancer had served as an inspiration for the team. Today, in losing their second straight to fall to 3-4, they gave a performance that reflected -- and worsened -- the team's deep depression.
"Virginia has got a good ball club, but it seemed like they had something else on their minds today," said Gamecocks running back Harold Green, who returned from arthroscopic knee surgery 13 days ago to carry 23 times for a career-high 132 yards and a touchdown.
"This is the most down I've been since my first college game," said Virginia senior defensive end Sean Scott, referring to a 55-0 Cavaliers loss to open the 1984 season. "We got humiliated, embarrassed, however you want to put it. They beat us in every aspect of the game and then we beat ourselves some more."
The Cavaliers gave up 572 yards of total offense. In addition, Virginia fumbled six times and lost five, including three giveaways on kickoff returns by Darrell Wynn.
South Carolina scored 28 points in an eight-minute fourth-quarter stretch that required only 10 offensive plays by the Gamecocks and just over three minutes of possession time.
"The number of mistakes we made was just incredible," Scott said. "Every time you turned around, they were going in for another touchdown. They weren't trying to run up the score, but they couldn't avoid it."
The Gamecocks surprised Virginia early by mixing their usual run-and-shoot offense with I-formation sets featuring Green at tailback, a strategy that produced long touchdown drives. The second drive, which covered 47 yards in seven plays, consisted entirely of runs. Green carried twice for 22 yards and Greg Welch handled three times for the final 20, including a three-yard scoring dive.
"Running the ball from the I-formation was a good change-up for them," Virginia Coach George Welsh said. "We hadn't seen it from them, we didn't prepare for it and we didn't handle it when they used it."
The Cavaliers were fortunate to trail by just 24-3 at the half. South Carolina turned the ball over twice in the final two minutes after gaining possession inside the Virginia 40-yard line. Kevin Cook intercepted a lame-duck lob by Gamecocks quarterback Todd Ellis to stall one drive at the Virginia 2 and and picked off a badly underthrown option pass by wingback Hardin Brown with two receivers open in the end zone.
Ellis and Brown would have their revenge many times over, though. Ellis completed 19 of 32 passes for 286 yards. Six of those completions went to wingback Sterling Sharpe for 106 yards; he scored a pair of 59-yard fourth-quarter touchdowns on a pass from Ellis and a punt return.
Virginia played the game with a patchwork defensive unit, starting with three of its top four tacklers on the bench. Offensively, the Cavaliers played again without starting tailback Kevin Morgan, who missed his third consecutive game with a sore knee. When Morgan's replacement, redshirt freshman Marcus Wilson, went down with an ankle injury, the Cavaliers were left with Doonie Hunt, who hadn't played all season.
Not that it mattered. When Virginia did manage to hold on to the ball, it was going to throw. Quarterback Scott Secules, who entered the game as the ninth-ranked passer in the nation, managed his school-record fourth consecutive game over 200 yards by connecting on 18 of 34 attempts for 210 yards. A 19-yard strike to Keith Mattioli midway through the third quarter provided the Cavaliers' only touchdown, and John Ford came up with eight catches for 121 yards.
Virginia 0 3 7 0 10 S. Carolina 7 17 6 28 58
SC -- Green 5 run (Mackie kick)
SC -- Welch 3 run (Mackie kick)
VA -- FG Inderlied 51
SC -- FG Mackie 39
SC -- Bethea 35 run (Mackie kick)
SC -- FG Mackie 32
VA -- Mattioli 19 pass from Secules (Inderlied kick)
SC -- FG Mackie 28
SC -- Sharpe 59 pass from Ellis (Mackie run)
SC -- Sharpe 59 punt return (Mackie kick)
SC -- Hinton 28 interception return (Mackie kick)
SC -- Welch 4 run (Mackie kick)
A -- 67,638. Virginia S. Carolina First downs 18 25 Rushes-yards 37-96 51-286 Passing yards 210 286 Return yards 34 97 Passing 18-36-2 19-33-4 Punts-average 6-35 3-49 Fumbles-lost 6-5 2-0 Penalties-yards 4-37 9-89 Tim
RUSHING -- Virginia: M. Wilson 14-57, Hunt 11-52, Secules 7-6. South Carolina: Green 23-132, Bethea 2-47, W
PASSING -- Virginia: Secules 18-34-1, 210 yards, S. Moore 0-2-1, 0. South Carolina: Ellis 19-32-3, 286, Bro
RECEIVING -- Virginia: Ford 8-121, Mattioli 5-57 Dempsey 2-30. South Carolina: Sharpe 6-106, Bethea 4-53, B