COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Freshman Chris Smelley threw for a career-best 279 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 16 South Carolina to a 38-21 victory over Mississippi State today.
Smelley was given the starting job by coach Steve Spurrier before the Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) left the locker room at LSU's Death Valley last week after a 28-16 loss and lackluster performance by starter Blake Mitchell.
Smelley connected with receiver Kenny McKinley on touchdown passes of 20 and 27 yards. That second score put the Gamecocks ahead for good, 24-21, with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
The Gamecocks' defense also looked strong without its best player -- injured middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley damaged a knee ligament in last week's LSU defeat and had season-ending surgery Wednesday.
South Carolina gave up only 45 rushing by halftime in stopping Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2), which came to Williams-Brice Stadium with a three-game winning streak.
Mike Davis had three rushing touchdowns of 3, 2 and 12 yards.