Sept. 9, 2016
The South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0, 1-0 SEC) are looking for their second-straight SEC road win to open the 2016 season as they travel to Starkville, Miss. to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs (0-1, 0-0 SEC). The 7 p.m. ET game will be televised nationally by ESPN2. Mike Patrick has the play-by-play with Ed Cunningham handling the color commentary and Laura Rutledge working the sidelines.
A HISTORY LESSON
2016 marks the 123rd season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 110th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina is 25 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 587-562-44.
The 2016 season marks South Carolina's 25th year in the SEC. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned the SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. The Gamecocks are 83-109-1 (.433) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 28-21 (.571) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
CAROLINA VS. STATE
This is the 16th meeting between South Carolina and Mississippi State, with the Gamecocks holding a 9-6 advantage in the all-time series, including a 4-3 record when the games have been played in Starkville. The schools never met on the gridiron before becoming SEC foes in 1992. The Bulldogs won six of the first eight meetings between the two teams, but the Gamecocks have rallied to win the last seven in a row. This is the first meeting between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs since the 2013 season.
The Gamecocks have come out on the winning side in each of the last seven meetings between the two schools, dating back to the turn of the century. Three of the games in the Carolina winning streak have been by four points or less, while the other four wins have come by at least a 15-point margin.
IT'S GOOD TO SCORE
The Gamecocks are 9-6 overall against Mississippi State, but own a 9-3 record against the Bulldogs when putting points on the scoreboard. The Gamecocks have been blanked in the series three times, 23-0 in 1993, 38-0 in 1998 and 17-0 in 1999. They tried to make up for those three whitewashes with a 65-point effort in Starkville 1995. In five trips to Starkville since that offensive blitz in `95, the Gamecocks have totaled just 62 points. Carolina has won three-straight in Starkville despite not scoring over 16 points in any of the three contests.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
The Gamecock defense posted five turnovers to help South Carolina claim a 34-16 victory over Mississippi State in Columbia on Nov. 2, 2013. The five turnovers helped the Gamecock offense to score 17 of its 34 points on the day. Sophomore tailback Mike Davis posted 154 all-purpose yards, including 128 rushing yards, in the win. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw tied a career high with four touchdown passes, throwing for 147 yards in a 10-for-20 outing. Sophomore wide receiver Shaq Roland hauled in two of those TD passes and led the Gamecocks with 57 receiving yards.
THE LAST TIME IN STARKVILLE
Alshon Jeffery hauled in a 4-yard pass from Connor Shaw for the game-winning touchdown with 3:50 remaining to lift No. 15/13 South Carolina to a 14-12 comeback win over Mississippi State on Oct. 15, 2011. The Gamecocks trailed 10-7 with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter but they put together a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive to take their first lead of the contest on Jeffery's touchdown reception. Junior safety D.J. Swearinger sealed the win by intercepting a pass from Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell on the ensuing possession. The Gamecock defense held the Bulldogs to 296 yards of offense on the day led by a career-high 12 tackles from Swearinger. The game may best be remembered as the game in which Gamecock great Marcus Lattimore sustained the first of his two knee injuries. He left the contest in the fourth quarter after carrying 17 times for 39 yards and a touchdown.
ABOUT LAST WEEK
The Gamecocks rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to post a 13-10 victory at Vanderbilt in the season opener for both squads. Deebo Samuel scored on an eight-yard run to tie the score midway through the fourth quarter, then Elliott Fry booted a career-long 55-yard field in the game's final minute to lift the Gamecocks to victory. The Gamecock defense forced seven three-and-outs and limited the Commodores to just 242 yards of offense, including 73 through the air.
OPENING DAY SUCCESS
The Gamecocks' 13-10 win at Vanderbilt marked their 16th win in the last 17 season openers and was their eighth-straight win over the Commodores. Head coach Will Muschamp improved his record to 5-0 in season opening games as a head coach.
FRY BURNS THE `DORES
Senior placekicker Elliott Fry connected on a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter, then hit on a career-long 55-yard field goal in the final minute to provide the margin of victory in the season opener. It tied for the second-longest field goal in Gamecock history, matching Ryan Succop's 55-yarder against Vandy in the 2006 season. Only Mark Fleetwood's 58-yarder against Georgia in 1982 is longer.
GIVING IT THE BOOT: Here are the top-10 longest field goals in South Carolina history:
The Gamecock defense forced seven three-and-outs against Vanderbilt in 13 offensive possessions. That was one more three-and-out than the Carolina defense recorded in any game last season.
THAT'S SOME D
South Carolina limited Vanderbilt to 242 yards of offense including just 73 through the air. It was the fewest yards allowed by the Gamecocks since limiting UCF to 230 yards in the 31-14 win on Sept. 26, 2015, and was the fewest yards surrendered by the Gamecocks versus a SEC opponent since Florida gained 183 total yards in a 44-11 Gator win in Gainesville on Oct. 20, 2012.
Bryan Edwards became the sixth true freshman to start in the season opener for the Garnet & Black since the start of the 2009 season. He joined Stephon Gilmore (2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), Bryson Allen-Williams (2014) and Al Harris Jr. (2014).
AND NOW WE KNOW WHY
True freshman Bryan Edwards showed why he earned the starting nod in his first collegiate game. The 6-3, 210-pounder from Conway, S.C., hauled in eight passes for 101 yards in the win over Vanderbilt, including a long reception of 33 yards. He was the only freshman receiver in the country to log a 100-yard game last week. It was just the eighth 100-yard receiving game in a season opener in Gamecock history and Edwards is the only true freshman on the list:
The Gamecocks' 13-10 season opening win at Vanderbilt snapped the squad's six-game road losing streak. Carolina is 15-13 in its last 28 true road games, with eight of the 13 losses coming to teams ranked in the top-25 in the country, including seven in the top-11.
The Gamecocks had seven players make their first career start in the season opener against Vanderbilt. Those who earned a starting assignment for the first time included Bryan Edwards, Rashad Fenton, Kelsey Griffin, D.J. Park, Jamari Smith, Donell Stanley and A.J. Turner.
The Gamecocks played two quarterbacks in the season opener. Senior Perry Orth came into the season as the only experienced signal-caller, while Brandon McIlwain is a true freshmen who enrolled in January and went through spring drills.
FEELING THE ORTHQUAKE
Senior signal-caller Perry Orth got the starting nod at Vanderbilt and came up with his second career win. After a shaky start, the veteran got things going in the second half, rallying the Gamecocks with 13 points after being blanked through the first 30 minutes. He finished the night 11-for-19 for 152 yards, hitting 6-of-7 passes in the fourth quarter.
True freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain made his much-anticipated debut in the opener at Vanderbilt. He responded by completing 4-of-11 passes for 35 yards, and rushed seven times for 29 yards.
WHO WILL THEY THROW IT TO?
The Gamecocks' returning cast of wide receivers had combined for just 28 catches and 356 yards. The man counted on to be next in a line of outstanding Carolina wide receivers that includes Sidney Rice, Kenny McKinley, Alshon Jeffery and Bruce Ellington is redshirt sophomore Deebo Samuel. Samuel, a 6-0, 205-pounder from Inman, S.C., was hampered by a hamstring injury for much of the 2015 season, but showed his talent by hauling in five passes for 104 yards in the season finale against Clemson. He caught just two passes for 36 yards in the opener, but one was a 30-yard completion and he scored the Gameocks only TD on an 8-yard run. The only other wideouts who came into the 2016 season having caught a pass in a game are walk-on senior Matrick Belton and redshirt sophomore Terry Googer. Belton, a 6-3, 215-pounder from Columbia's Keenan High who began his career at Hampton University, started five games last season, catching 11 passes, while Googer, a 6-4, 220-pounder from Atlanta, caught five passes while making a pair of starts.
THE BEST IS HURST
Tight end Hayden Hurst is poised to have a big season for the Gamecocks. The 6-5, 250-pound former professional baseball player looks to be a playmaker on offense. In limited duty last season, his first on the gridiron since 2011, the 23-year-old sophomore hauled in eight passes for 106 yards. He caught two passes for 17 yards in the season opener at Vanderbilt.
Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner had an impressive first appearance in the Garnet & Black at Vanderbilt after earning the start with a strong fall camp. The 5-10, 195-pounder rushed 13 times for 70 yards against a solid Commodore defense.
CARRIES BY COMMITTEE
The Gamecocks figure to have a committee of running backs carry the workload this season. Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner has been the most impressive back in the fall camp and is listed atop the depth chart. Junior David Williams is the only experienced back in the group, with 131 carries for 555 yards in 21 games including four starts. A pair of former walk-ons in Rod Talley and Darius Paulk could also carry the rock.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE SENIORS GONE
The Gamecocks list just four seniors on the offensive side of the ball in Matrick Belton, Perry Orth, Darius Paulk and Mason Zandi. All four are redshirt seniors. Zandi is the only one of the four to begin his collegiate career at South Carolina and the only one who came to Columbia as a scholarship player. Only Minnesota (3), Old Dominion (4), Florida (4) and Troy (4) have as few seniors on offense as do the Gamecocks.
ZANDI STANDS ALONE
Redshirt senior Mason Zandi is the only senior on the offensive side of the ball on the 2016 roster that came to South Carolina as a scholarship player. Zandi, a 6-9, 315-pound local product from Chapin, S.C. was named preseason third-team All-SEC by the league's coaches. He is also just one of six players in Gamecock history with the last name starting with "Z" to earn a football letter. The most recent prior to Zandi was Zip Zanders, who lettered in 1986. Mason's father, Ali, is a native of Iran who fled his home country during its 1970s revolution.
CORY AT THE HELMS
Cory Helms, a 6-4, 310-pound junior from Alpharetta, Ga., is a welcome addition to the offensive line. Helms, who earned Freshman All-America honors in 2013 at Wake Forest, spent two seasons with the Demon Deacons before sitting out 2015 as a transfer. Listed as the starter at center, he could also play guard.
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Zack Bailey was the only Gamecock named to the 2015 SEC All-Freshman team, as selected by the league's 14 coaches. The 6-6, 315-pound true freshman from Summerville, S.C., played in all 12 games, making five starts, with three at center and two at left guard.
EVERY GAME QUA
Defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis has started all 13 games since his arrival on the Columbia campus. He owns the longest current consecutive streak of starts on the squad.
GETTING IN THE SACK
The Gamecocks recorded 20 sacks a year ago, up from just 14 from the previous season. They logged one sack in the season opener at Vanderbilt.
South Carolina had 12 picks in 2015, one more than they recorded in 2014. INTERCEPTIONS 2015 Career Skai Moore 4 11 T.J. Holloman 2 5 Bryson Allen-Williams 1 1 Jordan Diggs 1 1 Chris Lammons 1 1 Chris Moody 0 1 Jonathan Walton 0 1 Chaz Elder 0 1
THE SKAI TURNED RED(SHIRT)
Skai Moore will take a redshirt and miss the 2016 season following offseason surgery to address a herniated disk in his neck. The 6-2, 220-pounder from Cooper City, Fla., was the Gamecocks' leading tackler in 2015 with 111 stops, tying for third in the SEC with 9.2 tackles per game. He also led the team with 6.5 tackles for loss and with four pass interceptions, tying for fourth in the SEC. Moore became the first Gamecock to reach the century mark in tackles since 2006, while his 111 tackles was the second-highest total recorded by a Carolina player in the last 25 years. He led the team in tackles for a third-consecutive season, becoming the first player to do so since 1992-94. In addition, Moore has 11 career picks, tying for third on the all-time list.
THE FRISCO KID
Senior Elliott Fry was the star in the season opening win, hitting both of his field goal attempts from 48 and 55 yards and adding an extra point. He hit on 20-of-28 field goal attempts and all 25 extra point efforts to lead the Gamecocks in scoring with 85 points in 2015. The six-foot, 170-pounder from Frisco, Texas has connected on a school record 125 consecutive extra points and has hit 75 percent (55-of-73) of his career field goal attempts. That average jumps to 81 percent (52-of-64) when attempting from under 50 yards out. He holds the school's career records for extra points made and attempted and is second in points scored with 296, behind only Collin Mackie (330).
KICKIN' IT WITH KELLY
Senior punter Sean Kelly was, in some people's eyes, the MVP of the Gamecock squad in 2015. The 5-10, 190-pounder from Oakland, Fla. had a solid opening game performance at Vanderbilt with three of his seven punts pinning the Commodores inside the 20. Last season he averaged 44.3 yards per punt, third in the SEC, while the Gamecocks ranked second in the SEC and seventh in the nation in net punting with a 41.3 yard average. He booted 55 punts with just a 1.5-yard average return. Fourteen of his punts sailed over 50 yards, with a long of 69.
A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: Will Muschamp was introduced as the 34th head football coach at the South Carolina on December 7, 2015. A 21-year coaching veteran, Muschamp, a 1994 graduate of Georgia, has spent 13 years in the SEC, including four as the head coach at Florida, where he posted a 28-21 record from 2011-14. He was recognized as the SEC Coach of the Year in 2012 after an 11-win campaign. Last season, he served as the defensive coordinator at Auburn. Muschamp has coached in the SEC Championship Game twice and once in the Big 12 Championship Game, winning all three. He has also coached in two national championship games, helping LSU win the national title in 2003.
AND HE BROUGHT HIS POSSE
With the exception of holdover offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, Coach Muschamp brought an entirely new coaching staff to Columbia. Bobby Bentley (Running Backs), Coleman Hutzler (Special Teams Coordinator/Linebackers), Bryan McClendon (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers), Mike Peterson (Outside Linebackers), Travaris Robinson (Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs), Kurt Roper (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks), Lance Thompson (Assistant Head Coach - Defense/Defensive Line), and Pat Washington (Tight Ends) are the newcomers. Coach Muschamp has also beefed up the off-the-field support staff with a number of football analysts and others focused on recruiting to go along with the usual number of graduate assistants.
THANKS AND HAVE A NICE DAY
The SEC did Will Muschamp no favors when they put together the 2016 schedule. The Gamecocks will play three conference road games in 2016 before entertaining an SEC opponent at home. Carolina will play at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Kentucky before finally seeing an SEC opponent in Williams-Brice Stadium when Texas A&M comes to Columbia on October 1. Only Texas A&M (at Auburn, vs. Arkansas in Arlington, at South Carolina) comes close to matching the Gamecocks' conference start. It marks the first time in Carolina history that the team has opened with three conference road games before playing a conference home game.
NOW THAT'S A HOMESTAND
The Gamecocks will play five-straight home games during the 2016 season. Between October 1 and November 5, Texas A&M, Georgia, UMass, Tennessee and Missouri will venture to Williams-Brice Stadium, with a bye week scheduled for October 15. Auburn is the only other school in the country with five-consecutive home games on its slate this season. The last time South Carolina had five-straight home games on its schedule was in 1988 when the Gamecocks opened the season against North Carolina, Western Carolina, East Carolina, Georgia and Appalachian State.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN
BREAKING IT DOWN
The 117-man roster consists of 19 seniors, 20 juniors, 25 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen and 37 true freshmen.
The Gamecocks welcome 44 returning letterwinners to begin the 2016 fall camp. The 44 lettermen consist of 19 offensive players, 21 defensive players and four special teams players.
IT'S A NUMBERS GAME
The Gamecocks return 45 percent of their rushing yards, 93 percent of their passing yards and 27 percent of their receiving yards from a year ago. The top returning rushers are Lorenzo Nuñez (375 yards) and David Williams (299). Perry Orth (1,929 yards) and Lorenzo Nuñez (376) are the top returning passers, while Deebo Samuel (12 catches, 161 yards) and Matrick Belton (11 for 121) are the top two returning receivers. Seven of the squad's top 11 tacklers return for the 2016 season, including Skai Moore (111 tackles) and T.J. Holloman (63), although Moore will sit out the season as a redshirt following offseason neck surgery.
IN THE CLASSROOM
The Gamecocks placed 28 players on the 2015 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. Among those who made the SEC Honor Roll include returnees Rivers Bedenbaugh, Jordan Diggs, Jalen Dread, Elliott Fry, Kelsey Griffin, Terry Googer, Shannon James, Chris Lammons, Nick McGriff, Perry Orth, Jasper Sasser, Michael Scarnecchia, Demetrius Smalls, D.J. Smith, Donell Stanley and Rod Talley.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
The Gamecocks are 24-7 in their last 31 home games (.774) and 40-10 (.800) in their last 50 home games, including a school-record 18-game game home winning streak during that span. The school's previous longest home winning streak was 15 games, set from 1978-80.
THEY'RE NOT SEC WORTHY
South Carolina has won 21 of its last 24 non-conference games. The Gamecocks had their 18-game non-conference winning streak snapped in the 2014 regular season finale at Clemson, then lost the final two games of the 2015 regular season to non-conference in-state foes in The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to the Clemson loss at the end of the 2014 campaign, Carolina's last non-conference loss came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
NOT IN OUR HOUSE
South Carolina had won 22-straight home games against non-conference opponents before dropping the final two games of the 2015 regular season to non-conference in-state foes in The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to that, the last home loss to a non-conference team was to Clemson in the 2007 regular-season finale.
THEY PAY TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS
South Carolina ranked 16th in the nation in home attendance during the 2015 season, as an average crowd of 78,822 filed in to Williams-Brice Stadium on six occasions, just shy of the 80,250 capacity. That total came in spite of losing one scheduled home game, as the LSU contest was moved to Baton Rouge due to extensive flooding in Columbia and throughout the Midlands.
The Gamecocks brought in a record number six high school recruits who graduated a semester early and enrolled in time for spring drills in 2016. Here is the list of the Gamecocks who have enrolled early since 2006:
2006: Clark Gaston
WINNING IN FEBRUARY
The Gamecocks had another successful February signing day, just missing out on another top-25 ranked class despite a coaching change. Here are the recent recruiting class rankings according to Rivals and Scout respectively:
The Gamecocks are 2-3 all-time in games decided in overtime. They won their first overtime game in school history when they defeated Missouri, 27-24, in two overtimes on October 26, 2013 in Columbia, Mo., and won in "The Swamp" over Florida by a 23-20 count in 2014. All three overtime losses have come against Tennessee by a field goal: a 23-20 setback on September 27, 2003 in Knoxville, and a 27-24 loss in Knoxville on October 27, 2007 and a 45-42 loss in Columbia on November 1, 2014.
The Gamecocks will step out of conference for the first time this season when they open the home portion of their schedule on Saturday, September 17, by hosting the East Carolina Pirates out of the American Athletic Conference. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series with the Pirates by a 13-5 margin, including a 10-4 mark at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks have won each of the last three contests, with ECU's last win coming in the 1999 campaign. South Carolina was a 33-29 winner on September 6, 2014 in the last meeting between the two squads.
CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN
THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER
The Gamecocks have not taken a lead into intermission since the 2014 Independence Bowl win over Miami (Fla.), when they held a 17-6 advantage at intermission.
When Elliott Fry booted the game-winner at Vanderbilt in the season opener, he became the first SEC kicker to make a field goal of 55+ yds with less than one minute to play in 4th quarter (or in OT) in the last 10 years.
Elliott Fry's 55-yard field goal matched Hawaii's Rigoberto Sanchez for the longest field goal made in the country in Week 1.
South Carolina Football has three endowed scholarships. Recipients for endowed scholarships are selected each year by the head coach. The 2016 scholarships and recipients are:
Gamecock radio analyst Tommy Suggs is one of the longest tenured radio voices in college football. The former standout quarterback who led the Gamecocks to the 1969 ACC Championship, is in his 44th season as part of the radio crew.
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