Sept. 15, 2017
Football vs KentuckyYOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The 2017 home slate finally gets underway for the SEC Eastern Division-leading South Carolina Gamecocks (2-0, 1-0 SEC) when they host the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0, 0-0 SEC) in a divisional matchup on Saturday, September 16. Game time is set for 7:39 pm ET, and the contest will be televised on SEC Network.
TV COVERAGE: This week's contest will be televised on SEC Network with Tom Hart and Jordan Rodgers in the booth and Cole Cubelic on the sidelines.
A HISTORY LESSON: It's been 125 years since the University of South Carolina laced it up for a December 24, 1892 meeting in Charleston against Furman, a 44-0 setback. 2017 marks the 124th season of intercollegiate football at South Carolina. It is the 111th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina owns an all-time record of 594-569-44, a .510 winning percentage.
SEC HISTORY: The South Carolina Gamecocks are in their 26th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their lone SEC Eastern Division title in 2010. The Gamecocks are 86-114-1 (.430) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 31-26 (.544) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE: This is a matchup of 2-0 teams. The Gamecocks opened the season with a 35-28 win over NC State in Charlotte, then pulled away for a 31-13 win over Missouri in a battle for the Mayor's Cup last Saturday in Columbia, Mo. Kentucky opened with a 24-17 win at Southern Miss, then posted a 27-16 win over Eastern Kentucky at home last Saturday.
SEEMS LIKE THE SECOND TIME: The Gamecocks have opened the 2017 season winning back-to-back games away from home for just the second time in their 124-year history. The only other time that occurred was in the 2011 season when the Gamecocks opened with a win over East Carolina in Charlotte, then went on the road to defeat Georgia. That team went on to post an 11-2 record and finish ninth in the country. South Carolina and Louisville are the only Power 5 schools to open with two wins away from home.
GETTING TO 3-0: The Gamecocks are looking to go 3-0 for the first time since the 2012 season. That 2012 team went on to win its first six games and finished with an 11-2 mark and a final ranking of eighth in the country.
CAROLINA VS. KENTUCKY: This is the 29th meeting between the Gamecocks and Wildcats in a series that dates back to 1937. Carolina leads the all-time series 17-10-1, including an 8-4-1 mark in Columbia and a 9-6 advantage in Lexington. The teams played just three times (1937, 1978 and 1981) before Carolina joined the SEC for the 1992 season. Since then, they have met every year. Since joining the league, the Gamecocks own a 16-9 record against UK, including wins in 13 of the 17 meetings in this century, but the Wildcats have won each of the last three contests, their longest winning streak in the series.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Benny Snell capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge early in the fourth quarter to break a 10-10 tie, and Kentucky held on for a 17-10 win over South Carolina in Lexington on September 24, 2016. The Gamecocks struggled to generate any offense in the contest, as they were limited to just 268 total yards. Brandon McIlwain went the distance at quarterback, completing 15-of-30 passes for 177 yards. Kentucky rushed for 216 of their 351 total yards in the contest.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET AT WBS: Kentucky opened up a 24-7 halftime lead in Columbia on September 12, 2015, then held off a late Carolina comeback in a 26-22 Wildcat win. The Gamecocks outgained Kentucky, 417-399 on the day, but three times had to settle for an Elliott Fry field goal from inside 30 yards. Brandon Wilds rushed 16 times for 106 yards, while Perry Orth completed 13-of-20 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
THE LAST CAROLINA WIN: The 13th-ranked Gamecocks opened up a 27-7 lead over Kentucky heading into the final stanza, but the Wildcats made it interesting with 21 fourth-quarter points before falling by a 35-28 count in Columbia on Oct. 5, 2013. Mike Davis rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Connor Shaw added 312 yards of total offense, including 262 through the air on 17-of-20 passing. Damiere Byrd had one of the top days of his career, catching five passes for 94 yards, including a 62-yard TD catch on the first drive of the game.
MUSCHAMP VS. THE CATS: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp owns a 4-1 record against Kentucky. He was a perfect 4-0 against the Wildcats as the head coach at Florida, winning by scores of 48-10, 38-0, 24-7 and 36-30 in overtime, before dropping last year's contest by a 17-10 score.
BLUE GRASS TIES: Carolina co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper served as an assistant coach on Rich Brooks staff at Kentucky in 2005. Tight ends coach Pat Washington was on the Kentucky staff in 2012, working under Joker Phillips.
HEY TURN ME OVER: Both South Carolina and Kentucky come into the game ranked tied for fifth in the nation in turnover margin at plus-2.0, gaining five turnovers while only losing one.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The Gamecocks got two touchdowns each from Deebo Samuel and Hayden Hurst, while the defense held the high-powered Tiger offense to just 13 points, 59 below its season average, in a convincing 31-13 win at Missouri last Saturday night. Samuel scored on a kickoff return for the second-straight week and also found the endzone on a 25-yard carry. Hurst scored on a 39-yard pass reception from Jake Bentley and on a two-yard run, as the Gamecocks rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to win their second true road game in their last 11 tries. The Carolina defense allowed 423 yards, but stiffened in the redzone, allowing just one field goal in three redzone opportunities.
GOING THE DISTANCE TIMES TWO: For the second-straight week, Deebo Samuel took a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. Against NC State, he became the first player in school history to open the season with a kickoff return for a score, earning SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Against Missouri, his 97-yard return changed the momentum of the game after the Tigers had taken a 10-0 lead, and earned him SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for a second-straight week. Samuel has tied the school record for kickoff returns for a touchdown in a season with two, matching King Dixon (1957) and Boo Williams (1997). Samuel and Dixon are the only players to have kickoff returns for scores in back-to-back games. Samuel now owns the school record for career kickoff returns for touchdowns with three, as he also took one to the house from 100-yards out last year against Western Carolina. The Gamecocks have had four kickoff returns for scores in their last 22 games after not having a kickoff return for a TD between 2002 to 2015.
GONE IN 30 SECONDS: After Missouri scored to take a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Gamecocks struck quickly, scoring 14 points in the next 30 seconds to take the lead and never looked back. Deebo Samuel needed just 15 seconds to cover 97 yards for a touchdown then, after Jamyest Williams intercepted Drew Lock's pass on the first play of the next possession, Samuel needed nine seconds to race in from 25-yards out, completely changing the complexion of the game.
SPECIAL SPECIAL TEAMS: The Gamecocks special teams came up big in the win at Missouri. In addition to Deebo Samuel's kick return for a touchdown, Javon Kinlaw blocked a field goal attempt, Javon Charleston recovered a fumble on a muffed punt and Carolina got a 73-yard punt from Joseph Charlton, the longest by a Gamecock since 1992.
BEND BUT DON'T BREAK: After giving up three touchdowns on five possessions in the first half against NC State, the Gamecock defense has stepped it up. They held the Wolfpack to just one score on eight possessions in the second half, then limited Missouri to one touchdown on 11 drives last week. The Gamecocks have allowed just five scores on nine redzone penetrations this season.
GREAT FIRST STARTS: Sophomore linebacker T.J. Brunson and sophomore defensive end D.J. Wonnum each made his first career start for the Gamecocks in the win over NC State. Brunson responded with a game-high 16 tackles, while Wonnum logged a game-high 3.0 tackles for loss. Wide receiver Shi Smith and defensive back Jamyest Williams became the first true freshmen to get a start this season when they both got the nod at Missouri. Smith responded with four catches for 22 yards, while Williams logged six tackles, one pass break up and a key interception.
FRESH FISH: South Carolina has played seven true freshmen this season. Those newcomers who have seen action for the first time in Division I football are Sherrod Greene, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith, Damani Staley, Aaron Sterling, Chad Terrell and Jamyest Williams. Smith and Williams have each made a start.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks will host Louisiana Tech, out of Conference USA, at Williams-Brice Stadium next Saturday. Game time is set for 3:30 pm and the game will be televised on SEC Network. Carolina leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs by a 4-0-1 count. The teams tied the 1991 contest, then the Gamecocks won four-straight matchups from 1992-95.
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