Gamecock Gameday: Football Heads To UCF
Sept. 27, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The No. 12/13 South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1 SEC) travel to Orlando, Fla. to face the UCF Knights (3-0, 0-0 AAC) in a non-conference matchup on Saturday, September 28. Game time is set for noon ET with Dave Pasch and Brian Griese in the booth and Tom Luginbill working the sidelines for ABC in a nationally-televised contest.
A LITTLE HISTORY: 2013 marks the 120th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 107th-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 21 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 567-546-44. The Gamecocks were nine games under .500 until head coach Steve Spurrier took the reins in 2005, but are 30 games over since.
SEC HISTORY: The 2013 season marks South Carolina's 22nd year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their first SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. The Gamecocks are 73-96-1 all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 18-8 since 2010 in conference action.
VS. UCF: This is the fourth meeting between the two schools on the gridiron. South Carolina has won each of the previous three contests, which all took place in Columbia, and all were the season openers for both squads. They met in back-to-back seasons in the mid-1990s, with the Gamecocks winning by a 33-14 count in 1996 and by a 33-31 margin in 1997. The last time the two schools hooked up was in the season opener of the 2005 season, the first game coached by Steve Spurrier for the Gamecocks, and Carolina came away with a 24-15 win on a Thursday night.
THEY'LL BE BACK: This is the Gamecocks first trip to UCF's home field. The Knights are scheduled to return the favor in Columbia during the 2015 season.
SPURRIER VS. UCF: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 2-0 all-time record against UCF. He defeated the Knights by a 58-27 score on September 11, 1999 while coaching the fourth-ranked Florida Gators, then posted a 24-15 win in his debut as the Carolina head coach on September 1, 2005.
SPURRIER VS. O'LEARY: Steve Spurrier has faced UCF's George O'Leary just once, that coming in the HBC's first game as a Gamecock, a 24-15 win in 2005.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Steve Spurrier needed a fourth-down stop by his defense with less than three minutes to go to preserve a 24-15 victory over UCF in his return to college football. Blake Mitchell threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns for the Gamecocks in his first career start. Five plays into the opening drive, Mitchell hit Noah Whiteside in stride for a 49-yard touchdown. Mitchell was firing again the next time Carolina got the ball, finding Mike Davis on a short pass that went for 64 yards. Andy Boyd capped the drive with a 12-yard TD catch to put the Gamecocks up 14-0 less than eight minutes into the game. Mitchell connected on 15-of-19 in the first half for 283 yards. After falling behind 24-3, UCF rallied in the final quarter with Mike Walker's 13-yard touchdown catch and John Brown's field goal. They had a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 2:50 left, but Kevin Smith was stopped short trying leap for the end zone by linebacker Ricardo Hurley and defensive lineman Ryan Brown.
OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE: The Gamecocks have an 11-game winning streak over non-conference opponents and a 17-game regular-season winning streak over non-conference foes. South Carolina's last lost to a non-conference team came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl, while its last regular-season non-conference loss came at Clemson in 2008. They went 5-0 in non-conference action in both 2011 and 2012. They are 32-7 in non-conference games under head coach Steve Spurrier, including wins in 30 of their last 35 non-SEC tilts. The year-by-year breakdown: 2005 (2-2); 2006 (5-0); 2007 (3-1); 2008 (3-2); 2009 (4-1); 2010 (4-1); 2011 (5-0); 2012 (5-0); 2013 (1-0).
THE LAST TIME OUT: The No. 13/14 Gamecocks scored touchdowns on each of their first four possessions, then held off a late Commodore rally in a 35-25 win over Vanderbilt on September 14 in Columbia. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw completed 21-of-29 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns, and added a team-leading 84 yards on the ground. Bruce Ellington had his biggest game as a Gamecock, catching eight passes for 111 yards and a score. The Gamecocks had the game well in hand until poor special teams play gave the `Dores late life. All three Vandy touchdowns came on drives that started inside Carolina territory, as the Gamecock defense yielded just 268 yards.
ONE FOR THE BOOKS: The Carolina offense generated 31 first downs and 579 yards of offense in the win over Vanderbilt, using a balanced attack that garnered 220 rushing yards and 359 passing yards. It was the second-highest single game mark in the Steve Spurrier Era at Carolina for both first downs and total yards, surpassed by only the 2011 game against Kentucky (32 first downs, 639 yards). Additionally, the 28 passes completed and the 37:10 in time of possession were both the fifth-highest marks under Steve Spurrier.
GO THE DISTANCE: South Carolina produced a pair of 90-plus yard drives in the win over Vanderbilt, both coming in the first half. The Gamecocks went 93 yards in 11 plays, using 3:58 on the clock in the first quarter, resulting in a Mike Davis' 4-yard run, then went 92 yards in eight plays, consuming 3:23 with Bruce Ellington scoring on a 26-yard pass from Connor Shaw early in the second stanza. It marked the first time the Gamecocks had recorded multiple drives of over 90 yards in a game since a 2011 contest against The Citadel and the first time in SEC play since 2006 versus Arkansas.
EARLY AND OFTEN: The Gamecock offense has lit up the scoreboard early in their first three games this season. They tallied 17 first-quarter points and had 20 by the half in the opener against North Carolina. They scored just three in the first quarter at Georgia but rebounded with three touchdowns in the second period to give them 24 at the intermission. They scored touchdowns on each of their first four possessions against Vanderbilt to account for 21 first-quarter and 28 first-half points. For the season, Carolina has tallied 41 first-quarter points and 31 second-quarter points, giving them 72 of their 92 points scored before halftime.
BEST OFFENSE IN HISTORY?: Through three games, Carolina has generated 1,439 yards of offense, an average of 479.7 yards per game. That's the school's high water mark for the season's first three games since at least 1962, when full records are available.
IN THE POLLS: The Gamecocks have been ranked in the Associated Press Top-25 for 52-consecutive polls, starting with the second week of the 2010 season. That is the longest consecutive streak in school history. According to research compiled by "The Blitz," South Carolina was ranked in the A.P. poll 148 times from 1936-2011, 14 times as a member of the ACC (1936-1970), 57 times as a Independent (1971-1991) and 77 times since joining the SEC prior to the 2012 season.
YES THEY CALL IT A STREAK: The Gamecocks are tied for the fifth-longest current streak of being ranked in the Associated Press's Top 25. Carolina and Stanford have been ranked for 52-consecutive weeks, trailing only Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma.
THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his ninth season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 68-38 mark (.642) in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach is Carolina's winningest coach with 68 victories and is second in games coached with 106, behind Rex Enright (140). Coach Spurrier owns a 210-78-2 mark (.728) in 24 seasons as a collegiate head coach, with previous stops at Duke and Florida.
TOPS IN HIS FIELD: Steve Spurrier became the 71st head college football coach (all divisions) and the 22nd in Division I history to record 200 wins when he accomplished that feat against UAB in 2012. He ranks third among active Division I coaches with 210 wins. In addition, the HBC has 47 wins as a head coach at the professional level, giving him 257 career coaching wins.
FIRST TIME STARTERS: Eleven Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season. Eight made their first career start in the season-opening win over North Carolina. The first-time starters included four on offense (TB Mike Davis, TE Drew Owens, WR Shaq Roland and OC Cody Waldrop) and four on defense (Spur Sharrod Golightly, LB Kaiwan Lewis, SS Kadetrix Marcus and LB Marcquis Roberts). OC Clayton Stadnik and CB Ahmad Christian both made their first career starts at Georgia. Mason Zandi, who has spent the majority of his young career at tackle, made a start at tight end against Vanderbilt.
HAVING A SENIOR MOMENT: The Gamecocks list five seniors on their roster, including four scholarship seniors. That is the fewest number of seniors in Division I football in 2013. The quintet includes QB Connor Shaw, OG Ronald Patrick, DE Chaz Sutton, CB Jimmy Legree and walk-on WR David Wilkins. Interestingly, the Gamecocks will face four of the top 14 schools that list the fewest seniors (North Carolina, UCF, Mississippi State and Clemson).
SHAW IS YOUR STARTER: Senior quarterback Connor Shaw is the Gamecocks' starting signal-caller. Shaw, a 6-1, 209-pounder from Flowery Branch, Ga., is 19-4 as a starter, including a 12-0 mark at home. He and Jeff Grantz are the only two players in school history to pass for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards. In the loss at Georgia, he became the ninth player in school history to pass for over 4,000 yards in a career, hence becoming the first 4,000-1,000 player in school history. He is the school's all-time leader in completion percentage at 66.5 percent and is tied for fourth with 38 touchdown passes.
SHAW IN THE SEC: Quarterback Connor Shaw is listed in several categories among the SEC leaders. He is 12th in rushing (67.3 ypg), seventh in passing (220.3 ypg), fourth in pass efficiency (166.7) and fourth in total offense (287.7 ypg).
THROWING STRIKES: When the Gamecocks pitch it around the park, there's been no one who has been more accurate in school history than Connor Shaw. Shaw is hitting 66.5 percent of his pass attempts and has gone a career-best 116 pass attempts without an interception.
WAITING IN THE WINGS: Junior Dylan Thompson is ready and waiting to take some snaps as well. Thompson, a 6-3, 218-pounder from Boiling Springs, S.C., stepped in admirably last season when Shaw was beset by injuries. He led the Gamecocks to wins over East Carolina and Clemson in his two starts, throwing for over 300 yards on both occasions. He also was 7-of-10 for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl win over Michigan, including the game-winning 32-yard pass to Bruce Ellington with just 11 seconds remaining in the contest. Thompson completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kane Whitehurst in the season opener against North Carolina, the only snap he took from scrimmage in that contest. In his first series against Vanderbilt he led the team on a eight-play, 76-yard drive that culminated with his three-yard TD run.
DAVIS LEADS THE CHARGE: Marcus Lattimore will never be forgotten by the Gamecock faithful, but Mike Davis is certainly doing his best to soften the loss. The 5-9, 215-pound sophomore from Lithonia, Ga. logged the first 100-yard rushing game of his career with a 115-yard performance against North Carolina in his first career start. Included was a 75-yard scamper, the longest for a Gamecock since Bobby Wallace went 88 yards against Middle Tennessee in 2006, and tying for the 12th-longest run from scrimmage in school history. He came back at Georgia, playing in his home state for the first time, and responded with a 149-yard effort on just 16 carries, an average of 9.3 yards per tote, with one touchdown. He also went for a 75-yard gain for the second-straight week. After three games, Davis is fourth in the SEC and 21st in the country in rushing at 113.7 yards per contest while averaging 7.6 yards per carry. He is also averaging 16.6 yards per catch on seven receptions out of the backfield.
100-YARD EFFORTS: The Gamecocks have two 100-yard rushing games this season after notching just four a season ago when they got three from Marcus Lattimore and one from Kenny Miles. Mike Davis had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, becoming the third player on the roster with a 100-yard rushing game in his career, joining Brandon Wilds (3) and Connor Shaw (1). Both Wilds and Shaw turned in their 100-yard efforts during the 2011 campaign.
BACK-TO-BACK 75's: Mike Davis scampered for a 75-yard run in each of the first two games. A 75-yard or longer run has only been accomplished 14 times in Gamecock history, and Davis is the first to do it twice.
LIL' NICKY: Junior wide receiver Nick Jones is not the biggest guy on the roster or have the most raw talent. All he does is catch passes. The 5-7, 174-pounder from Moore, S.C. had his best game as a Gamecock, catching six passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the loss at Georgia, all career highs. His TD catches came from 18 and 30 yards out. His previous highs were four receptions (4 times) and 78 receiving yards. He had just one career touchdown coming into the season, but has found paydirt three times in 2013. For the season, he is the team's top receiver with 11 catches for 130 yards and three scores.
SHAW-SHAQ RECEPTION: Senior quarterback Connor Shaw and sophomore wide receiver Shaq Roland hooked up for a 65-yard touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage in the season-opening win over North Carolina. At Georgia, the two hooked up three times for 48 yards. He added three for 38 against Vanderbilt. For the season, Roland, a former Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina, has eight catches for a team-leading 161 yards (20.1 yards per reception) and a score.
CATCH THIS: Junior Bruce Ellington is the Gamecocks' top returning receiver. He logged 40 receptions for 600 yards and seven touchdowns last season. After a slow start, he had his best game as a Gamecock against Vanderbilt, catching eight passes for 111 yards, both career highs. For the season, he has 10 catches for 141 yards.
YOUNG STADNIK: Redshirt freshman Clayton Stadnik was honored as the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance against Vanderbilt. The 6-3, 281-pounder from Greensboro, N.C. graded out at 82 percent while playing all 87 snaps in the win over the Commodores. The line did not give up a sack or quarterback hurry in that contest while rolling up 579 yards of offense. Clayton's twin brother, Brock, is also a member of the Carolina offensive line. Brock was actually the more highly recruited of the two coming out of Western Guilford High School.
AS GOOD AS IT GETS: The 2013 Gamecocks feature one of the game's top players in junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney, who is regarded by most as the top defensive player in the country and a likely top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, was just the second Gamecock to earn unanimous All-America honors in 2012, joining George Rogers from his Heisman Trophy season in 1980. Clowney was named the Hendricks Award winner as the nation's top defensive end, and the All-America Player of the Year, presented by AT&T as selected by the fans on ESPN.com. He finished sixth in the Heisman race and was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award and the Bednarik Award after being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by the league's coaches.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Fresh off his trip to L.A. to receive the ESPY Award for the top play of the year, Jadeveon Clowney is back to cause havoc for quarterbacks around the southeast. As a sophomore, Clowney set school records last season for sacks in a game (4.5 at Clemson), sacks in a season (13.0) and tackles for loss in a season (23.5). The 6-6, 274-pounder was on everyone's preseason All-America list and a legitimate candidate for all the national awards. With 2.0 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss this season, he continues to move up the all-time Carolina charts in those categories. In addition, he has nine career forced fumbles.
FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE: Jadeveon Clowney is not the only Gamecock who can get to the quarterback. Fifth-year senior Chaz Sutton, who has spent the past two years backing up Clowney and Devin Taylor (now with the Detroit Lions), logged 5.0 sacks last season. He leads the team with 4.0 tackles for loss and has 15.5 in his career. Junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who made some preseason All-SEC squads, logged 3.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss last season. He has 2.0 sacks in 2013.
SACK MASTERS: After leading the SEC and finishing fifth in the country with 43 sacks a year ago, the Gamecocks are among the leaders again in sacks this season. With 10 sacks, an average of 3.3 per game, they rank second in the SEC and 11th in the country.
NEW FACES: The Gamecocks graduated five seniors who manned the linebacker and spur positions a year ago and have a host of youngsters to fill in those slots this season. Sophomores Kaiwan Lewis and Marcquis Roberts have started each of the first three games. Sophomore Cedrick Cooper, who dislocated his elbow in the preseason, redshirt freshman T.J. Holloman and true freshman Skai Moore will also see action. Roberts (18), Lewis (17) and Moore (14) are among the top 5 Gamecocks' in tackles this season.
HE'S OUR GURLEY, MAN: Sophomore safety T.J. Gurley has been impressive in the early going as he comes back from knee surgery that ended his 2012 season prematurely. He stepped in for an injured Kadetrix Marcus in the opener and responded with a team-leading and career-high nine tackles. Making his first start of the season in his home state at Georgia, the Cairo, Ga. native responded with another career-high in tackles, registering 11 stops, including eight solos. He ranks eighth in the SEC, averaging 7.0 tackles/game.
THE FRISCO KID: True freshman Elliott Fry walked on to the Gamecock squad this summer and earned the starting placekicking chores. The Frisco, Texas product was impressive against North Carolina, hitting on both of his field goal attempts from 39 and 26 yards, and all three of his extra points for nine total points. He became the first true freshman placekicker to kick in the Gamecocks' season opener since Courtney Leavitt in 1996. He hit a 36-yard field goal in his only attempt at Georgia to improve his numbers to 3-for-3 in that department.
HULL OF A PUNTER: Junior Tyler Hull is in his second season as the Gamecocks' punter. The 6-2, 206-pounder from Mount Airy, N.C. spent his first season at Guilford College before transferring to South Carolina just prior to the start of the 2012 campaign. Last season, he averaged 39.4 yards per punt. 22 of his 54 punts were fair catches, while 12 went inside the 20. This year he is averaging 34.6 yards per punt with three of his 10 inside the 20 and a long of 48 yards.
GOOD HOME COOKIN': The Gamecocks have won their last 13 games at Williams-Brice Stadium. Carolina is 29-3 in its last 32 home games. The only home losses since 2009 came to top-ranked Florida in 2009, to 17th-ranked Arkansas in 2010 and to defending national champion Auburn in 2011. The Gamecocks' 13-game home winning streak is the third-longest in the nation, trailing only Michigan (17) and Georgia (14).
TOP HOME STREAKS: The Gamecocks have won 13-straight home games, their longest stretch since joining the SEC and tying for the second-longest streak in school history. Only a 15-game home winning streak from 1978-80 has been longer.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Gamecocks will return to SEC play next Saturday when they host the Kentucky Wildcats at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Carolina holds a 16-7-1 advantage in the series, including a 7-3-1 mark at home. South Carolina has won each of the last two meetings and 12 of the last 13 between the two Eastern Division rivals.