Sept. 29, 2017
Football vs Texas A&M
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) return to the road and to SEC action when they travel to College Station, Texas to face the Texas A&M Aggies (3-1, 1-0 SEC) on Saturday, September 30. Game time is set for 7:30 pm ET (6:30 pm CT).
OVER THE AIRWAVES: 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. Gino Torretta’s Touchdown Radio will be on hand for a national radio broadcast.
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 595-570-44, a .512 winning percentage.
SEC HISTORY: The 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 86-115-1 (.428) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 31-27 (.534) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
ROAD WARRIORS: Carolina is trying to win its second true road game of the season. They had just one road win combined in 2015 and 2016.
GAMECOCKS AND AGGIES: This is just the fourth meeting on the gridiron between South Carolina and Texas A&M. The Gamecocks are still looking for their first win over their “permanent” SEC Western Division rivals from College Station. The two schools met for the first time in 2014 in Columbia, with A&M rolling up a 52-28 win in the season opener for both teams. The teams met for the first time in College Station in 2015 with the Aggies winning again, this time by a 35-28 count. Last season, A&M left Williams-Brice Stadium with a 24-13 victory.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: No. 9/10 Texas A&M improved its record to 5-0 with a hard-fought 24-13 win over South Carolina in Columbia on October 1, 2016. The Gamecocks needed just 13 seconds to get on the board, as A.J. Turner went 75 yards to paydirt on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Turner finished the game with a career-high 113 yards on 10 carries. A&M marched right back down the field for a game-tying touchdown on its first possession. The teams went into halftime with the game still deadlocked at 7. A&M scored on its first drive of the second half to take a lead it would not relinquish. Carolina’s Elliott Fry sandwiched a pair of 43-yard field goals around another Aggie TD, keeping the Gamecocks within striking distance until Daniel LaCamera booted a 35-yard field goal with 1:41 to play to seal the victory.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: South Carolina made its first trip to College Station on October 31, 2015 and dropped a 35-28 decision to the Aggies. Freshman signal-caller Kyler Murray threw for 223 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 156 yards and a score to lead A&M. Brandon Wilds led the Gamecocks with a season-high 128 yards rushing on 17 carries. Quarterback Perry Orth completed 15-of-24 passes for 192 yards and added 64 yards on the ground. The key play in the game was a Donovan Wilson 60-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, giving the Aggies a two-score advantage. The teams combined for 989 yards of offense in the contest, but just 97 of those yards came in a scoreless fourth quarter.
FACING THE LONE STAR STATE TEAMS: Carolina is 3-7 all-time against teams from the Lone Star State, going 1-0 against Texas, 1-2 against both Baylor and Houston, and 0-3 against Texas A&M. The Gamecocks’ 2015 trip to College Station marked their first venture into the state of Texas since dropping an 18-17 decision to Baylor in Waco on October 2, 1976.
DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS: The Gamecocks own a 1-4 record when playing deep in the heart of Texas. Their only win came 60 years ago, October 5, 1957, when they went into Austin and defeated the 20th-ranked Texas Longhorns by a 27-21 score. Carolina has lost twice at Baylor (1949 and 1976), at Houston (1973 - the night after the Riggs-King Battle of the Sexes tennis match in the Astrodome) and at A&M (2015).
THE LAST WIN IN TEXAS: Gamecocks and Aggies both rejoiced over this one. “As for October 5, 1957, that is a date that should live forever in the minds of Gamecock fans everywhere. For on that date we upset a great Texas team before 40,000 stunned Longhorn fans down in Austin, Texas. They led us by a score of 21-7 going into the fourth quarter and the game threatened to turn into a rout. But then, by some miracle, we got going, scored 20 unanswered points, and upset them 27-21 in a game that must be viewed as another of our greatest wins ever.” - The Encyclopedia of Gamecock Football 1892-1994 by John Chandler Griffin.
A TEXAS TWO-STEP: The Carolina roster features two players who list Texas as their home state. Linebacker Eldridge Thompson played his prep ball in Memphis, but his mother and sister now make their home in Houston. Walk-on wide receiver Garrett Frederick is from Plano, just northeast of Dallas. He prepped at Plano High.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: After opening with three-consecutive games against Power 5 opponents, the Gamecocks hosted Louisiana Tech last Saturday and squeaked out a 17-16 last-second victory. Despite outgaining the Bulldogs on the day, 438-361, the Carolina offense was blanked through the first three quarters before tallying 17 fourth-quarter points. Carolina did not lead in the game until the 4:52 mark of the final period when Ty’Son Williams broke loose on a 35-yard touchdown run to give the Gamecocks a 14-13 advantage. Louisiana Tech marched down the field and booted a 25-yard field goal with just 55 seconds left to take a 16-14 lead. But a 24-yard scramble by Jake Bentley and a 41-yard completion to Bryan Edwards set up redshirt freshman Parker White with the game-winning field goal from 31-yards out with four seconds left.
WINNING THE FOURTH QUARTER: Carolina had just 227 yards of offense and no points through three quarters against Louisiana Tech before catching fire in the final period. In that final stanza, the Gamecocks racked up 209 yards and 17 points. Jake Bentley was 7-for-11 for 136 yards in the final period.
ALL THE WHITE STUFF: Redshirt freshman Parker White was 0-for-4 in the field goal department this season, including misses from 34- and 46-yards out earlier in the game, when he stepped on the field with just seconds remaining and the Gamecocks trailing Louisiana Tech 16-14. Undeterred, the walk-on from Mount Pleasant, S.C. calmly booted a game-winning 31-yard field goal for his first career made field goal.
WHO’S NUMBER 1?: The Gamecocks miss the electric play of wide receiver/kick returner Deebo Samuel, who is sidelined after fracturing his left leg against Kentucky, but Bryan Edwards did his best to fill the void. Edwards, a sophomore from Conway, S.C., hauled in six passes for a career-high 122 yards in the win over Louisiana Tech. Included was a key 41-yard reception in the waning moments of the game, setting up Parker White’s heroics. It was the second 100-yard receiving game of his career.
THE PRODIGAL (TY’)SON: After spending the 2015 season at North Carolina, then sitting out 2016 as a transfer, redshirt sophomore running back Ty’Son Williams, from Sumter, S.C., has come up big in the two games when his number has been called. He did not get a carry against NC State in the opener, but came off the bench at Mizzou to lead the team with 14 rushes for 78 yards in the win. Then, after not getting a carry against Kentucky, he made his first collegiate start against Louisiana Tech and responded with 95 yards on 13 carries, a 7.3-yard average, including a 35-yard touchdown burst in the fourth quarter, the longest by a Gamecock this season. After four games, he is the team’s leading rusher with 173 yards on 27 carries, a 6.4-yard average.
TOTING THE ROCK: The Gamecocks rushed 32 times for 143 yards, an average of 4.5 yards per carry, in the win over Louisiana Tech. Carolina went into that contest with just 257 rushing yards on 81 carries through the season’s first three games, an average of 3.2 yards per carry.
MISSING IN ACTION: After having 19 of the 22 starters answer the bell in each of the first three games, the injury bug has struck Carolina, with four starters sidelined last week. Wide receiver/kick returner Deebo Samuel is out indefinitely with a fractured leg, while Buck Bryson Allen-Williams will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Offensive tackle Zack Bailey (ankle) and defensive end Dante Sawyer (hamstring) also missed the LA Tech game. Regular contributors Antoine Wilder (hamstring), Kyle Markway (ribs) and Steven Montac (foot) have also been sidelined, with Markway out for the remainder of the season. In addition, true freshman safety Jaylin Dickerson was impressive enough in the spring to earn a spot on two-deep, but underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in fall camp and will redshirt.
FAST STARTS: The Gamecocks have needed just 13 seconds to get on the board twice this season, scoring in the game’s opening seconds against both NC State and Kentucky. Deebo Samuel needed went 97 yards on the opening kick in the season-opening win over NC State. Against Kentucky, Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel connected on a 68-yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Sophomore linebacker T.J. Brunson and sophomore defensive end D.J. Wonnum each made his first career start 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. Left tackle Dennis Daley made his first start against Kentucky. True freshman wide receiver OrTre Smith, sophomore running back transfer Ty’Son Williams and JUCO defensive tackle transfer Javon Kinlaw, all made their first starts against Louisiana Tech. Smith had a touchdown catch, while Williams led the team with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown.
SENIOR CITIZENS: Carolina lists 12 seniors on its 111-man roster. Ten are listed as starters: Alan Knott and Cory Helms on offense, and Dante Sawyer, Taylor Stallworth, Ulric Jones, Bryson Allen-Williams, Skai Moore, JaMarcus King, D.J. Smith and Chris Lammons on defense. D.J. Park is on the second team. Demetrius Smalls add depth.
FRESH FISH: South Carolina has played eight true freshmen this season. Those newcomers who have seen action for the first time in Division I football are Sherrod Greene, Brad Johnson, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith, Damani Staley, Aaron Sterling, Chad Terrell and Jamyest Williams. OrTre Smith, Shi Smith and Williams have each made a start.
MY QUARTERBACK IS A BENTLEY: Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley is the key to the Gamecock attack. The 6-3, 220-pounder is hitting on 63.8 percent of his passes this season (81-for-127) with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He completed a career-best 16-consecutive passes earlier this season against Kentucky, four shy of the school record of 20, set by Connor Shaw. He ranks third in the SEC in both passing yards per game (250.2) and in total offense (260.5). Bentley, who is 7-4 in 11 career starts, has thrown for over 300 yards in two of his last five games. He set the school record for bowl games and Birmingham Bowl records for passes completed (32), yards passing (390) and total offense (381) while throwing three TD passes in the final game of the 2016 season against USF.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Quarterback Jake Bentley comes from a football family. His father, Bobby, is the Gamecocks’ running backs coach and previously was a highly-successful coach at Byrnes (S.C.) High and at Presbyterian College. Jake’s step-brother, Chas Dodd (Rutgers), and brother, Shuler Bentley (Old Dominion/Murray State), both have played quarterback in college. Chas is on the Carolina staff as a GA in the weight room.
EXPERIENCE NOT NECESSARY: Despite getting seven starts last season from Jake Bentley, the Gamecocks entered the 2017 season as having one of the country’s least experienced unit of signal-callers. The Carolina quarterbacks combined to appear in just eight career games entering the season, seven by Bentley and one by Michael Scarnecchia. The eight appearances ranked in a tie for ninth with Minnesota for fewest quarterback appearances at the start of the season. Despite his limited play, Bentley was named Co-MVP of the team as selected by his teammates, sharing honors with Deebo Samuel.
BAND ON THE RUN: The Gamecocks have a trio of sophomore running backs who will take the bulk of the carries this season. Rico Dowdle (5-11, 220) was the top returning ground-gainer with 764 yards and six touchdowns scored as a true freshman last fall. Dowdle owns three 100-yard rushing games, including a career-best 226-yard performance against Western Carolina. He became the first true freshman to lead the Gamecocks in rushing since Marcus Lattimore in 2010. He has led the team in rushing in two of four games this season with 130 yards on 43 carries while making three starts. A.J. Turner (5-10, 184) logged 497 yards and three scores on 116 carries last season. Included was a career-best 113-yard effort against Texas A&M. He has rushed just 14 times for 40 yards this season. Ty’Son Williams (6-0, 215) became eligible this fall after transferring from North Carolina. Despite not having a carry in two of the four games, he leads the team with 173 yards gained on just 27 rushes, a 6.4 yard average. He turned in the best performance from a running back so far in 2017 when he carried 13 times for 95 yards, including a 35-yard burst, in the win over Louisiana Tech.
MISSING DEEBO: Deebo Samuel did it all for the Gamecocks through the season’s first three games before suffering a broken bone in his leg against Kentucky. In the opener against NC State, he returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score, and caught five passes for 83 yards including a pair of scores, finishing the day with 185 all-purpose yards. At Missouri, he returned another kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, scored on a 25-yard rush and caught five passes for 45 yards, accumulating 167 all-purpose yards. He hauled in five passes for 122 yards, including a 68-yard scoring strike on the game’s first play from scrimmage against Kentucky before suffering the injury.
FINDING DEEBO AMONG THE BEST: Deebo Samuel leads the SEC in scoring at 12.0 points per game, is tied for fifth in receptions per game (5.0), is fourth in receiving yards per game (83.3) and tied for first in all-purpose yards (158.0).
GOING THE DISTANCE TIMES TWO: Deebo Samuel took a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in each of the season’s first two games. 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, 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 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 24 games after not having a kickoff return for a TD between 2002 to 2015.
MOVIN’ ON UP: Bryan Edwards played an excellent second fiddle to Deebo Samuel, but now moves into the first chair. He responded with a six-catch, career-best 122-yard receiving performance against LA Tech. Edwards had the second-best true freshman season for a Gamecock wide receiver in 2016 behind only Alshon Jeffery’s 2009 campaign. Edwards has caught at least five passes in each of the first four games this season, totaling 21 catches for 269 yards. He ranks fourth in the SEC in receptions per game (5.2) and is seventh in receiving yards per game (67.2). The 6-3, 215-pounder from Conway, S.C., has 65 career receptions for 859 yards in his first 16 games.
OK, ORTRE, LET’S PLAY BALL: True freshman OrTre Smith has caught three passes this season, with two going for scores. His first career reception was a 9-yard TD pass late in the game against Kentucky, then caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against LA Tech.
MAN DOWN, MAN UP: With Deebo Samuel sidelined indefinitely, several players will be looked upon to fill the gap opposite Bryan Edwards. Among the candidates are Shi Smith, a true freshman who owns nine catches for 84 yards and possesses excellent quickness; OrTre Smith, a big-bodied true freshman who caught has caught three passes, two of which have gone for scores; redshirt freshman Randrecous Davis, who has hampered by a soft tissue injury but has a big upside; and true freshman Chad Terrell, who owns two catches and was impressive in fall camp.
DIAMONDS AREN’T FOREVER: Hayden Hurst played professional baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization after being selected in the 17th round of the 2012 draft. Now a 6-5, 253-pound junior, the 24-year-old Hurst turned in the school’s best single-season receiving numbers for a tight end in 2016. His 48 receptions and 616 receiving yards topped the previous marks of 38 catches, set by Doug Hamrick in 1970, and 576 yards, set by Danny Smith in 1987. The former walk-on also served as the Gamecocks’ punt returner against Georgia, becoming the biggest punt returner in Division I football in recent memory. He also was selected a permanent team captain in 2016, becoming the first sophomore in school history to earn that distinction.
EXPERIENCED UP FRONT: The Gamecocks feature an offensive line that boasts a wealth of experience, but injuries may test them up front. Cory Helms (40 starts) and Alan Knott (33) have logged the most starting assignments on the squad. Zack Bailey (21), Malik Young (12), Donell Stanley (5), D.J. Park (3) and Dennis Daley (2) have also gained starting experience. When Bailey was sidelined last week, Young moved to right tackle. When Helms went out with an ankle injury during the LA Tech game, Stanley moved from left to right guard and Sadarius Hutcherson stepped in at left guard.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Junior offensive lineman Zack Bailey is considered the Gamecocks’ best offensive lineman. The 6-6, 311-pounder from Summerville, S.C., who was named to the 2015 SEC All-Freshman team, has played in 27 of the last 28 games. His streak of 18-consecutive starts was snapped against LA Tech due to an ankle injury. He was moved to right tackle in the spring after spending the 2016 campaign at left guard.
TACKLING MACHINE: Sophomore T.J. Brunson is the Gamecocks’ top tackler and ranks second in the SEC through three games with 42 stops, or 10.5 tackles per game. Brunson made his first start as a Gamecock memorable. The 6-1, 230-pound linebacker from Columbia, S.C. posted a game- and career-high 16 tackles in the win over NC State. It was the most tackles in a game for a Gamecock since Antonio Allen logged 16 stops against ECU on Sept. 3, 2011, a game that was also played in Charlotte. He followed that up with a six-tackle performance at Missouri and added a game-high 12 tackles vs. Kentucky and eight more stops vs. Louisiana Tech. Brunson logged just 12 tackles during the entire 2016 season.
SKAI RETURNS: Skai Moore is back after missing the entire 2016 season following surgery to address a herniated disk in his neck. The 6-2, 221-pound linebacker 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. He has logged at least seven tackles in all four games this season and ranks second on the squad and tied for eighth in the SEC with an average of 8.5 tackles per game. With 172 unassisted tackles, he ranks eighth in Carolina history.
CHARLESTON REWARDED: Redshirt sophomore Javon Charleston was rewarded with a scholarship just before the start of fall classes. Charleston, a 6-0, 189-pounder from Gurnee, Ill., is a cousin to former Gamecock great Marcus Lattimore. He came to Carolina as a wide receiver but was moved to safety in the spring. He played in every game in 2016, primarily on special teams.
JUST FOR KICKS: The Gamecocks have had to replace the school’s all-time leading scorer in placekicker Elliott Fry. Fry tallied 359 points over the past four seasons. Redshirt freshman Alexander Woznick came out of the spring as the odds-on favorite to win the job, but was pressed by freshman Parker White in the fall. Both are walk-ons. Woznick is 9-of-10 on extra point attempts and 1-of-3 on field goals, while White is 3-for-3 on PATs and 1-for-5 in the field goal department with two attempts coming from beyond 50 yards. His lone make was a 31-yard game-winner in the final seconds against Louisiana Tech.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS?: Whether Alexander Woznick or Parker White handles the placekicking job, he is working with an entirely new unit, as Ben Asbury is the new deep snapper, replacing four-year starter Drew Williams, and backup quarterback Danny Gordon is the holder, replacing Sean Kelly.
THIS IS CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Redshirt sophomore Joseph Charlton, who came to Carolina on a scholarship from A.C. Flora High School in Columbia, is the Gamecocks’ punter. Charlton has averaged 43.4 yards over his 16 punts with five measuring over 50 yards, including a career-long 73-yarder at Missouri, the longest punt by a Gamecock since Marty Simpson had a 79-yard punt in the 1992 season.
BREAKDOWN DEAD AHEAD: The breakdown of the Gamecocks’ 110-man roster features 12 seniors, 21 juniors, 30 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen and 31 true freshmen.
WHO DOES THAT? The Gamecocks are one of only three Power Five schools to have two games away from their campus before their 2017 home opener. Carolina opened with a neutral site game against NC State in Charlotte before traveling to Missouri. Louisville opened with a neutral site game against Purdue in Indianapolis, then traveled to North Carolina. Stanford has the toughest go of it. They opened in Sydney, Australia against Rice, then were on the road for their next two games, at Southern Cal and San Diego State.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: The Gamecocks have four student-athletes who have earned their undergraduate degree. The quartet includes Ulric Jones (interdisciplinary studies), Skai Moore (interdisciplinary studies), D.J. Park (criminal justice) and Dante Sawyer (interdisciplinary studies).
WORKING OVERTIME: The Gamecocks are 2-3 all-time in games decided in overtime. They won their first overtime game at Missouri, 27-24, in two overtimes on Oct. 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 Sept. 27, 2003 in Knoxville, and a 27-24 loss in Knoxville on Oct. 27, 2007 and a 45-42 loss in Columbia on Nov. 1, 2014.
THEY PAY TO SEE THEM PLAY: South Carolina ranked 17th in the nation in home attendance in 2016, with an average home crowd of 76,920, just shy of the 80,250 capacity. Williams-Brice Stadium boasted a sell-out crowd of 82,493 in the 2017 home opener vs. Kentucky. Carolina is averaging 77,157 through two home games, 16th in the nation.
BIG ROAD CROWDS: South Carolina will play in three of the nation’s 10-largest college football stadiums this fall, traveling to Texas A&M’s Kyle Field in College Station (3rd-102,733), Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium in Knoxville (4th-102,455) and Georgia’s Sanford Stadium in Athens (9th-92,746).
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks return home next week to host the Arkansas Razorbacks in another SEC matchup. The former cross-division partners meet for the first time since the 2013 season. The Razorbacks lead the all-time series by a 13-9 count, but the Gamecocks hold a slim 6-5 advantage in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won each of the last two games in the series, posting a 38-20 win in Columbia in 2012, then a 52-7 victory in Fayetteville in 2013.
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