Gamecock Gameday: Football Hosts Mississippi State On Saturday
Nov. 1, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The No. 14/16 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2 SEC) return home following a three-game road trip to open a four-game homestand against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (4-3, 1-2 SEC) on Saturday, November 2. Game time is set for 12:21 p.m. ET with Dave Neal and Andre Ware in the booth and Cara Capuano working the sidelines for SEC TV. Roxy Bernstein and Gino Torretta will have the national radio call for Touchdown Radio. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs handle the call for the Gamecock Radio Network with Langston Moore on the sidelines. WKNT (107.5 The Game) in Columbia is the flagship station for Gamecock Athletics.
IS THERE A HEISMAN IN THE HOUSE?: There are at least three and more likely four former Heisman Trophy winners in the house this week. Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier (Florida) won the award in 1966, SEC TV analyst Andre Ware (Houston) was the 1989 winner and Touchdown Radio voice Gino Torretta (Miami, Fla.) captured the prestigious award in 1992. It's likely that South Carolina's own George Rogers (1980) will be on hand as well.
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 24 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 571-547-44. The Gamecocks were nine games under .500 until head coach Steve Spurrier took the reins in 2005, but are 33 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 76-97-1 all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 21-9 since 2010 in conference action.
CAROLINA VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE: This is the 15th game in a series that dates back to 1992, South Carolina's first season in the SEC. The 21-6 win by the Gamecocks on Oct. 17, 1992, was Carolina's first-ever SEC win. The Bulldogs won six of the next seven meetings between the two schools from 1993-99. South Carolina has bounced back with six straight wins - every time the two teams have met in this millennium. Carolina leads the all-time series 8-6, posting a 4-3 record in both Columbia and Starkville. Four of the 14 games have featured a shutout, and five have been decided by less than a touchdown. The 1995 game which produced 104 points in a South Carolina 65-39 win, remains the record for most combined points scored in a game played by the Gamecocks. Carolina has not surrendered more than 21 points to the Bulldogs in any of the last seven contests.
SPURRIER VS. STATE: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 7-2 all-time record against Mississippi State, including a 3-0 mark as head coach at South Carolina. He has won each of his last four outings against the Bulldogs, two by shutout, outscoring MSU by a 119-33 margin. His teams have scored at least 29 points in six of the nine meetings. For a game-by-game listing, please refer to page 16 of these notes.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Gamecocks used a solid defense and just enough offense to escape Starkville with a 14-12 win over Mississippi State on October 15, 2011. The Gamecocks held the Bulldogs to under 300 yards of total offense and intercepted two passes, including a D.J. Swearinger theft at the Carolina 12-yard line with just over a minute left in the game to preserve the victory. Swearinger finished the day with a game- and career-high 12 tackles, earning co-SEC Player of the Week honors. Offensively, the Gamecocks were stymied much of the afternoon, but put together a 12-play, 79-yard fourth-quarter drive that consumed 5:54 on the clock, culminating with a Connor Shaw four-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery for the winning score. Bruce Ellington figured in on that final drive, returning the kick for 17 yards, rushing twice out of the "Wildcat" formation for 14 yards, completing a pass for eight yards and catching a pass for another eight yards. His efforts garnered him co-Freshman of the Week honors in the SEC.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET IN COLUMBIA: Freshman Chris Smelley threw for a then-career-best 279 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 16 South Carolina to a 38-21 win over Mississippi State on Sept. 29, 2007. Mike Davis scored three rushing touchdowns, including two in the final period, as Carolina scored the game's final 21 points to erase a 21-17 third quarter deficit. Kenny McKinley caught four passes for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the contest. The Gamecocks rolled up 402 yards of offense while limiting Mississippi State to just 258, including 118 through the air.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: South Carolina is off to a 6-2 start and are bowl-eligible for the 10th-straight year. It's the seventh-straight season that the Gamecocks have opened with at least six wins in their first eight games.
GOOD HOME COOKIN': The Gamecocks have won their last 14 games at Williams-Brice Stadium. Carolina is 30-3 in its last 33 home games. The only home losses since the beginning of the 2009 season came to top-ranked Florida in 2009, to 17th-ranked Arkansas in 2010 and to defending national champion Auburn in 2011. The Gamecocks' 14-game home winning streak is tied with Ohio State for the second-longest in the nation, trailing only Michigan (19).
TOP HOME STREAKS: The Gamecocks have won 14-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. Here are the top home winning streaks in school history: YEARS WINS SNAPPED BY 1978-1980 15 Ole Miss 2011-2013 (current) 14 TBD 1986-1988 13 Florida State
PERFECT AT HOME: The Gamecocks are 3-0 at home this season with four home games remaining. They went 7-0 at home in 2012. It marked the first time they ran the table at home since joining the SEC. The last time they had gone undefeated at home prior to 2012 was in 1987. They have been undefeated and untied at home 10 times.
THE LAST TIME OUT: The No. 20/20 Gamecocks traveled to Columbia, Mo. for the first time and made history with a 27-24 double-overtime win over the No. 5 Tigers. The Gamecocks rallied from a 17-0 fourth-quarter deficit to win an overtime game for the first time in school history. It was also the first double-overtime game in Carolina history. Connor Shaw was the hero, coming off the bench in the second half to hit 20-of-29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He led Carolina to scores on each of its last five possessions. Along with Dylan Thompson, the Gamecocks threw for 423 yards, the most in the Spurrier Era. Bruce Ellington caught a career-high 10 passes for a career-high 136 yards and two scores, including a 15-yard reception on a fourth-and-goal in the first overtime period. Mike Davis added 10 receptions for 99 yards and totaled 150 all-purpose yards. Kelcy Quarles led the defense with six tackles including 3.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. Elliott Fry's 40-yard field goal in the second OT proved to be the game-winner.
BEST CAROLINA WINS: The Gamecocks win over No. 5 Missouri matched the fourth-best win in school history by the A.P. rankings. It was the second-best road win, topped only by the 1981 win at No. 3 North Carolina.
COMEBACK OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS: The Gamecocks rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter on the road to the No. 5 team in the country, which would be considered as one of the greatest come-from-behind wins in school history. It was the largest comeback by the Gamecocks at any point of a game since rallying from a 17-point second-quarter deficit vs. East Carolina on Sept. 3, 2011. Connor Shaw (offense), Kelcy Quarles (defensive line) and Elliott Fry (special teams) all earned SEC Player-of-the-Week honors for their efforts.
JUST GO FOR IT: The Gamecocks lead the country in fourth-down conversions made, keeping the drive alive 14 times on a fourth-down play, one ahead of Kentucky (13-of-18). Only California (10-for-25) and Idaho (10-for-22) have attempted more fourth-down opportunities than Carolina's 21. Interestingly, those three other schools have combined for a 3-20 record.
BETTER THAN AVERAGE: The Carolina defense has held six of its eight opponents below their season scoring average, with four held double-digits below that average. Only Georgia and Kentucky scored more against the Gamecocks than they have on average this season. Overall, Carolina is holding its opponents to a touchdown less a game than they are accustomed to scoring.
PASSING FANCY: Connor Shaw (20-of-29 for 201 yards) and Dylan Thompson (15-of-27 for 222 yards) combined to complete 35-of-56 passes for 423 yards in the win at Missouri. It was the most passes attempted, the most passes completed and the most yards passing in the Steve Spurrier Era at South Carolina. The previous highs were 53 attempts (at Georgia in 2009), 34 completions (at Tennessee in 2007) and 397 yards (vs. East Carolina in 2012). It was also the most passing yards since the Gamecocks completed 40-of-46 passes for 490 yards at Mississippi State on Oct. 14, 1995. Steve Taneyhill did most of the work that day, completing 38-of-44 for a school-record 473 yards.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Bruce Ellington (10 for 136 yards) and Mike Davis (10 for 99 yards) became the first tandem of Gamecock receivers to reach double-digits in receptions in the same game since Stanley Pritchett (12 for 113) and Zola Davis (11 for 185) accomplished the feat at Mississippi State on October 14, 1995. Both the receptions and receiving yards were career highs for both Ellington and Davis.
STAYING ON THE FIELD: Carolina's offense had been one of the best teams in the country in logging the fewest three-and-outs this season. Of their first 60 offensive drives, the Gamecocks had just seven three-and-outs. In the loss at Tennessee, they were held in check with six three-and-outs among their 14 drives, including all three drives in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. That trend seemed to continue as they went 3-and-out on the first two drives against Missouri before getting into a rhythm. For the season, Carolina has been held to three-and-out just 15 times in 88 drives, 17.0 percent of the time, the nation's sixth-best mark. That has helped them control the clock, ranking 30th in the nation in time of possession at 32:13 per game. Carolina has scored on 41-of-88 drives, 46.6 percent, with 33 touchdowns.
BEST OFFENSE IN HISTORY?: Carolina is averaging 475.1 yards per game of total offense, including 205.9 on the ground and 269.2 through the air. They are on pace to easily shatter the school record for average yards of total offense.
LONG DRIVE CONTEST: South Carolina has put together 17 touchdown drives this season of 75 yards or longer. Four have been over 90 yards. The drives have ranged from 0:13 to 9:29.
500 OR BUST: Carolina has gone over the 500-yard mark in total offense twice this season, gaining 579 yards vs. Vanderbilt and 537 at Arkansas, and narrowly missed a third with 498 at Missouri. They have logged over 1,000 yards of offense in consecutive games twice this year, going for 454 at Georgia before the 579 against Vanderbilt, then coupling the Vandy total with 490 gained at UCF. It is just the eighth and ninth times since joining the SEC in 1992 that USC has produced 1,000 or more yards of offense in back-to-back games. They have also gained over 1,500 yards in three-consecutive games twice, just the third and fourth times that has occurred since 1992.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF GAMECOCK FOOTBALL: The Gamecocks have put together back-to-back 11-win seasons, the first back-to-back, double-digit win seasons in school history. They have logged two of their three 10-or more win seasons in the last two years. The only previous 10-win campaign came in 1984. Entering the 2013 campaign, the Gamecocks had won 22 games over the past two seasons, 31 over the past three seasons, and 38 over the past four seasons, all school records. With one more win, this year's senior class will match last year's class for the most wins in a four-year period in school history.
THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his ninth season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 72-39 mark (.649) in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach is Carolina's winningest coach with 72 victories and is second in games coached with 111, behind Rex Enright (140). Coach Spurrier owns a 214-79-2 mark (.729) in 24 seasons as a collegiate head coach, with previous stops at Duke and Florida.
AT THE TOP OF THE LEADERBOARD: Steve Spurrier recorded his 65th victory at South Carolina in the 2012 the regular-season finale at Clemson. He surpassed Rex Enright (64) for the most coaching wins in school history. He now owns 72 wins at South Carolina. He is also the winningest coach at Florida with 122 victories. The legendary Bear Bryant (60 at Kentucky and 232 at Alabama) is the only other coach to own the most wins at two SEC schools.
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 214 wins. In addition, the HBC has 47 wins as a head coach at the professional level, giving him 261 career coaching wins.
NEW TERRITORY: The 2013 Outback Bowl marked the seventh time Coach Spurrier has taken Carolina to a bowl game. They have been bowl-eligible in each of his now nine campaigns. No other coach in history has taken the Gamecocks to more than three bowl games. Coach Spurrier is 3-4 in bowl games at Carolina, including back-to-back bowl wins over Nebraska (Capital One Bowl) and Michigan (Outback Bowl). He is the only Gamecock coach to post three bowl victories.
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 57-consecutive weeks, trailing only Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma. Carolina's streak started with the second week of the 2010 season and is the longest consecutive streak in school history.
FIRST TIMERS: 18 Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season. Eight made their first career start in the season-opening win over North Carolina, including 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. Fullback Connor McLaurin, defensive end Darius English and linebacker T.J. Holloman all made their first start against Kentucky. Cornerback Rico McWilliams and safety Chaz Elder both made their first starts at Arkansas. Offensive guard Will Sport and wide receiver Pharoh Cooper made their first starts at Tennessee.
SHAW STANDS OUT: Senior quarterback Connor Shaw is 22-5 as a starter, including a 13-0 mark at home. With 5,135 yards passing and 1,514 yards rushing, he is not only the first 4,000-1,000 yard player in school history, but also the first 5,000-1,000. He is the school's all-time leader in completion percentage at 66.1 percent, is fourth with 46 touchdown passes, and is fourth in total offense with 6,649 yards.
THROWING STRIKES: When the Gamecocks pitch it around, there's been no one who has been more accurate in school history than Connor Shaw. Shaw is hitting 66.1 percent of his career pass attempts. He had gone a career-best and school record 177 pass attempts without an interception before getting picked at Tennessee. This season he ranks fourth in the SEC and 14th in the country in pass efficiency with a mark of 162.6, tossing 14 touchdowns with one interception while completing 64.4 percent of his passes.
QB WINS SINCE 1971: Connor Shaw became just the fifth quarterback at Carolina since 1971 (and most likely in school history) to record 20 or more wins as a starter. Shaw easily has the best winning percentage of the group with an 81.5 percent success rate.
THROWN' IN THE WIND: Junior Dylan Thompson, a 6-3, 218-pounder from Boiling Springs, S.C., is waiting in the wings if Shaw is unable to answer the bell and has proven to be more than adequate. In 2012, Thompson led the Gamecocks to wins over East Carolina and Clemson in his two starts, throwing for over 300 yards on both occasions. He 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 11 seconds remaining in the contest. In 2013, Thompson completed a 29-yard TD pass to Kane Whitehurst in the season opener against North Carolina, the only snap he took from scrimmage in that game. 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. He played most of the game at UCF, completing 15-of-32 passes for 261 yards. He was 4-of-5 for 38 yards and a touchdown in the win at Arkansas. He made his first start of the 2013 season at Missouri and went 15-of-27 for 222 yards with one INT. For the season, he is 44-of-78 (56.4 percent) for 643 yards and two TD's with three interceptions.
BE LIKE MIKE: Sophomore running back Mike Davis has put together six 100-yard rushing games this season, earning a midseason addition to the Maxwell Award watch list, and spots on Phil Steele's first-team All-SEC and third-team All-America squads. He became the 41st player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau for his career. The Lithonia, Ga. product had 115 yards in the season opener against North Carolina, 149 at UGA, was held to 77 by Vanderbilt before rebounding with a career-high 167 yards in the win at UCF, then logged 106 against Kentucky before going for 128 at Arkansas and 137 at Tennessee. He was held to a season-low 51 yards last week at Missouri but added 99 receiving yards. Davis is the SEC's leading rusher, averaging 116.2 yards per contest, is second in all-purpose yardage at 153.8 yards per game, and is tied for fourth in scoring at 7.5 points per game. Davis ranks 12th in the nation in rushing and 13th in all-purpose yards. He has scored a touchdown in seven of eight games this season with 10 TDs total.
A SEASON TO REMEMBER: Mike Davis is closing in on 1,000 yards for the season. Davis has 930 yards through eight games. There have only been nine seasons and seven players (George Rogers did it three times) in Carolina history with a 1,000-yard rusher.
100-YARD EFFORTS: The Gamecocks have six 100-yard rushing games this season, all from Mike Davis, two more than their total from a season ago when they got three from Marcus Lattimore and one from Kenny Miles. Davis is 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. Only 10 backs in Carolina history have more 100-yard rushing games than Davis has in his career.
MAKING A POINT: Mike Davis has logged a touchdown in seven of eight games this season, recording 10 TDs overall. That moves him into the top-10 single-season marks in school history:
SINGLE-SEASON RUSHING TOUCHDOWN LEADERS
1. Marcus Lattimore (2010) - 17
WITH 50 YOU GET 72: There have been 72 recorded rushes of 50 yards or more from scrimmage in South Carolina history. Mike Davis has logged four of those in his first two seasons. He had a 50-yarder as a true freshman against UAB last season. His 75-yard burst against North Carolina in the 2013 season opener and his first career start was the longest by a Gamecock since Bobby Wallace went for 88 against Middle Tennessee in 2006, and tied for the 12th-longest run in school history. He matched that with another 75-yard burst at Georgia, playing for the first time as a collegian in his home state. Of the 14 runs in school history of 75 yards or longer, Davis is the only one to do it twice. His fourth-career 50-yard jaunt came at UCF, a 53-yard TD run. Only Derek Watson has more runs of 50-plus yards at Carolina.
ON THE RECEIVING END: The Gamecocks have spread the wealth in the passing game this season with 16 different players getting receptions and four different players leading the team in receiving in the seven games this season. The Gamecocks list no seniors on the three-deep at the three wide receiver positions.
Bruce Ellington is the top returning receiver. He logged 40 receptions for 600 yards and seven touchdowns last season. After a slow start, he broke loose against Vanderbilt, catching eight passes for 111 yards, both then-career highs. He topped that with a 10-catch, 136-yard, 2-touchdown effort last week at Missouri. For the season, he has a team-high 31 catches for a team-best 468 yards with five touchdowns, including two against both Arkansas and Missouri. Ellington went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for his career in the win at UCF. With 13 career touchdown receptions he is tied for ninth on Carolina's all-time list.
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 four times in 2013. For the season, he has 21 catches for 203 yards and four scores.
Damiere Byrd, the fastest player on the squad, has come on strong of late. He caught a career-high five passes for 74 yards at UCF, then had another five-catch game against Kentucky, this time for a then-career-high 98 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown reception. He added a 45-yard scoring pass at Arkansas. At Tennessee, he recorded four catches for a career-high 121 yards, including a 76-yard TD catch. He added four receptions for 76 yards at Missouri. He has 23 catches on the season for 460 yards with 3 TDs.
Shaq Roland, the 2011 "Mr. Football" recipient in the state of South Carolina, averages 18.3 yards per catch, including a 65-yard TD reception on the Gamecocks' third play from scrimmage this season.
HANGIN' WITH MR. COOPER: Pharoh Cooper is starting to make his presence felt. The true freshman has taken the direct snap in the "wildcat" formation. He had two carries for 26 yards against Kentucky, then carried four times for 45 yards against Arkansas, including a 33-yard burst. He also took over the punt and kickoff return duties against the Razorbacks and logged a 36-yard punt return, the longest by a Gamecock this season.
STELLAR TIGHT ENDS: The Gamecocks are blessed with a pair of standout tight ends. Junior Rory "Busta" Anderson is an All-SEC candidate. He came into the season with eight touchdown receptions among his 22 career catches. Sophomore Jerell Adams averaged over 22 yards a catch on just four receptions last season, and has maintained that average this season. The two combined for six catches and 86 receiving yards in the win at Missouri. With Anderson checking in at 6-5, 242, and Adams at 6-6, 237, both can present a matchup advantage.
THE O-LINE: The Gamecocks boast a veteran offensive line with four returning starters. Junior left guard A.J. Cann is the most experienced of the group with 32 career starts, the most on the squad, and is an All-SEC candidate. He was a midseason first-team All-SEC selection by Phil Steele. Senior right guard Ronald Patrick started all 13 games last season and has started 20 of the last 21 games, missing the Tennessee contest with a high ankle sprain. Junior left tackle Corey Robinson started nine of the final 10 games a season ago, while right tackle Brandon Shell was a Freshman All-American while making 10 starts in 2012. The two tackles have started every game this season. The lone newcomer is at center, where a pair of redshirt freshmen, Cody Waldrop and Clayton Stadnik have split time. Waldrop started the opener, but suffered a foot sprain in the win over North Carolina. He was replaced by Stadnik, who started the next two games before Waldrop returned to face UCF. Waldrop has continued to be plagued by injuries, so Stadnik has started the last four games. Clayton's twin brother, Brock, is also a member of the Carolina offensive line, and was the more highly-recruited of the two. The two played side-by-side at the collegiate level for the first time in the win at Arkansas.
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: Coming 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 6.5 tackles for loss this season, he continues to move up the all-time Carolina charts in those categories. In addition, he has a school-record nine career forced fumbles. Here's where he ranks on Carolina's all-time lists after just two-plus seasons:
FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE: Jadeveon Clowney is not the only one who can get to the quarterback. Junior Kelcy Quarles, an All-SEC candidate, is reaping the benefits of the attention Clowney draws. Quarles leads the team and is second in the SEC in both sacks (7.0) and tackles for loss (10.0), already surpassing his 2012 totals of 3.5 sacks and 8.0 TFLs. Fifth-year senior Chaz Sutton, who has spent the past two years backing up Clowney and Devin Taylor, logged 5.0 sacks last season. He is tied for second on the team with 6.5 tackles for loss this season and has 18.0 in his career.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES: The Gamecocks have tallied 59 tackles for loss, an average of 7.4 tackles for loss per game, third in the SEC and 18th in the country, including a season-high 14 in the loss at Tennessee. 19 different players have contributed to the TFLs, led by Kelcy Quarles (10.0), Chaz Sutton (6.5), Jadeveon Clowney (6.5) and Jimmy Legree (5.5).
NEW BACKERS: 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. Sophomore Will linebacker Marcquis Roberts has started every game and leads the team with 35 tackles. His backup, true freshman Skai Moore, is third on the squad with 32 stops. Redshirt freshman Mike linebacker T.J. Holloman and junior spur Sharrod Golightly are right behind with 31 tackles each. Sophomore Kaiwan Lewis has 29 tackles. Sophomore Cedrick Cooper, who dislocated his elbow in the preseason, redshirt freshman Jordan Diggs and true freshman Lorenz Bryant also play.
SECONDARY IN NATURE: South Carolina returned three starters in the secondary in junior cornerback Victor Hampton, senior cornerback Jimmy Legree and junior safety Brison Williams. Hampton is considered the shutdown corner, while Legree has played both corner and safety during his career. Legree has five picks in his career, one more than Hampton.
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 is 8-for-10 in field goal attempts. He hit from 39 and 26 yards in the season opener against North Carolina and on a 36-yarder at Georgia. After not getting an attempt against either Vanderbilt or UCF, he was good on 40- and 41-yard field goals against Kentucky and connected from 33-yards out at Arkansas. He missed for the first time this season at Tennessee from 45-yards out. He connected on 2-of-3 at Missouri, hitting from 20-yards out in the fourth quarter then nailing the eventual game-winner in the second overtime from 40-yards away. He is tied for seventh in the SEC in scoring among kickers, averaging 6.9 points per game. He became the first true freshman placekicker to kick in the Gamecocks' season opener since Courtney Leavitt in 1996.
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. This year he is averaging 38.2 yards per punt with seven of his 26 punts inside the 20 and a long of 55 yards. He punted eight times at Tennessee after logging just 16 punts through the first six games.
EVERY TIME OUT: Eight players have started every game this year, four on offense and five on defense: Junior offensive guard A.J. Cann, junior spur Sharrod Golightly, senior cornerback Jimmy Legree, senior sophomore linebacker Marcquis Roberts, junior offensive tackle Corey Robinson, sophomore offensive tackle Brandon Shell, junior defensive tackle J.T. Surratt and senior defensive end Chaz Sutton.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Gamecocks are 12-5 in their last 17 true road contests. Four of the five road losses in that stretch came to nationally-ranked opponents: at No. 8 Arkansas in 2011, at No. 9 LSU and No. 3 Florida in 2012 and at No. 11 Georgia in 2013, before losing to unranked Tennessee last week. Those are the only five losses for Connor Shaw as the starting quarterback.
WHAT'S NEXT: After enjoying a bye week next week, the Gamecocks wrap up their SEC regular season schedule when they host the Florida Gators on Saturday, November 16. The Gators lead the all-time series 24-6-3, including a 10-5-1 advantage in Columbia. However, the Gamecocks have won two of the last three meetings between the two squads.
WHAT'S LEFT?: Four teams realistically remain in the hunt for the SEC Eastern Division title with two or fewer losses. Mathematically, Tennessee still holds out hope as well if they can run the table and get to 5-3. Here is how the SEC Eastern Division shapes up:
Missouri (3-1): vs. Tennessee; at Kentucky; at Ole Miss; vs. Texas A&M