Nov. 4, 2011
The No. 10/10 South Carolina Gamecocks (7-1, 5-1 SEC) play their third straight SEC road contest when they travel to Fayetteville to resume their rivalry with the No. 8/8 Arkansas Razorbacks (7-1, 3-1 SEC) on Saturday, November 5. Game time is set for 7:15 p.m. ET at Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000). ESPN will televise the contest nationally. This is the final regular season road game for Carolina. The Gamecocks will play their last three regular season contests at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia against Florida, The Citadel and Clemson.
The Gamecocks are in control of their own destiny to win the SEC Eastern Division title for a second straight year. Carolina sits atop the East with a 5-1 mark, including a 4-0 record within the division. Georgia is the only other team remaining in the Eastern Division race. Carolina holds the tiebreaker based on a Sept. 10 45-42 win at Georgia.
A South Carolina win over Arkansas would...
* Give the Gamecocks six SEC wins in a season for the first time in school history. 2011 marks the fifth time that Carolina has won five SEC contests, also doing so in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2010.
* Give the Gamecocks eight or more wins in a season for just the 11th time in school history.
* Extend the Gamecocks' school record to seven straight "true" road wins. They have won their last six games on an opponent's home field, defeating Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson to wrap up the 2010 season, and have won at Georgia, at Mississippi State and at Tennessee this season. The only other times they posted as many as four consecutive road wins came from 2005-06 (5) and from 1914-15 (4).
* Give Connor Shaw his fifth straight win as a starting quarterback, the first Carolina quarterback to begin his career with five straight wins since at least 1971. Steve Taneyhill (1992) and Chris Smelley (2007) are the only other Carolina signal-callers to win each of his first four starts over the past 40 seasons.
A LITTLE HISTORY: 2011 marks the 118th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 105th-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 550-542-44. The 2011 season marks South Carolina's 20th year in the Southeastern Conference. The Gamecocks earned their first SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season.
THIS WEEK'S FOE: The Gamecocks travel to Fayetteville to face the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs are 7-1 overall and 3-1 in four league games this season under head coach Bobby Petrino. Their lone loss was a 38-14 setback at Alabama. The Razorbacks have tallied at least 29 points against each of their other seven opponents.
TWO TOP TEN TEAMS: When the Gamecocks play the Razorbacks, it will be the first time Carolina has been involved in a game featuring two Top-10 teams since the 1987 Gator Bowl when a seventh-ranked LSU team defeated No. 9 Carolina, 30-13. The Gamecocks finished that season ranked 15th in the AP poll. Carolina is ranked 10th by both the AP and Coaches this week and is 9th in the BCS, while Arkansas is eighth in both major polls and 7th in the BCS. The Gamecocks are 0-3 in games involving two top-10 teams.
CAROLINA VS. ARKANSAS: This is the 20th game in a series that dates back to 1992 when both schools joined the SEC. The Razorbacks lead the all-time series, 12-7, including a 7-2 advantage when the games have been played in their home state (4-1 in Fayetteville and 3-1 in Little Rock). Arkansas has won each of the last two meetings, posting a 41-20 win in Columbia last season and a 33-16 victory in 2009, the last time the two squads hooked up in Fayetteville. South Carolina's lone win in the last five meetings was a 34-21 triumph in Columbia in 2008. The Gamecocks last win in Arkansas was a 14-10 victory in the 2005 campaign.
JEFFERY NEARING MARKS: Junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (167 receptions for 2,748 yards) needs just 33 yards to match Kenny McKinley (2,781) as the school's all-time leader in receiving yards. He needs three catches to pass Sterling Sharpe (169) for second all-time in career receptions. He also needs three touchdown catches to tie Sidney Rice on the school's all-time list for touchdown receptions at 23.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Ryan Mallett threw for 303 yards and Knile Davis rushed for three scores to lead Arkansas to a 41-20 win in Columbia on Nov. 6, 2010. The Hogs scored on four of their five first-half possessions to lead 24-10 at the break, and scored the first 17 points of the second half to put the game away.
THE LAST TIME IN FAYETTEVILLE: Ryan Mallett went 23-of-27 for 329 yards to lead Arkansas to a 33-16 win over South Carolina on Nov. 7, 2009. Mallett was 12-of-13 in the second half as the Razorbacks scored 23 unanswered points to rally from a 16-10 deficit. Stephen Garcia passes for 327 yards, including an 80-yard strike to Alshon Jeffery on the first play of the second half. Neither team could muster a running attack, as South Carolina rushed for 53 yards on 25 carries while Arkansas was held in check to 76 yards on 36 totes.
THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his seventh season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 51-34 mark in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach ranks second on the school's all-time wins list and third in games coached at South Carolina. Spurrier owns a 193-74-2 mark as a collegiate head coach, with stops at Duke and Florida before his stint at South Carolina. He is signed through the 2014 season.
SPURRIER VS. PETRINO: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is 1-2 all-time against Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. The three meetings have come in each of the last three seasons.
SPURRIER VS. ARKANSAS: Steve Spurrier owns a 5-4 career record against the Razorbacks, including a 2-4 mark as the head coach of the Gamecocks. He is 2-2 in Fayetteville (wins by scores of 42-7 in 1996 and 14-10 in 2005; losses of 48-36 in 2007 and 33-16 in 2009), 1-1 in Columbia, 1-0 in Gainesville, and 1-0 in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta (34-3 in 1995).
ROAD WARRIORS: The Gamecocks have set a school record by winning their last six road games on their opponents' home field. The Gamecocks won at Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson to wrap up the 2010 season, then won at Georgia, at Mississippi State and at Tennessee this season. The only other time they posted as many as four consecutive road wins occurred in 2005-06 (Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi Sate, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) and 1914-15 (Wofford and Newberry, North Carolina A&M and Wofford). A win at Arkansas would give them a perfect road record this season, something that's never been accomplished in the modern era.
ROAD STREAK: The Gamecocks own the nation's fifth-longest road winning streak. Only Virginia Tech (12), Oklahoma State (9), Oregon (9) and Stanford (7) have longer current road winning streaks than the Gamecocks' six-straight road wins.
REGULAR SEASON SUCCESS: Since losing to Arkansas last November, Carolina has reeled off 10 wins in its last 11 regular season contests. Going back further, the Gamecocks have won 17 of their last 21 regular season games.
LUCKY SEVEN: With a 7-1 record, Carolina has seven-or-more wins in their first eight games for just the fourth time in school history. They were a perfect 8-0 in 1984 (before finishing 10-2), and 7-1 in 1988 and again in 2000 (before finishing 8-4 both times). Here are the 7-, 8-, 9- and 10-win seasons prior to 2011:
7 wins - 12 times: 1924, 1925, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1969, 1973, 1975, 1994, 2005, 2008, 2009.
8 wins - 7 times: 1903, 1979, 1980, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2006.
9 wins - 2 times: 2001, 2010.
10 wins - 1 time: 1984
TAKE FIVE: The Gamecocks have posted five SEC wins for just the fifth time in school history. They finished the 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2010 seasons with 5-3 SEC records. They have never won six SEC games in a single season. The 2011 season marks the eighth time they will finish with at least a .500 record in SEC play (also 4-4 in 1996, 2004 and 2008).
THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks used what has become a regular theme of a stout defense and just enough offense to post a 14-3 win at Tennessee last Saturday in Knoxville. Offensively, the Gamecocks rode the hard-running of true freshman tailback Brandon Wilds. Wilds carried 28 times for 137 yards, earning SEC Freshman of the Week and Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week honors. Quarterback Connor Shaw added 64 yards on 16 carries, as Carolina rolled up 231 yards on the ground. Meanwhile the Gamecock defense held the Vols to 186 total yards, including 35 on the ground. D. J. Swearinger and Stephon Gilmore both made key interceptions near the goal line to thwart any Volunteer rally after Carolina turnovers had allowed Tennessee an opportunity to get back into the game.
THE DRIVE: The Gamecocks put together their longest scoring drive of the season and the longest scoring drive in terms of time and plays under Head Coach Steve Spurrier when they traveled 98 yards on 20 plays in 11:35 of the third quarter. Carolina converted six third downs on the drive. The drive consisted of 17 running plays (11 by Brandon Wilds for 51 yards, five by Connor Shaw for 33 yards, and one by Kenny Miles for no gain) and three passes (two completions to Alshon Jeffery for nine yards) and one to Nick Jones for five yards). Shaw capped the drive with a five-yard TD run.
MILESTONE WIN: The victory at Tennessee was Carolina's 550th win as a program. It was also their second win in 16 tries in Knoxville (along with a 16-15 win in 2005). Carolina defeated the Vols for the second straight season, the first time that's been accomplished. The win also gave the Carolina senior class 30 wins (7 in 2008 and `09; 9 in `10 and 7 in `11), establishing a school record for wins in a four-year period.
YOU GO FIRST: The Gamecocks have surrendered the game's first points in all eight contests this season and in 11 straight games dating back to last year. They are 8-3 in those 11 contests despite being scored on first. The last time South Carolina scored first in a game was against Troy when they needed just 13 seconds to reach paydirt. Here are the last 11 deficits and final scores.
IN THE POLLS: The Gamecocks opened the 2011 season ranked 12th in both major polls. It's the highest Carolina had been ranked to start a season. Previously, they had been ranked six times in the preseason poll by the AP. They were No. 14 in 1959, No. 17 in both 1970 and 1985; 19th in 1988, 21st in 2001 and 22nd in 2002. The current stretch of consecutive weeks in the A.P. Top-25, dating back to the second week of the 2010 season, is a school record.
WINNING MORE OFTEN: The Gamecocks have guaranteed themselves a fourth-straight winning season and a school-record eighth-straight season of at least a .500 record, surpassing the previous mark of seven-straight seasons of .500 or better set from 1928-34. The Gamecocks went 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 6-6 in 2007, and 7-6 in both 2008 and 2009 before logging a 9-5 record in 2010.
COMEBACK KIDS: The Gamecocks have posted three come-from-behind fourth quarter victories this season, matching their total in Steve Spurrier's first six years at the helm. Here are the specifics of the late rallies:
2005: SC trails at Tennessee, 15-13 after a UT field goal with 7:39 to play. Carolina gets 49-yard field goal from Josh Brown to win, 16-15. 2008: SC trails 17-14 at Kentucky after three quarters. Ryan Succop kicks a 42-yard field goal to tie it at the 11:58 mark, then Weslye Saunders catches a 7-yard pass from Stephen Garcia with 7:08 remaining for the 24-17 win.
2011: SC trails 35-31 after a Georgia touchdown with 6:28 to play. Marcus Lattimore gives the Gamecocks the lead at the 3:28 mark, then Melvin Ingram scoops and scores on a fumble recovery in a 45-42 win.
2011: SC trails Navy, 21-17 after three quarters, but Marcus Lattimore scores from 7 yards out with 12:45 to play and the Gamecock defense limits Navy to 35 yards in the final stanza for the win. Navy had been 24-0 under head coach Ken Niumatalolo when leading after three quarters.
2011: After a Mississippi State field goal put the Bulldogs in front 10-7 with 9:50 left in the contest, Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington led the Gamecocks on a 12-play, 79-yard drive that consumed 5:54 of the clock, culminating with a four-yard Shaw to Alshon Jeffery touchdown pass with 3:50 remaining to put Carolina on top, 14-10. D.J. Swearinger's interception with just over a minute remaining sealed the win.
DEFENSE STEPS UP: After surrendering 79 points in the season's first two games, the Carolina defense has stepped it up. The Gamecocks have allowed 58 points over its last six contests, an average of 9.7 points per game. Carolina has given up just one touchdown over the last three games and just three TDs in the last five contests after giving up 10 touchdowns in the first two games. Their opponents' scoring average has dipped from 39.5 points per game after two games to just 17.1 points per game. The Gamecocks are 14th in the country in scoring defense.
TOP-10 D: After holding both Vanderbilt (77) and Kentucky (96) to under 100 yards of total offense and Tennessee to under 200, South Carolina has moved into the nation's Top-10 in total defense.
NOT BY AIR: The Gamecock are third the country in pass defense (second in pass efficiency defense behind only Alabama), allowing just 135.9 yards per game through the air.
TURN IT OVER: The Gamecocks are tied with Rutgers for second in the nation in turnovers gained with 26, behind only Oklahoma State (29). Carolina is first in the SEC and tied for second in the country with 16 interceptions, and first in the SEC and tied for 14th in the country with 10 fumbles recovered.
PICK THIS: The Gamecocks have an SEC-leading 16 interceptions this season, including 12 over the last four games. The school record for interceptions in a season is 23, set three times: 1981, 1984 and 1987.
RECORD PACE: The Gamecocks are just one forced turnover away from matching their best season under head coach Steve Spurrier in gaining turnovers, with 26 turnovers forced through eight games, an average of 3.25 per game. The high-water mark under Coach Spurrier is 27 turnovers forced during the 2008 season. The school record for turnovers forced in a season is 39 (3.25 per game), set in the 12-game 1987 campaign.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: The Carolina defense and special teams have been responsible for six touchdowns this season. Defensive end Melvin Ingram has scored three times, a 68-yard run on a fake punt and a five-yard fumble return, both at Georgia, and a fumble recovery in the end zone against Vanderbilt; Spur Antonio Allen has scored twice, a 25-yard fumble return against ECU and a 25-yard interception return against Georgia; and Ace Sanders scored on a 68-yard punt return against East Carolina. The Gamecocks scored six defensive touchdowns all last season.
SACK ATTACK: South Carolina features one of the top sack tandem in the SEC in senior Melvin Ingram (5.5 sacks) and freshman Jadeveon Clowney (5.0 sacks), who rank 3-4 in the SEC in sacks. With 17.0 career sacks, Ingram ranks fourth on Carolina's all-time list behind only Eric Norwood (29.0), Andrew Provence (26.0) and John Abraham (23.5).
GOING FOR IT: Head coach Steve Spurrier has not been shy about going for it on fourth down this season. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in both fourth-down attempts (19, tied with Tennessee) and conversions (12). Nationally, only Duke (16-of-26), Army (14-of-22) and Air Force (17-of-20) have more fourth-down attempts and conversions than the Gamecocks.
POINT PRODUCTION: The Gamecocks are averaging 30.1 points per game. In 2010, they set the school record for points in a season when they tallied 433, an average of 30.9 points per game. The Gamecocks have been outscored 39-20 in the first stanza, but have outscored their opponents 79-37 in the second period, 76-21 in the third quarter and 66-40 in the fourth quarter.
PLAYING WITHOUT ONE OF THE BEST: The Gamecocks will be without standout sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore for the remainder of the season after he suffered a knee injury late in the game against Mississippi State. Lattimore finished his second campaign with 818 yards on 163 carries, an average of 116.9 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. He currently ranks second in the SEC in rushing, scoring at 9.4 points per game, and in all-purpose yards per game at 142.9.
HE WILL BE MISSED: After just two seasons, Marcus Lattimore has left his mark on the Gamecock record books. He ranks 14th in school history with 2,015 rushing yards, is tied for third with 27 rushing touchdowns and is third with 30 touchdowns scored. Lattimore had four 100-yard rushing games this season and eight in his career. He ranks in a tie for seventh on the South Carolina list for 100-yard rushing games in a career with Jay Lynn Hodgin and Clarence Williams. He was a third-team Phil Steele Midseason All-American and first-team All-SEC performer.
RUNNING WILDS: True freshman Brandon Wilds made his starting debut at tailback at Tennessee. A 6-1, 223-pounder from Blythewood, S.C., Wilds began the fall camp listed as the fifth string tailback. Injuries to Marcus Lattimore (knee), Shon Carson (knee), Kenny Miles (wrist) and Eric Baker (ankle) vaulted Wilds to the top of the heap. Used primarily as a special teams performer early in the season, Wilds had appeared in each of the first seven games, rushing 13 times for 75 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. He had his coming out party in Knoxville against Tennessee, rushing 28 times for 137 yards, an average of 4.9 yards per carry, with a long of 24 yards. He also was the Gamecocks leading receiver with three catches for 31 yards.
THE SHAW SHOW: Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw is 4-0 as a starter this season, with victories over East Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Tennessee. He is the only the third Gamecock quarterback since 1971 to start his career with four straight wins, joining Steve Taneyhill (1992) and Chris Smelley (2007). He was shaky in his debut against East Carolina, completing 3-of-9 passes for 21 yards and rushing seven times for 26 yards in one quarter of action. His second career start came against Kentucky and he responded with an SEC Offensive Player of the Week performance. The 6-1, 204-pounder from Flowery Branch, Ga., completed 26-of-39 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. The four touchdown passes was the most for a Gamecock quarterback since Blake Mitchell in 2006. he completed 20-of-28 passes for 155 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in his first road start at Mississippi State. He was 10-of-18 for 87 yards with one touchdown and one interception at Tennessee, but also rushed 16 times for 64 yards and a score. For the season, Shaw is 60-of-96 (62.5 percent) for 582 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.
BROTHER ACT: South Carolina's Connor Shaw and Georgia Southern's Jaybo Shaw, make a rare pair of brothers that are starting quarterbacks on their respective college teams. Other recent quarterbacking brother acts in college football include the Mannings (Payton and Eli), Detmers (Ty and Koy), Hasselbecks (Matt and Tim), McCowns (Randy, Josh, and Luke), Huards (Damon, Luke and Brock), Vicks (Michael and Marcus), Glennons (Sean and Mike), Forciers (Jason, Chris and Tate) and Weatherfords (Drew and Joe).
TRENDING ALSHON: Biletnikoff candidate Alshon Jeffery has been held to somewhat modest numbers this season. The junior wideout leads the team with 33 catches for 468 yards, an average of 14.2 yards per catch. He is tied for sixth in the SEC in receptions per game (4.1) and is sixth in receiving yards per game (58.5). He owns five of the 11 touchdown receptions this season. He logged five catches for 92 yards against ECU and came back with five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown at Georgia. He was limited to just two catches for 35 and 34 yards in each of the next two games, against Navy and Vanderbilt, respectively, his fewest receptions in a game since South Carolina State held him to two catches in 2009. He came back with five catches for 86 yards against Auburn, including a 50-yard TD reception, and season highs with six catches, 95 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky. He was held to five catches for just 24 yards against Mississippi State, but caught the game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. He has caught at least one pass in 31 straight games. Jeffery has vaulted past Sterling Sharpe (2,497) into second place on the all-time receiving yards list in South Carolina history with 2,748 yards, trailing only Kenny McKinley (2,781). He is tied with Sidney Rice for the most 100-yard receiving games in school history with 11.
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Bruce Ellington has made an impact on the gridiron after doing so on the hardwood last winter. Ellington is Carolina's top kick returner, averaging 22.2 yards on 11 returns. He also worked out of the "Wildcat" formation, rushing 11 times for 91 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown burst against Kentucky. He has completed 2-of-3 passes for 24 yards. As a wideout, he has caught a dozen passes for 129 yards (10.8 per catch), including three for 60 yards against Auburn. The 5-9, 197-pounder from Moncks Corner, S.C. was the starting point guard for the Gamecocks' basketball team as a freshman. He earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team after leading the squad with a 12.8 points per game average. He started all 30 games for a squad that went 14-16. He is expected to rejoin the basketball team at the conclusion of the football season. He was a standout prep athlete in both sports for Berkeley High.
STARTS ON THE LINE: The Gamecocks used the same starting five along the offensive line in each of the four games this season. In game five versus Auburn, true freshman Mike Matulis made the start at left tackle for the injured Kyle Nunn (lower back). In each of the last three contests, redshirt freshman Cody Gibson has gotten the nod at right tackle with Rokevious Watkins moving to left tackle to replace Nunn. The O-line has combined for 110 starts. Center T.J. Johnson leads the way with 35, followed by Watkins (22) and sixth-year senior guard Terrence Campbell (21). Redshirt freshman guard A.J. Cann has started all eight games this season. Watkins is considered the best of the group by most, while Johnson is a Rimington candidate.
GOING BOTH WAYS: Junior Byron Jerideau made the switch from the defensive tackle position to the offensive guard spot prior to the Mississippi State game. In that contest, he actually played on both sides of the ball, a rare occurrence among Division I linemen. He is listed on both sides of the ball on the depth chart.
TAKING THE FIFTH (AND THE SIXTH): Linebacker Rodney Paulk and offensive guard Terrence Campbell were both granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Paulk earned second-team Freshman All-America honors from Sporting News as a freshman in 2006. He ranked fourth on the squad with 64 tackles during his sophomore season in 2007. Paulk injured his knee in August of 2008 and saw limited action in the first four games of that campaign before sitting out of the remainder of the season. He was granted his first medical redshirt following the season. In 2009, Paulk suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season-opening win at NC State, and was granted his second medical redshirt. He sat out the spring drills in 2010 while continuing his rehab work, and returned to the field in August. Paulk graduated in December with a degree in marine science. Campbell also came to Carolina in 2006, but suffered a season-ending knee injury early in his first camp and was granted a medical redshirt. He played in one game as a defensive lineman in 2007 before moving to the offensive side of the ball. He was a regular at right guard in 2008 then, after starting the first two games of the 2009 season, he suffered a neck/shoulder stinger that sidelined him for the remainder of the season and earned him a second medical redshirt season. He played sporadically in `10 but returns as a probable starter in 2011. Campbell earned his degree in retail in May. Paulk and Campbell are the second and third Gamecocks to have a sixth year of eligibility granted in the Spurrier Era, joining former tight end Andy Boyd.
BIG PLAY INGRAM: Senior defensive end Melvin Ingram is turning in an All-America season with big play after big play. In fact, he was named to Phil Steele's Midseason First-Team All-America squad and is a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award. He is third in the SEC in sacks with 5.5 and is tied for seventh in tackles for loss with 9.0.
ALLEN SPURS D: While many other Gamecock defenders receive the accolades, senior Spur Antonio Allen is having a stellar of a final campaign. A third-team Phil Steele Midseason All-American, he leads the team in tackles with 62 (7.8 per game) which ranks seventh in the SEC. He is third in the SEC and is tied for 17th in the country with three forced fumbles, is second in the SEC and tied for seventh in the nation with three fumble recoveries, and is tied for sixth in the league with three interceptions. Allen had the best game of his career in the season opener against East Carolina. He logged a game-high 16 tackles, doubling his previous career high, and the most for a Gamecock since Jonathan Martin had 17 at LSU in 2002. Allen also forced two fumbles and recovered a pair, including a strip that he took 25 yards to paydirt. He came back with six tackles against Georgia and intercepted a pass, returning it 25 yards for a score. He led the team with 10 tackles in the win over Navy, was credited with a forced fumble and sealed the game with an interception in the final minute. He had four tackles and a fumble recovery in the win over Vanderbilt. He led the team with 13 tackles with 3.0 TFL and an interception against Auburn. He reached double-digits in tackles again at Mississippi State with 10.
SEND IN THE CLOWNEY: Freshman sensation Jadeveon Clowney was in the starting lineup against ECU, the first true freshman to start on the D-line at Carolina since Travian Robertson in 2007. Clowney finished the opener with seven tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. At Georgia, he was credited with just two tackles, but both were sacks, the first two of his career, including one late in the game that forced a fumble that Melvin Ingram scooped and scored, sealing the win. He had three stops against Navy, including a half-tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry. He had a pair of sacks and forced two fumbles in the win over Vanderbilt. He forced another fumble on a sack at Mississippi State. For the season, he is tied for fourth in the SEC with 5.0 sacks (the only freshman in the top 20), is tied for 13th with 7.0 tackles for loss, and is second in the SEC and tied for fifth in the country with four fumbles forced.
IN THE SECONDARY: The Gamecocks feature a talented group in the secondary, led by All-SEC performer and third-team All-American Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore led the team in tackles a season ago with 79. He logged 10 tackles in the opener against East Carolina. He had four stops against Georgia, and also scooped up a fumble and rambled 56 yards, setting up a Carolina score. He had his first pick of the season against Vanderbilt, added a second against Kentucky and notched his third at Tennessee. D.J. Swearinger is the other awards candidate in the secondary. He is considered the hardest hitter in the defensive backfield and recorded 66 tackles last year. He is second on the team with 48 tackles and had a career-day at Mississippi State, logging a game- and career-high 12 tackles and sealed the win with an interception with just over a minute remaining, earning co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week accolades. He had another key interception in the win at Tennessee.
GILMORE DOES IT ALL: Gamecock cornerback Stephon Gilmore was one of only six players to earn first-team All-SEC honors by either the Associated Press or Coaches and also be named to the 2010 Fall Academic Honor Roll. The others were Alabama offensive guard Barrett Jones, Florida punter Chas Henry, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, Auburn center Ryan Pugh and Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod.
DOUBLE DIGITS TACKLES: Antonio Allen (16) and Stephon Gilmore (10) were both credited with double digits in tackles against East Carolina. Allen logged another 10 in the win over Navy, and three players (Allen -13, Reginald Bowens-11 and Melvin Ingram-11) all eclipsed the double figure total against Auburn. Both D.J. Swearinger (12) and Allen (10) reached double figures at Mississippi State. Interestingly, no Gamecock had 10 or more tackles in a game during the 2010 season.
COMING UP ACES: Sophomore Ace Sanders returned just one punt against East Carolina, but it paid big dividends, as he scooted 68 yards for a score. It was the first kickoff or punt return for a touchdown for the Gamecocks during the Steve Spurrier Era, and was a nice way for new special teams coach John Butler to get started. Sanders became the first Gamecock to return a punt for a TD since Chavez Donnings went 73 yards against Florida in 2003.
HARD TO BELIEVE BUT...: Ace Sanders' 68-yard punt return against ECU gave the Gamecocks three more yards in punt returns than they had during the entire 14-game season of 2010. Last year Sanders, Stephon Gilmore and the "Team" combined on 19 punt returns for just 65 yards.
WOOTEN WOWS `EM: Senior Jay Wooten has been solid this season, hitting on 31-of-33 of his extra point attempts and nailing four of his six fields goal attempts - the difference in two games - with a 49-yarder at Georgia and a 48-yarder versus Navy. Oddly, all six attempts have come between 40 and 49 yards out. The senior from Laurinburg, N.C., has previous experience, as he kicked for North Carolina during the 2008 season, going 4-for-6 in field attempts and was successful on all 11 extra point tries.
GOOD FROM AFAR: The Gamecocks have been in the redzone 25 times this season and have come away with 18 touchdowns, but no field goals. They have not even attempted a field goal when penetrating the red zone. In fact, South Carolina is the only team in the country to not have a field goal attempt of under 40 yards this season.
THE PUNTER: Joey Scribner-Howard, a senior from Irmo who gained experience kicking for Carson-Newman in 2007 and `08 and as a kickoff specialist for Carolina in 2010, won the punting duties in fall camp. He ranks ninth in the SEC with a 39.6 yards per punt average, but six of his 36 kicks have been over 50 yards, including a career-long 60-yarder at Mississippi State.
GOOD HOME COOKIN': The Gamecocks have done a good job of protecting their home turf of late. In each of the past two seasons (2009 and `10), Carolina posted a 6-1 home record. The only losses in those years came to top-ranked Florida in 2009 and to 17th-ranked Arkansas in 2010. South Carolina is 2-1 at home this season, losing to defending national champion Auburn, and is 17-3 in its last 20 home games.
FIRST ACTION: Eleven true freshmen have seen action for South Carolina this season. That list included Rory Anderson, Damiere Byrd, Shon Carson, Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Harris, Kadetrix Marcus, Mike Matulis, Kelcy Quarles, Brandon Shell, Brandon Wilds and Brison Williams.
DID YOU KNOW: South Carolina has played each of the last five defending National Champions? The Gamecocks played Florida (2007 and `09), LSU (2008), Alabama (2010) and Auburn (2011) in the year following their national title. The Gamecocks went 1-4 in those contests, with their lone win coming against Alabama.
RECRUITING SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are coming off another successful February signing day. They inked defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from South Pointe High School in South Carolina, who many consider the nation's number 1 prospect. Overall, the Gamecocks signed 32 players to National Letters of Intent, including four who count against last year's list. The Gamecocks have put together seven consecutive classes that rank among the nation's top 25, according to Rivals.com.
MR. FOOTBALL: The Gamecocks have signed the last three "Mr. Football" winners in the state of South Carolina: Stephon Gilmore in 2009, followed by Marcus Lattimore in 2010 and Jadeveon Clowney in 2011.
ENROLLING EARLY: The Gamecocks welcomed freshman Martay Mattox into the fold this spring. Mattox graduated from Clarke Central High in Athens, Ga. in December, enrolled at Carolina in January and went through spring drills. Mattox became the 11th freshman since Coach Spurrier's arrival in Columbia to enter college earlier than the norm. Clark Gaston did so in 2006, while Stephen Garcia and Travian Robertson arrived in January of 2007. Jay Spearman, C.C. Whitlock and Shaq Wilson all went through spring drills in 2008 after graduating from high school in the previous December. In 2009, Jarvis Giles, Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman made the early leap from high school to college. Quarterback Connor Shaw made the leap in 2010.
IN THE CLASSROOM: The Gamecocks have been impressive in the classroom of late. The squad placed 31 players on the 2010 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll while posting a team GPA of 2.779, the program's highest GPA on record. They followed that up with a spring GPA of 2.711. Those who made the SEC Honor Roll include returnees Jacob Baker, Jason Barnes, Payton Brady, Billy Byrne, Andrew Clifford, Stephon Gilmore, Walker Inabinet, Damario Jeffery, T.J. Johnson, Rodney Paulk, Travian Robertson, Seth Strickland, Dalton Wilson, Jay Wooten and Adam Yates.
DONNING THE CAP AND GOWN: Four returning Gamecocks have received their degrees from the University. Those who have their diplomas in hand include Terrence Campbell (retail), Byron McKnight (criminal justice), Rodney Paulk (marine science) and Travian Robertson (criminal justice).
WORKING OVERTIME: The Gamecocks have played just two overtime games in their history, both at Tennessee. They dropped a 23-20 decision in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003, then fell by a 27-24 score on Oct. 27, 2007, at Neyland Stadium. Every other SEC team has played at least four overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.
OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE: The Gamecocks are 2-0 in non-conference action this season after going 4-1 in non-league games in 2010. They won all of their regular season non-conference games in 2010 for the second-straight year before falling in the bowl game. They are 23-7 in non-conference games under head coach Steve Spurrier, including wins in 21 of their last 26 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 (2-0). They have a regular season winning streak over non-conference opponents of 10 games. South Carolina's last regular season non-conference loss came over 1,000 days ago, at Clemson in 2008.
THEY PAY TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS PLAY: The Gamecocks are averaging 78,357 through four home games of the 2011 season, which ranks 16th in the country. The Florida and Clemson games have already been declared sellouts.
BOWL GAME TIE INS: The SEC has agreements to send nine of its member institutions to postseason bowl games following the 2011 season. The winner of the SEC Championship Game will automatically participate in the Bowl Championship Series comprised of the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta Bowls.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks will wrap up the SEC portion of the regular season when they host Eastern Division rival Florida at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12. The Gators lead the all-time series, 23-5-3, but Carolina routed Florida in "The Swamp" last year by a 36-14 score to clinch the Eastern Division title.
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