Nov. 4, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- It's Homecoming Week and the Columbia Cup is on the line when the South Carolina Gamecocks (4-4, 2-4 SEC) host the Missouri Tigers (2-6, 0-4 SEC) in the final game of a five-game homestand for the Gamecocks. This SEC Eastern Division matchup is set for a 4 pm ET kick on SEC Network.
CAROLINA VS. MIZZOU
The Missouri Tigers hold a 4-2 advantage over the South Carolina Gamecocks in the all-time series between these two schools that claim Columbia as its hometown. The first two contests were held at bowl sites, with Missouri posting a 24-14 win in the 1979 Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, and a 38-31 come-from-behind win in the 2005 Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Since Mizzou joined the SEC, the teams have split four games evenly. South Carolina won the first SEC Eastern Division battle between the two schools with a 31-10 win in Columbia, S.C. in 2012, then an improbable 27-24 double-overtime win in Columbia, Mo. in 2013. In 2014, the Tigers overcame a 13-point deficit in the final seven minutes to squeeze out a 21-20 victory in their last visit to Williams-Brice Stadium, then won by a 24-10 count in Missouri last season.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Missouri broke open a close contest midway through the third quarter and shut out the Gamecocks in the second half en route to a 24-10 win at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on October 3, 2015. Both teams started true freshmen quarterbacks in the contest, Lorenzo Nuñez for the Gamecocks and Drew Lock for the Tigers, the first SEC game that featured two true freshmen starting signal-callers. Nuñez went 15-for-24 for 172 yards but threw three picks, while Lock was 21-of-28 for 136 yards. Neither team's offense reached the 300-yard plateau for the game.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE
Missouri scored twice in the final seven minutes to pull out a 21-20 victory in Williams-Brice Stadium on September 27, 2014. Carolina appeared to have things in hand when Pharoh Cooper scored on a 23-yard pass from Dylan Thompson with just 7:25 left in the contest to put the Gamecocks on top 20-7. But the Tigers responded with a pair of Russell Hansbrough one-yard runs, his second and third TDs of the game, with the final tally coming with just 1:36 on the clock. The Gamecocks outgained the Tigers in a defensive struggle, 338-280. Thompson completed 21-of-37 passes for 219 yards, while Mike Davis rushed 22 times for 104 yards to lead Carolina. Missouri punted 10 times in the turnover-free contest, one more than Carolina.
CAROLINA'S LAST WIN
In one of the more memorable games in recent South Carolina football history, the No. 20/20 Gamecocks rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to shock No. 5/7 Missouri, 27-24 in double-overtime on Oct. 26, 2013 in Columbia, Mo. Mizzou opened up a 17-0 lead before senior quarterback Connor Shaw came off the bench in the third quarter to lead the comeback. Shaw connected on 20-of-29 passes for 201 yards. He hit Nick Jones with a 2-yard scoring pass with 42 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, then found Bruce Ellington in the endzone on 4th-and-15 to force the game into a second OT. Elliott Fry hit from 40-yards out to put Carolina on top before Andrew Baggett's attempt from 24-yards away caromed off the left upright, ending the contest.
MUSCHAMP VS. THE TIGERS
Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is 1-2 in his career against Missouri, all as the head coach at the University of Florida. Coach Muschamp led the Gators to a 14-7 win over Mizzou in Gainesville in 2012, then dropped back-to-back decisions to the Tigers, first by a 36-17 margin in Missouri in 2013, then by a 42-13 count in Florida in 2014.
RECRUITING THE SHOW-ME STATE
The lone Gamecock from the Show-Me State is sophomore tight end Kyle Markway, a 6-4, 254-pounder who graduated from St. John Vianney in St. Louis. Markway saw limited action as a true freshman a year ago, but has not played this year while rehabbing a foot injury.
South Carolina tight ends coach Pat Washington served on Gary Pinkel's staff at Mizzou from 2013-15.
A HISTORY LESSON
2016 marks the 123rd season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 110th-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 590-566-44.
The 2016 season marks South Carolina's 25th year in the SEC. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned the SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. The Gamecocks are 85-112-1 (.432) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 30-25 (.545) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
THE LAST TIME OUT
The Gamecocks held No. 18/18 Tennessee to just 297 yards of offense, nearly 100 yards below their season average, in a 24-21 win over the Vols last Saturday night in Columbia. True freshman quarterback Jake Bentley completed 15-of-20 passes for 167 yards and two scores, while true freshman Rico Dowdle set career highs with 27 rushes and 127 yards rushing with a touchdown. Cornerback Jamarcus King picked off two passes in the contest, as the Gamecocks forced three turnovers. It was the fifth-straight contest between South Carolina and Tennessee that was decided by three points or less.
BEATING A RANKED OPPONENT
The Gamecocks knocked off No. 18 Tennessee last Saturday by a 24-21 count. It snapped a seven-game losing streak against ranked opponents, as Carolina's last win over a ranked team was a 38-35 win over No. 6 Georgia on September 13, 2014.
CARRYING A HEAVY LOAD
True freshman Rico Dowdle set career highs with 27 rushes and 127 yards rushing in the win over Tennessee. It was the most rushes in a game by a Gamecock since Kenny Miles carried 27 times against Wofford in 2012. It was Dowdle's first career 100-yard rushing game.
The Gamecocks have won back-to-back games for the first time since winning the 2014 Independence Bowl over Miami (Fla.), then opening the 2015 season with a win over North Carolina. The last time they put together a three-game winning streak was in September 2014 when they defeated East Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt in consecutive weeks.
AND THEN THERE WERE SIX
The Gamecocks are one of only six Division I teams that has held every opponent below 30 points. The others: No. 2 Michigan, No. 4 Washington, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 11 Auburn and No. 15 LSU.
YOUTH WILL BE SERVED
Seventy-eight of the Gamecocks' 115-man roster, or 67.8 percent, are either freshmen or sophomores. Twelve true freshmen have seen game action this season.
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
Carolina has 19 players who have made their first collegiate start in 2016. Of the 19 first-time starters, seven are true freshmen: Jake Bentley, Randrecous Davis, Chavis Dawkins, Rico Dowdle, Bryan Edwards, Brandon McIlwain, and Keir Thomas. Here's how that compares nationally:
TRUE FRESHMEN STARTERS
Elliott Fry has scored 329 career points, one shy of the school record of 330 , held by Collin Mackie (1987-90). Fry is in 16th place on the SEC list of career points scored, 11 behind Florida's Caleb Sturgis. Fry needs four more field goals to move into the SEC's career top-10 for field goals made. He has 61 career field goals. Tenth is Alabama's Michael Proctor with 65.
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES
This is the fifth and final game of a five-game homestand for the Gamecocks. Carolina opened the season with three road games in their first four contests, including three SEC road contests, all at night. The Gamecocks are 27-9 in their last 36 home games (.750) and 43-12 (.782) in their last 55 home games, including a school-record 18-game game home winning streak. The school's previous longest home winning streak was 15 games, set from 1978-80.
PUT ME IN COACH
The Gamecocks have had eight players start every game this season, four on offense - Zack Bailey, Cory Helms, Hayden Hurst, and Mason Zandi; and four on defense - Darius English, Chris Lammons, Marquavius Lewis and Taylor Stallworth.
WALK THIS WAY
The following regular contributors began their Carolina careeers as walk-ons: Jacob August, Matrick Belton, Javon Charleston, Elliott Fry, Hayden Hurst, Sean Kelly, Steven Montac, Perry Orth, Darius Paulk, Rod Talley and Drew Williams.
The Gamecocks have used three starting quarterbacks for the second-straight year. Senior Perry Orth came into the season as the only experienced signal-caller, while Brandon McIlwain, a true freshman, enrolled in January and went through spring drills. Orth made the start in each of the first two contests before giving way to McIlwain for the next three. Orth returned to the starting role against Georgia. True freshman Jake Bentley, who arrived in the summer, has been the starter in each of the last two games, his first career appearances.
SEVEN WINS BY FIVE DIFFERENT QB'S
The Gamecocks have won seven games over the past two seasons, with five different starting quarterbacks accounting for the wins. Perry Orth and Jake Bentley have each won twice as the starting QB, while Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nuñez and Brandon McIlwain each have one win.
TURNING THE KEYS OVER TO BENTLEY
True freshman Jake Bentley made his debut in the win over UMass. He completed 17-of-26 passes for 201 yards with two touchdowns. He became the third true freshman quarterback to start for the Gamecocks in the past two seasons, joining Lorenzo Nuñez and Brandon McIlwain. He made his second start against Tennessee last week and earned his second win after completing 15-of-20 passes for 167 yards and two scores. Bentley, who passed on his senior year of high school to enroll at South Carolina, is actually about six months older than fellow true freshman McIlwain. Bentley will turn 19 on November 23, while McIlwain will not turn 19 until May 31.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME
When he got the call against UMass in week 7, Jake Bentley became just the fifth true freshman to start at quarterback for the Gamecocks since joining the SEC. Steve Taneyhill (1992), Mikal Goodman (1999), Lorenzo Nuñez (2015) and Brandon McIlwain (2016) were the others.
Jake Bentley comes from a football family. His father, Bobby, is the Gamecocks' running backs coach and previously was a highly-successful high school coach at Byrnes (S.C.) High and at Presbyterian College. Jake's brothers, Chas Dodd (Rutgers) and Schuler Bentley (Old Dominion), both have started at quarterback in college.
FEELING THE ORTHQUAKE
Senior signal-caller Perry Orth was the Carolina starting QB when the season began and came up with his second career win in the season-opener at Vanderbilt. After a shaky start, the veteran got things going in the second half, rallying the Gamecocks with 13 points after being blanked through the first 30 minutes. He finished the night 11-for-19 for 152 yards, hitting 6-of-7 passes in the fourth quarter. That performance earned him the start at Mississippi State. He played the entire first half and completed 9-of-17 passes for 83 yards with a pick. After sitting out the next 13 quarters, Orth returned in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M and provided a spark, hitting 11-of-18 passes for 138 yards, earning the start against Georgia. He was 26-for-36 for 288 yards, all season highs, against the Bulldogs, He is 2-9 in his 11 career starts.
True freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain has appeared in seven games, starting three contests. For the season, he is 56-for-107 (52.3 pct.) for 567 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He is 1-2 as a starter, completing 40-of-73 (54.8 pct.) for 406 yards and two scores with one pick.
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
Carolina's wide receivers had limited experience entering the season, combining for just 28 catches and 356 yards, and were plagued by injuries early in 2016. The squad's top three wideouts, Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Randrecous Davis, all missed time with hamstring injuries. 59 of the Gamecocks' 147 pass receptions have been by freshmen (40.1 pct.), tops in the SEC, and 38 of 69 catches by the wide receiving corps have been by freshmen (55.1 pct.).
SAMUEL IS KING
Deebo Samuel has finally gotten healthy, and so has the Gamecock offense. After a hamstring injury contributed to him catching just four passes for 66 yards in the season's first five games, Samuel has hauled in 20 passes for 279 yards in the last three contests. He has logged back-to-back eight-catch games.
Bryan Edwards became the sixth true freshman to start in the season opener for the Garnet & Black since the start of the 2009 season. He joined Stephon Gilmore (2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), Bryson Allen-Williams (2014) and Al Harris Jr. (2014).
AND NOW WE KNOW WHY
True freshman Bryan Edwards showed why he earned the starting nod in his first collegiate game. The 6-3, 210-pounder from Conway, S.C., hauled in eight passes for 101 yards in the win over Vanderbilt. He was the only freshman receiver in the country to log a 100-yard game in the season's first week. It was just the eighth 100-yard receiving game in a season opener in Gamecock history and he is the only true freshman on the list. He ranks ninth in the nation among freshmen in receiving yards (48.7) and eighth in receptions (3.9) per game.
AMONG THE GREATS
Here's how Bryan Edwards stacks up against other recent great Carolina receivers in their true freshman campaigns:
IN THE HURST WAY
Tight end Hayden Hurst, a 6-5, 250-pound former professional baseball player, has been a consistent go-to guy this season. The 23-year-old sophomore leads the team with 32 catches for 406 yards, with at least five receptions in four games and at least 80 yards in three contests. His best marks are an eight-catch performance at Mississippi State and a 90-yard effort against Texas A&M. He is tied for ninth in the SEC with 4.0 receptions per game. Hurst also served as the Gamecocks' punt returner against Georgia, becoming the biggest punt returner in Division I football this season.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Tight end Hayden Hurst is on pace to become the first non-wide receiver to lead the Gamecocks in receptions since Ryan Brewer logged 28 in 2002, and could become the first tight end to lead the team in receptions since Chris Corley had 24 in 1982. The single-season program records for tight end receptions and receiving yards are held by Jared Cook, who logged 37 catches for 573 yards in 2008. Hurst is already the first Carolina tight end with 30 or more catches since Weslye Saunders had 32 in 2009.
THE QB'S ARE TIGHT WITH THEM
The tight end trio of Hayden Hurst, K.C. Crosby and Jacob August has become a big part of the offense. In addition to Hurst's team-leading 32 catches for 406 yards, Crosby is fourth on the team with 17 receptions for 170 yards and leads the team with three touchdown receptions, and August has added five catches for 52 yards.
LEAVE IT TO THE COMMITTEE
The Gamecocks have three running backs in the rotation. Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner has taken the bulk of the carries, but David Williams has more than twice as many career rushes. True freshman Rico Dowdle has come on strongly after missing the first four games with a sports hernia. In the last two games, Dowdle has carried 43 times for 214 yards, including career highs of 27 carries for 127 yards against Tennessee. 724 of the Gamecocks' 906 rushing yards have been by freshmen (80.0 pct.), most in the SEC. Here's the South Carolina running back numbers:
Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner earned the starting nod at running back during fall camp. The 5-10, 195-pounder got off to a strong start, carrying 13 times for 70 yards at Vanderbilt in the season opener. He had his best game against Texas A&M, rushing 10 times for 113 yards, including a 75-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage. He is the Gamecocks' top rusher with 75 carries for 328 yards and two touchdowns, and has added 15 catches for 104 yards and a score. Turner, who also averages 25.5 yards per kickoff return, ranks eighth in the nation among freshmen with 92.3 all-purpose yards per game.
HE'S NOT YOUR UNCLE RICO
After undergoing surgery for a sports hernia in the offseason, true freshman Rico Dowdle made his first appearance for the Garnet & Black against Texas A&M. The 5-11, 211-pounder from Asheville, N.C. who now dons No. 23, has been impressive in his four contests, carrying 59 times for 291 yards and three touchdowns, a 4.9-yard average.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE SENIORS GONE
The Gamecocks list just four seniors on the offensive side of the ball in Matrick Belton, Perry Orth, Darius Paulk and Mason Zandi. All four are redshirt seniors. Zandi is the only one of the four to begin his collegiate career at South Carolina and the only one who came to Columbia as a scholarship player. Only Minnesota (3), Old Dominion (4), Florida (4) and Troy (4) have as few seniors on offense as do the Gamecocks.
ZANDI STANDS ALONE
Redshirt senior Mason Zandi is the only senior on the offensive side of the ball on the 2016 roster that came to South Carolina as a scholarship player. Zandi, a 6-9, 315-pound local product from Chapin, S.C. was named preseason third-team All-SEC by the league's coaches. He is also just one of six players in Gamecock history with the last name starting with "Z" to earn a football letter. The most recent prior to Zandi was Zip Zanders, who lettered in 1986. Mason's father, Ali, is a native of Iran who fled his home country during its 1970s revolution.
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Zack Bailey was the only Gamecock named to the 2015 SEC All-Freshman team, as selected by the league's 14 coaches. The 6-6, 315-pound true freshman from Summerville, S.C., played in all 12 games in 2015, making five starts, with three at center and two at left guard. He has started each game this season at left guard and consistently grades out as the offensive line's top performer.
KNOTT YOUR STARTING CENTER
Junior Alan Knott, a preseason Rimington Award candidate, has made 24 career starts, most among the active players on the squad. Skai Moore also has made 24 starts, but he is taking a redshirt this year while rehabbing an injury.
WE MAY NEVER PASS THIS WAY AGAIN
The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC and 16th in the country in pass defense, allowing just 180.8 yards per game through the air. The squad is tied for second in the league with 10 interceptions.
RED ZONE DEFENSE
The Gamecocks rank fourth in the SEC and 12th in the nation in red zone defense, allowing points just 71.0 percent of the time. In 31 opportunities, the Carolina defense has allowed just 16 touchdowns and six field goals, while forcing a league-high five turnovers in the red zone.
EVERY GAME QUA
Defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis has started all 20 games since his arrival on the Columbia campus. He owns the longest current consecutive streak of starts on the squad.
TAKING ENGLISH LESSONS
Senior defensive end Darius English is putting together his finest campaign. The 6-6, 245-pounder from Powder Springs, Ga., leads the Gamecocks with 6.5 of the squad's 14 sacks, including a career-best 3.0 sacks against Kentucky. That was the most sacks by a Gamecock player since Jadeveon Clowney finished with 4.5 at Clemson on Nov. 24, 2012. English is tied for fourth in the SEC in sacks. He needs 2.5 more sacks to move into a six-way tie for fifth in school history with 9.0 sacks in a season and into a tie for ninth with 15.0 sacks in a career.
GETTING IN THE SACK
The Gamecocks have 14 sacks, producing a season-high four sacks against both East Carolina and Kentucky.
The Gamecocks have picked off 10 passes this season, tying for second in the SEC. Chris Lammons and Jamarcus King are tied for fifth in the SEC with three. King had two picks last week against Tennessee.
THE SKAI TURNED RED(SHIRT)
Skai Moore will take a redshirt and miss the 2016 season following offseason surgery to address a herniated disk in his neck. The 6-2, 220-pounder 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. In addition, Moore has 11 career picks, tying for third on the all-time list.
THE FRISCO KID
Senior Elliott Fry is 8-for-11 in field goal attempts this season. He has connected on a school record 140 consecutive extra points and has hit 74.4 percent (61-of-82) of his career field goal attempts. That average jumps to 80.6 percent (58-of-72) when attempting from under 50 yards out. He holds the school's career records for extra points made (146) and attempted (147) and is second in points scored with 329, behind only Collin Mackie (330).
FRY BURNS THE `DORES
Senior placekicker Elliott Fry connected on a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter, then hit on a career-long 55-yard field goal in the final minute to provide the margin of victory in the season opener. It tied for the second-longest field goal in Gamecock history, matching Ryan Succop's 55-yarder against Vandy in the 2006 season. Only Mark Fleetwood's 58-yarder against Georgia in 1982 is longer.
GIVING IT THE BOOT: Here are the top-10 longest field goals in South Carolina history:
When Elliott Fry booted the game-winner at Vanderbilt in the season opener, he became the first SEC kicker to make a field goal of 55+ yds with less than one minute to play in 4th quarter (or in OT) in the last 10 years.
Elliott Fry's 55-yard field goal against Vanderbilt matches Hawaii's Rigoberto Sanchez for the longest field goal made this season.
KICKIN' IT WITH KELLY
Senior punter Sean Kelly has been busy this season, punting 51 times, tying for eighth in the nation. He is averaging 41.6 yards with 22 inside the 20, eight over 50 yards and a long of 66 yards.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN
IN THE CLASSROOM
The Gamecocks placed 28 players on the 2015 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. Among those who made the SEC Honor Roll include returnees Rivers Bedenbaugh, Jordan Diggs, Jalen Dread, Elliott Fry, Kelsey Griffin, Terry Googer, Shannon James, Chris Lammons, Nick McGriff, Perry Orth, Jasper Sasser, Michael Scarnecchia, Demetrius Smalls, D.J. Smith, Donell Stanley and Rod Talley.
O' CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN
The Gamecocks will select game captains each week before naming permanent team captains for the season.
Will Muschamp makes his return to Gainesville when the South Carolina Gamecocks wrap up the SEC portion of their 2016 slate by taking on the Florida Gators next Saturday in another Eastern Division matchup. The Gators lead the all-time series by a 25-8-3 count, including a 13-2 advantage in games played in "The Swamp." Florida won last year's meeting by a 24-14 score, but the Gamecocks have won four of the last six meetings.
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