Nov. 6, 2015
The South Carolina Gamecocks (3-5, 1-5 SEC) are on the road again this week as they travel to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers (4-4, 2-3 SEC) in an SEC Eastern Division showdown. Game time is set for 4 pm ET from Neyland Stadium (102,455) and the game will be televised on the SEC Network. Tom Hart and André Ware will be in the booth with Laura Rutledge working the sidelines.
A HISTORY LESSON: 2015 marks the 122nd season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 109th-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 28 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 586-558-44. The Gamecocks were 10 games under .500 through the 2003 season, but are 38 games over .500 since the start of the `04 campaign.
SEC, SEC: 2015 marks South Carolina's 24th year of football in the Southeastern Conference. Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their first SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. Carolina was 37-66-1 (.361) in SEC action from 1992-2004, but are 45-41 (.523) in conference play since that time, including a 22-16 mark (.579) since the start of the 2011 season.
ELLIOTT IN CHARGE: The Gamecocks are 1-1 under the direction of interim head coach Shawn Elliott. Elliott, a 1996 graduate of Appalachian State and a Camden, S.C. native, was promoted to his current position by Athletics Director Ray Tanner on October 13, following the resignation of Steve Spurrier. Elliott is in his sixth season at South Carolina and served as the offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator before his promotion. Prior to coming to Columbia, Elliott coached at Appalachian State, where he helped the Mountaineers to three-straight national championships(2005-07).
THE HBC WAS THE BEST: Steve Spurrier finished his Carolina career with a record of 86-49 from 2005-2015 and accumulated an all-time record of 228-89-2 as a college head coach. He ended his career as the winningest coach at both Florida and South Carolina and was the second-winning coach in SEC history behind the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant.
CAROLINA VS. TENNESSEE: This is the 34th gridiron meeting between the Gamecocks and Volunteers in a series that dates back to 1903. Tennessee leads the all-time series, 24-7-2. The Vols hold a 15-2 advantage in Knoxville and are 9-5-2 all-time in Columbia. Tennessee has won each of the last two meetings by a combined five points, but South Carolina has won three of the last five contests between these two SEC Eastern Division rivals. The Gamecocks' three-game winning streak from 2010-12 was their longest in the series. In fact, the Gamecocks had never defeated the Vols twice in a row prior to that stretch. The Gamecocks defeated Tennessee three times in a 105-year period from 1903-2007, then won four times in a five-year period from 2008-2012. Carolina is 2-3 in five overtime games in school history. Three of those five overtime games have come against the Vols, all resulting in Gamecock losses.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Brandon Wilds rambled 70 yards to paydirt with just under five minutes remaining in regulation to give the Gamecocks a 42-28 lead, but the Vols rallied with a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes, then won the game in overtime on a 32-yard field goal to pull out an improbable 45-42 win in Columbia on November 1, 2014. Wilds finished the game with a career-high 143 yards on just eight carries. Pharoh Cooper also had a career night, catching 11 passes for a school record 233 yards and two touchdowns, including an 85-yard TD strike, and also ran for a score and threw for another, accounting for four touchdowns. Dylan Thompson completed 20-of-32 passes for 347 yards. The 87 points scored was the most in the series between the two schools, as the teams combined for 1,270 yards of offense and 61 first downs.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: Michael Palardy connected on a 19-yard field goal as time expired to lift Tennessee to a 23-21 win over #11/9 South Carolina on Oct. 19, 2013 in Knoxville. Tennessee controlled the first half, taking a 17-7 lead into intermission, but Carolina scored a pair of third-quarter TDs to take a four-point lead heading into the final stanza. Carolina's offense struggled much of the day despite outgaining the Vols 384-325. Connor Shaw fumbled once and completed just 8-of-22 passes with his only interception of the season, but did complete a 76-yard scoring pass to Damiere Byrd. Mike Davis rushed 21 times for 137 yards and a score.
SCORING HERE AND THERE: The Gamecock offense has had its way against Tennessee in each of the last four games played in Columbia, with Carolina tallying 27 in 2008, then 38 points in both the 2010 and 2012 wins, before tallying 42 last season, the most points they have scored in a game in the series history. However, on its last three trips to Knoxville, Carolina has been held to 13, 14 and 21 points. The Gamecocks have scored at least 24 points in each of their last six home games against Tennessee, but have tallied more than 21 points just once in their 17 visits to Neyland Stadium.
BIG CROWDS: 102,154 people were on hand last week when the Gamecocks played in the newly-renovated Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. That ranked as the eighth-highest attended game in Gamecock history. However, eight of the Gamecocks' 10 most attended games have been at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks churned out a season-best 445 yards of total offense, but it wasn't enough to overcome a Texas A&M attack that was clicking on all cylinders in a 35-28 setback to the Aggies last Saturday in College Station, Texas. Brandon Wilds led the attack with a season-high 128 yards on the ground and his first two rushing touchdowns, as the Gamecocks rushed for 253 yards in the contest. Perry Orth added 64 yards on the ground and completed 15-of-24 passes for 192 yards. The offense tallied a season-best 21 first-half points, going 3-for-3 in the redzone. The Carolina defense, led by Skai Moore's career-high 14 tackles, allowed 544 yards of offense, but just 161 after halftime as the D surrendered just seven second-half points.
RECORD KICK: Elliott Fry became the Gamecocks' all-time leader in extra points made and attempted when he converted all four of his extra points at Texas A&M. He has hit a school record 115 consecutive extra points, and is 121-for-122 in his career, surpassing Scott Hagler (117-for-118) in both categories.
TURNING IT OVER: Like most teams, the Gamecocks have success when they win the turnover battle. The Gamecocks are 3-0 when they have fewer turnovers, going plus-3 against North Carolina and Vanderbilt, and plus-1 versus UCF. They are 0-2 when even in turnovers (Kentucky and Georgia) and are 0-3 when committing more turnovers (minus-3 at Missouri, minus-1 at LSU and minus-2 at Texas A&M). For the season, they are plus-1 (12 gained, 11 lost). They forced a season-high five turnovers against Vanderbilt.
IT AIN'T OVER `TIL IT'S OVER: The Gamecocks went into the locker room at Texas A&M tied at the half. It was the first time this season they did not trail heading into the intermission.
PICK YOUR POISON: The Carolina defense has given up exactly the same number of yards on the ground as they have through the air. Opponents have rushed 317 times for 1,722 yards and have passed 250 times for 1,722 yards (215.2/game).
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Sixteen Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season. Carlton Heard, Marquavius Lewis, Connor Mitch, Deebo Samuel and Taylor Stallworth did so in the season-opening win over North Carolina. Larenz Bryant earned the start for the first time in his career against Kentucky. Terry Googer and Perry Orth made their first career starts at Georgia. Those who earned their first start against UCF were Jacob August, Zack Bailey, D.J. Neal, Lorenzo Nuñez and Dante Sawyer. Matrick Belton made his first start at Missouri and David Williams got the start at LSU. Boosie Whitlow got the start versus Vanderbilt.
ROAD KILL: South Carolina is winless in four tries on the road this season, with setbacks at Georgia, at Missouri, at LSU and at Texas A&M. The Gamecocks went 2-3 on the road in 2014, but are 14-12 in their last 26 true road contests. Eight of their 12 road losses in that stretch came to teams ranked in the top-25 in the country, including seven in the top-11: at No. 8 Arkansas in 2011, at No. 9 LSU and No. 3 Florida in 2012, at No. 11 Georgia in 2013, at No. 5 Auburn and at No. 23 Clemson in 2014; and at No. 7 Georgia and No. 7 LSU this season.
STABILITY UP FRONT...: Carolina has had stability in the offensive line, running out the same starter in every game at four of the five spots. LT Brandon Shell, LG Mike Matulis, RG Will Sport and RT Mason Zandi have answered the bell in each tilt. Alan Knott (5) and Zack Bailey (3) have split the starting assignments at center.
...BUT FLUIDITY ELSEWHERE: The Gamecocks have started three quarterbacks (Connor Mitch, Perry Orth and Lorenzo Nuñez), three tailbacks (Brandon Wilds, Shon Carson and David Williams), and seven wide receivers (Pharoh Cooper, Deebo Samuel, Carlton Heard, Shamier Jeffery, Terry Googer, D.J. Neal, and Matrick Belton) this season.
THE ORTH QUAKE: Former walk-on quarterback Perry Orth, who went on scholarship prior to the start of the season, figures to make his fourth-straight start and fifth of the season at Tennessee. Orth, who spent part of the summer working in a local grocery store stocking shelves, has completed 69-of-127 passes (54.3 percent) for 947 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions. He entered the season having completed just 1-of-3 passes for five yards. His first extensive duty came in relief of Mitch against Kentucky, where he responded by completing 13-of-20 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He made his first career start at Georgia, where he completed 6-of-17 passes for 66 yards with an interception. His second start was much better, as he hit on 14-of-28 passes for 200 yards with two touchdowns and an interception at LSU. He was even better in his next start against Vanderbilt, completing 17-of-28 for a career-high 272 yards with a touchdown and an interception, including a career-long 78-yard touchdown pass. Last week at Texas A&M he completed 15-of-24 passes for 192 yards with two picks. He also rushed 11 times for a career-high 64 yards, including a 66-yarder.
TOUGH VENUES: It's unlikely Perry Orth will be intimidated by a capacity crowd at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville this weekend. You would be hard-pressed to find another quarterback in the country whose first five starts included trips to such formidable venues as Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M and now Tennessee.
MITCH ON THE MEND: Connor Mitch, who was Carolina's starting quarterback in each of the first two games, has been sidelined since suffering a sprained right shoulder in week two against Kentucky. He has returned to the practice fields and is available to see game action. On the season, Mitch has completed 13-of-29 passes (44.8 percent) for 165 yards and a touchdown.
THE FRESHMAN: True freshman Lorenzo Nuñez, who began the fall listed fourth on the depth chart, rushed 10 times for a team-high 76 yards and completed 4-for-5 passes for 18 yards in relief duty at Georgia. In his first career start against UCF, the 6-3, 210-pounder, rushed for a game-high 123 yards and hit on 12-of-22 pass attempts for 184 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. In his first road start at Mizzou, he led the team with 15 carries for 60 yards and completed 15-of-24 passes for 172 yards with a touchdown, but was picked off three times before leaving with a shoulder injury. He did not play against LSU or Vanderbilt due to the sore shoulder, before returning to action at Texas A&M, where he scored on a seven-yard run on his only play of the game. For the season, Nuñez is 31-of-51 (60.8 percent) for 374 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions. Despite limited playing time, he is Carolina's second-leading rusher with 46 carries for 306 yards, an average of 6.7 yards per carry, with two touchdowns.
BY LAND OR BY AIR: True freshman quarterback Lorenzo Nuñez rushed for 123 yards and threw for 184 against UCF. It was the first time a Carolina player had both rushed and passed for more than 100 yards in a game since Connor Shaw did so against Clemson in 2011 (107 rush/210 pass).
RUNNIN' WILDS: Fifth-year senior Brandon Wilds has been special in the two games since his return from a stretch in which he missed three consecutive games with a rib injury. The 6-2, 220-pounder carried a season-high 24 times for 119 yards in a win over Vanderbilt, then came back with a 17-carry, season-high 128-yard, two touchdown effort at Texas A&M. He has three 100-yard rushing games this season and seven in his career. For the season, Wilds has carried 76 times for 428 yards, a 5.6-yard average. His 85.6 yards per game would rank eighth in the SEC if he had enough games to qualify.
1,000-YARD CAREER RUSHERS: Brandon Wilds has moved into 21st place on Carolina's all-time list in career rushing with 1,705 yards. He needs 106 yards to move past Rob DeBoer (1,810) into the top-20 on the all-time list.
100-100 TIMES TWO: The Gamecocks have recorded a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in the same game twice this season. Brandon Wilds carried 16 times for 106 yards and Pharoh Cooper caught nine passes for 100 yards against Kentucky, then Wilds ran for 119 yards on 24 totes while Cooper had 160 yards on seven catches against Vanderbilt.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: Brandon Wilds and Pharoh Cooper have turned in outstanding performances against the orange and black-clad Volunteers. As a true freshman in 2011, Wilds rushed 28 times for 137 yards, then as a junior in 2014, had a career-high 143 yards and two touchdown on just eight carries against UT. In two games he has rushed 36 times for 280 yards and two TDs and has five receptions for 61 yards and a score. Cooper had the best game of his career in 2014 against the Vols when he caught 11 passes for a school-record 233 yards and two TDs, rushed three times for 23 yards and a score, and threw a 30-yard TD pass.
PHAROH IS KING: One of the most versatile players in all of college football is junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. The 5-11, 207-pounder from Havelock, N.C. is the Gamecocks' best bet to earn All-America accolades after a breakout season a year ago. His preseason accolades are many, but most notably, he earned three spots on the SEC Coaches' first-team all-conference squad, as a wide receiver, an all-purpose back and a return specialist. He was a preseason candidate for the Maxwell, Hornung and Biletnikoff awards.
2015 IS THE YEAR OF PHAROH: Pharoh Cooper ranks third in the SEC with 76.1 receiving yards per game and is fourth with 5.5 receptions per game. He has four 100-yard receiving games this season, including a school record-tying three in a row, and eight in his career.
TRIPLE CROWN THREAT: Pharoh Cooper can also run and throw. He has averaged 8.0 yards per carry in his career, rushing 63 times for 506 yards with four TDs, and has completed 8-of-14 passes for 101 yards with three scores.
KING TUTT_CHDOWN: Pharoh Cooper is moving up the Carolina all-time receiving lists. He is tied with Stanley Pritchett for 10th in school history with 116 receptions, has moved into the top-10 for receiving yards in a career with 1,799 and is 10th in touchdown receptions with 14. Here's where Cooper ranks on the Carolina charts:
ADAMS' MARK: Senior tight end Jerell Adams, a 6-6, 231-pounder from Pinewood, S.C., is the team's second-leading receiver with 16 receptions for 233 yards, including a pair of touchdown receptions. He has 54 career catches for 789 yards, a 14.6-yard average with six touchdowns. Adams has also produced in the classroom, as he is a two-time member of the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll and was named the recipient of the prestigious Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student-Athlete Representative of the University of South Carolina at the 2015 Spring Game.
DIAMONDS AREN'T FOREVER: 22-year-old walk-on freshman Hayden Hurst was added to the Carolina football roster this summer. Hurst was originally committed to attend Florida State on a baseball scholarship, before electing to turn pro and signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He was drafted as a pitcher and eventually was moved to first base before giving up the game for good. He was encouraged to walk-on at South Carolina by Perry Orth, who he has known for years. Hurst moved from tight end to wide receiver after the UCF game and caught his first pass, a 9-yard reception, at LSU. He was on the receiving end of a 47-yard pitch-and-catch from Orth at Texas A&M.
THE SHELL GAME: The Gamecocks feature an experienced first unit up front, headlined by fifth-year senior left tackle Brandon Shell. Shell, a 6-6, 328-pounder from Goose Creek, S.C. who has been tabbed to some preseason All-SEC units, made the move from right tackle to left tackle this season, a position where he made his first career start (at Vanderbilt in 2012), before moving to the right side where he made 35 consecutive starts entering the 2015 season. His 44 career starts is the seventh-highest total in school history.
THE MIKE MAN: Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Mike Matulis, who was penciled in as the starting right guard a year ago, but suffered a left knee injury midway through fall camp and only saw limited time during the season before undergoing surgery, returns for his final campaign. The 6-5, 293-pounder from Boynton Beach, Fla., was a first-team Freshman All-American in 2011, and gives Carolina veteran leadership up front. He has started 18 games in his career, the first 10 at tackle, while battling shoulder and knee injuries.
GETTING THE HANG OF IT: Junior defensive end Marquavius Lewis is starting the get the hang of this SEC action. The junior college transfer led the team with a career-high nine tackles at LSU, including his first career sack, a 12-yard loss. He also had a quarterback hurry in the contest. He followed that up with a pair of tackles for loss, two QB hurries and another sack against Vanderbilt. For the season, he has 31 tackles, tops among the Carolina defensive linemen.
THE SKAI'S THE LIMIT: The Gamecocks top linebacker is Skai Moore. Moore, a junior from Cooper City, Fla., is on his way to leading the team in tackles for a third-straight year, as his 83 tackles is 29 more than Isaiah Johnson, who is second with 54. He became the first Gamecock to lead the team in tackles in back-to-back years since Emanuel Cook (2007-08), while the last to do it three years in a row was Tony Watkins (1992-94). The 6-2, 218-pounder who garnered Defensive MVP honors in the 2014 Independence Bowl, tallied a team-high 11 tackles and a pair of interceptions in the season opening win over North Carolina, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week accolades. It was the third time he's logged two interceptions in a game, also in the 2014 Capital One Bowl versus Wisconsin and in 2014 against South Alabama. He had a career-high 14 stops at Texas A&M. He has recorded double-figures in tackles in five of eight games, is third in the SEC averaging 10.4 tackles per game and is tied for third in the SEC with four interceptions. Moore now owns 232 career tackles and 11 interceptions.
PICKIN' AND GRINNIN': Carolina linebacker Skai Moore has 11 career interceptions, including four this season, two in the opener against North Carolina and one against both Kentucky and Vanderbilt. He is among the school's all-time leader in career INTs:
WAVING THE WHEAT GOODBYE: Senior safety Isaiah Johnson graduated from the University of Kansas, came to Carolina late in the summer, and quickly moved into a starting role. The 6-0, 209-pounder from Cary, N.C. was voted the Big 12 Coaches' Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2013. He is second on the squad and tied for 22nd in the SEC with 54 tackles, 6.8 per game.
THE FRISCO KID: Elliott Fry, a 6-0, 164-pound junior from Frisco, Texas is 15-for-21 (71.4 percent) in field goals this season with a career long of 52 yards. Two of his misses have come from 55 and 57 yards out. His 1.9 field goals made per game leads the SEC and is sixth in the country, while his 21 attempts is tied for first in the nation. He is seventh in the SEC in scoring among kickers at 7.6 points per game. Fry, a 2015 Groza candidate, was nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, was a second-team preseason All-SEC selection by the media and a third-team choice by the league's 14 coaches. Last season, he was a Groza Award semifinalist, connected on 18-of-25 field goals, ranked third in the SEC with 105 points, the third-highest single-season mark in school history, and was fifth in the SEC in points per game at 8.1. He was a member of the 2014 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.
YOU WANT A FRY WITH THAT?: Elliott Fry has hit on 48-of-64 career field goal attempts (75.0 percent), and that percentage increases to 81.4 when he attempts from under 54-yards out (48-of-59). He has connected on 121-of-122 extra points, including a school record 115 in a row.
ALWAYS BETTER WHEN IT'S FRY: Junior Elliott Fry is moving up the South Carolina charts in several season and career categories:
FIELD GOALS ATTEMPTED
FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE
PAT PERCENTAGE (Min. 40 Made)
FROM WAY DOWNTOWN: Junior placekicker Elliott Fry connected on a career-long 52-yard field goal against UCF. That came on the heels of a then-career long 51-yarder at Georgia the previous week. Entering the 2015 season his long was 47 yards. The 52-yarder was the longest field goal by a Gamecock since Ryan Succop connected from 54-yards out against Arkansas in 2008 and tied for the sixth-longest in school history.
KELLY'S A HERO: Sean Kelly has proven to be a valuable addition. The former FAU Owl and Ray Guy Award nominee ranks 10th in the SEC in punting with a 41.7-yard average, but the Gamecocks are sixth in the league in net punting average at 39.6. He has placed 17 inside the 20, the league's second-highest mark, with only two touchbacks. He had a 60-yard boot against North Carolina, the Gamecocks' first punt of 60 yards or more since 2011 when Joey Scribner-Howard launched a 60-yarder at Mississippi State. The 5-10, 189-pounder from Oakland, Fla., who punted for FAU for two seasons, has punted 35 times with seven over 50 yards.
GET HIM THE BALL: True freshman Rashad Fenton touched the ball for the first time in a college game at LSU and made it memorable. The Miami. Fla. native returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown against the Tigers. It was the first kickoff return for a score by the Gamecocks since Matthew Thomas went 95 yards against Virginia on Sept. 7, 2002. The Gamecocks rank third in the SEC in kick return average at 25.0 yards per return.
CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: South Carolina had individual game captains early in the season before electing permanent team captains prior to the LSU game. The permanent captains are Pharoh Cooper, T.J. Holloman, Isaiah Johnson, Mike Matulis, Skai Moore, and Brandon Shell.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Gamecocks return home next week to wrap up the 2015 SEC slate when they host the Florida Gators. Florida leads the all-time series, 24-8-3 including a 10-6-1 advantage in Columbia, but the Gamecocks have won the last two and four of the last five contests between the two SEC Eastern Division rivals. The Gamecocks won in The Swamp last season by a 23-20 count in overtime. The Gamecocks were 19-14 winners in 2013 in the last meeting between the two schools at Williams-Brice Stadium.
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