Nov. 11, 2016
After five-consecutive home games, the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-4, 3-4 SEC) return to the road this week when they travel to Gainesville to face the #22/16 Florida Gators (6-2, 4-2 SEC) in their final SEC regular season contest of 2016. Game time is set for noon ET and the contest will be televised by CBS.
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 25 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 591-566-44.
This week's game marks the 200th regular season SEC game for South Carolina. The 2016 season marks the Gamecocks' 25th year in the SEC. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their lone SEC Eastern Division title in 2010. The Gamecocks are 86-112-1 (.435) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 31-25 (.554) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
CAROLINA VS. FLORIDA
This is the 37th meeting in a series that dates back to 1911. The Gators lead the all-time series, 25-8-3, including a 13-2 advantage in Gainesville and an 11-6-1 lead when playing in Columbia. The teams have also met three times at a neutral site with Florida winning once and the other two games ending in a tie. The Gamecocks have won two of the last three and four of the last six contests between the two squads after losing 18 of the previous 19 meetings.
JUST GETTING WARMED UP
The Gamecocks have won four of the last six gridiron tilts with the Gators after winning just four of the first 30 meetings between the two schools.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
The No. 11/10 Florida Gators withstood a late South Carolina surge in a 24-14 win in Columbia on Nov. 14, 2015. The Gators took a 17-0 lead into the final stanza, but Perry Orth and Pharoh Cooper combined for a pair of touchdown passes - one each on the throwing and receiving end - to pull the Gamecocks within three with just under five minutes to play, but the rally fell short.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE
In one of the more improbable comeback wins in school history, the Gamecocks pulled out a 23-20 overtime decision in The Swamp on Nov. 15, 2014. In a defensive struggle that saw the teams combine for just 579 yards of offense, it was special teams that made the difference. Trailing by seven in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks got a blocked field goal from Gerald Dixon Jr., then a blocked punt from Carlton Heard, setting up a Mike Davis game-tying touchdown with just 12 seconds left in regulation. In the overtime, Florida scored first on a 35-yard field goal, then Dylan Thompson sprinted in from four-yards out to give Carolina the win. That victory would be the last in The Swamp for SEC legend Steve Spurrier.
The Gamecocks boast 17 players from the state of Florida including Jordan Diggs (Fort Myers), Rashad Fenton (Miami), Evan Hinson (Deltona), Hayden Hurst (Jacksonville), Sean Kelly (Oakland), Chris Lammons (Lauderhill), Nick McGriff (Gainesville), Skai Moore (Cooper City), Perry Orth (Ponte Vedra), Christian Pellage (Brooksville), Sherrod Pittman (Jacksonville), Jasper Sasser (Jacksonville), Michael Scarnecchia (Fleming Island), Jamari Smith (Jacksonville), Keir Thomas (Miami), Aaron Thompson (Fort Lauderdale) and Jerad Washington (Jacksonville).
SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE
Head coach Will Muschamp will bring the Gamecocks to Florida, a school where he was the head coach from 2011-14. Steve Spurrier did the same thing 10 years ago. Spurrier, who coached at Florida from 1990-2001, brought the Gamecocks to The Swamp for the first time in 2006 and dropped a 17-16 decision on CBS to the eventual national champions. It was Spurrier's second season at South Carolina. He led the Gamecocks to a 30-22 win over the Gators in Columbia in his first contest against his alma mater.
BEATING A RANKED OPPONENT
The Gamecocks will be looking to knock off their second ranked opponent this season when they take on the No. 22/16 Gators. They defeated No. 18/18 Tennessee two weeks ago by a 24-21 count. That win snapped a seven-game losing streak against ranked opponents, as Carolina's last win over a ranked foe was a 38-35 win over No. 6 Georgia on Sept. 13, 2014. The last time South Carolina posted a win over a ranked team on the road was at No. 5 Missouri on Oct. 26, 2013.
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.
SIX UNDER 30
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. 8 Auburn and No. 19 LSU.
The Gamecocks have won three-straight games for the first time since September 2014 when they defeated East Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt in consecutive weeks. They own the third-longest current winning streak in the SEC behind Alabama (9) and Auburn (6). The last time Carolina won four in a row was when they won the final six games of the 2013 season, capping an 11-win campaign.
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
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 are 1-2 on the road this season and have dropped eight of their last nine true road contests. However, Carolina is 15-15 in its last 30 true road games, with eight of the 15 losses coming to teams ranked in the top-25 in the country, including seven in the top-11.
THE LAST TIME OUT
The Gamecocks extended their winning streak to three with a 31-21 win over Missouri in the battle for the Columbia Cup last Saturday night in South Carolina. The Gamecocks got career-best performances from freshman quarterback Jake Bentley (22-of-28, 254 yards), freshman running back Rico Dowdle (27 carries, 149 yards), and sophomore wide receiver Deebo Samuel (nine receptions, 125 yards), as the offense eclipsed the 400-yard mark for the first time this season. Bentley was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for his efforts. Meanwhile, the defense forced three turnovers and held their opponents to under 30 points for the ninth-consecutive week.
Elliott Fry became the school's all-time leading scorer in the win over Missouri. Fry has tallied 336 career points. The previous mark of 330 was held by Collin Mackie (1987-90). Fry is in 16th place on the SEC list of career points scored, four behind Florida's Caleb Sturgis.
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 and earned the starting position coming out of fall camp. He is 1-2 as a starter this season and 2-9 in his 11 career starts. Brandon McIlwain, a true freshman, enrolled in January and went through spring drills. McIlwain has appeared in seven games, starting three contests, logging a 1-2 mark as a starter. True freshman Jake Bentley, who arrived in the summer, has been the starter in each of the last three games, his first career appearances, and has a 3-0 mark.
EIGHT WINS BY FIVE DIFFERENT QB'S
The Gamecocks have won eight games over the past two seasons, with five different starting quarterbacks accounting for the wins. Jake Bentley leads the way with three wins, while Perry Orth has won twice. 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 week 7 and earned 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 and earned his second win against Tennessee after completing 15-of-20 passes for 167 yards and two scores. He ran his record to 3-0 with a win over Missouri last week. He set career highs by going 22-for-28 for 254 yards with two scores. For the season, he is completing 73.0 percent of his passes (54-of-74) for 622 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. 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.
True freshman Jake Bentley has become the first true freshman quarterback to win his first three collegiate starts at South Carolina since Steve Taneyhill began his career with four-straight wins in 1992. Taneyhill who, like Bentley, made his first start midway through the season, finished his freshman season with a 5-1 mark. In 2007, Chris Smelley won his first four starts as a redshirt freshman.
The Gamecocks have three running backs in the rotation. Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner took the bulk of the carries early in the season, but true freshman Rico Dowdle has taken the bulk of the carries of late after missing the first four games with a sports hernia. Junior David Williams has many career rushes as the two freshmen have combined. Dowdle has two career 100-yard games, while Turner and Williams have one each. 869 of the Gamecocks' 1,080 rushing yards have been by freshmen (80.5 pct.), most in the SEC. Here's the South Carolina running back numbers:
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 has been impressive in his five contests, carrying 86 times for 440 yards and four touchdowns, a 5.1-yard average. In the last three games, Dowdle has carried 70 times for 363 yards. He has back-to-back games of 27 carries for over 100 yards - 127 yards versus Tennessee and a career-high 149 yards against Missouri. He leads the team with five touchdowns despite playing just five of the first nine games.
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' second-leading rusher with 81 carries for 336 yards and two touchdowns, and has added 15 catches for 104 yards and a score. Turner also averages 25.5 yards per kickoff return.
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. 67 of the Gamecocks' 169 pass receptions have been by freshmen (39.6 pct.), tops in the SEC, and 43 of 83 catches by the wide receiving corps have been by freshmen (51.8 pct.).
SAMUEL IS KING
Deebo Samuel has finally gotten healthy, and so has the Gamecock offense. After a hamstring injury limited him to just four pass receptions for 66 yards in the season's first five games, Samuel has hauled in 29 passes for 404 yards in the last four contests. He has logged at least eight catches in each of the last three games with two 100-yard receiving games. He had the best game of his career when he caught nine passes for 125 yards against Missouri. Having played in just six games, Samuel does not qualify for the SEC leaders, but his 78.3 receiving yards per game would place him second in the league, while his 5.5 receptions per game would rank fourth. Samuel has also carried seven times this season, with three going for scores.
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:
DIAMONDS AREN'T FOREVER
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 35 catches for 426 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. Hurst also served as the Gamecocks' punt returner against Georgia, becoming the biggest punt returner in Division I football in recent memory.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Hayden Hurst is just two catches from tying Jared Cook for the school record number of receptions by a tight end. Cook logged 37 receptions for 573 yards in 2008. 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 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 35 catches for 426 yards, Crosby is fourth on the team with 18 receptions for 176 yards and leads the team with four touchdown receptions, and August has added five catches for 52 yards.
MISSING THE SENIOR CITIZENS
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.
STABILITY UP FRONT
The Gamecocks have started the same five offensive lineman in each of the last five games. Mason Zandi (LT), Zack Bailey (LG), Alan Knott (OC) and Cory Helms (RG) have all started the last eight games.
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 25 career starts, most on the squad.
TURN ME OVER
The Gamecocks have forced 20 turnovers this season, second in the SEC behind Texas A&M (21) and ranking in a tie for ninth in the country. The Gamecocks have recovered eight fumbles and have picked off a dozen passes. Carolina leads the SEC and is tied for ninth in the nation in turnover margin at +1.0. The Gamecocks are +10 in their five wins (14-4) and are -1 in the four losses (6-7).
WE MAY NEVER PASS THIS WAY AGAIN
The Gamecocks rank third in the SEC and 22nd in the country in pass defense, allowing just 194.2 yards per game through the air. The squad leads the SEC with 12 interceptions.
RED ZONE DEFENSE
The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC and eighth in the nation in red zone defense, allowing points just 69.7 percent of the time. In 33 chances, the Carolina defense has allowed just 17 TDs 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 21 games since his arrival in Columbia. 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 leads the Gamecocks with 7.5 of the squad's 18 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 fourth in the SEC in sacks. He needs 1.5 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 18 sacks, producing a season-high four sacks against both East Carolina and Kentucky.
Carolina has picked off 12 passes, most in the SEC. Chris Lammons and Jamarcus King are tied for fourth in the league with three each. King had two picks vs. Tennessee, earning Defensive Player of the Week accolades.
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 9-for-13 in field goal attempts this season. He has connected on a school record 144 consecutive extra points and has hit 73.8 percent (62-of-84) of his career field goal attempts. That average jumps to 79.7 percent (59-of-74) when attempting from under 50 yards out. He holds the school's career records for extra points made (150) and attempted (151) and is the school's all-time leader in points scored with 336.
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 second-longest field goal made in FBS football 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.
The Gamecocks play the final home game of the 2016 season on Saturday, November 12, when they host the FCS Western Carolina Catamounts, out of the Southern Conference. South Carolina owns a 4-0 record in the all-time series against Western Carolina, winning all four games at Williams-Brice Stadium between 1986 and 1989.
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