Nov. 13, 2015
The South Carolina Gamecocks (3-6, 1-6 SEC) will play a home game for just the second time since September 26, when they host the SEC Eastern Division champion and No. 11/10 Florida Gators (8-1, 6-1 SEC) at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia on Saturday, November 14. Game time is set for noon ET and the game will be televised on ESPN. Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham will work in the booth, while Dr. Jerry Punch will patrol the sidelines for the mother ship.
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 27 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 586-559-44. The Gamecocks were 10 games under .500 through the 2003 season, but are 37 games over .500 since the start of the `04 campaign.
SEC, SEC: This week's contest against Florida will mark the final SEC game of the season for the Gamecocks. This is 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 45-42 (.517) in conference play since that time, including a 22-17 mark (.564) since the start of the 2011 season.
CAROLINA VS. FLORIDA: This is the 36th meeting in a series that dates back to 1911. The Gators lead the all-time series, 24-8-3, including a 10-6-1 lead when playing in Columbia and a 13-2 advantage in Gainesville. 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 the last two and four of the last five 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 five gridiron tilts with the Gators after winning just four of the first 30 meetings between the two schools.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: In one of the more improbable comeback wins in school history, the Gamecocks pulled out a 23-20 overtime decision in The Swamp on November 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 LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: The No. 11/12 Gamecocks rallied from a 14-6 halftime deficit to defeat the Florida Gators, 19-14, on November 16, 2013 at Williams-Brice Stadium in front of a home season-high crowd of 83,853. Elliott Fry booted a career-high four field goals and little-used tailback Shon Carson rushed for 102 yards on 13 carries, including a key fourth-quarter 58-yard burst that led to the game-winning points. Bruce Ellington scored Carolina's only TD on a 32-yard pass from Connor Shaw in the third quarter. The Gamecock defense pitched a shutout in the second half, holding the Gators to 130 total yards over the final two periods.
FLORIDA TIES: The Gamecocks have 18 players from the state of Florida including Jordan Diggs (Fort Myers), Rashad Fenton (Miami), Al Harris Jr. (Fort Lauderdale), Hayden Hurst (Jacksonville), Sean Kelly (Oakland), Chris Lammons (Lauderhill), Mike Matulis (Boynton Beach), 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), Will Sport (Milton), Cody Waldrop (Seffner), and Jerad Washington (Jacksonville).
ONCE A GATOR: Current Carolina football staffers Jon Hoke (1999-01), G.A. Mangus (1988-94), Steve Spurrier Jr. (1994-98) and Jamie Speronis (1982-02) have all been part of the Florida Gator family during their careers.
ELLIOTT IN CHARGE: The Gamecocks are 1-2 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.
THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks spotted Tennessee a 17-0 lead before rallying back to tie the score at 17 and again at 24, before dropping a 27-24 decision to the Volunteers in Knoxville last Saturday. The Gamecocks had their biggest one-quarter production of the season when they tallied 21 third quarter points on the strength of a career-high three touchdown passes from Perry Orth. Orth finished the game 20-of-39 for 233 yards with no interceptions and added 42 yards on the ground. After surrendering 177 yards on 22 plays (8.1 yards/play) in the first quarter, the Carolina defense limited the Vols to 231 yards on 53 plays (4.4 yards/play) over the final three quarters.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: For the first time all season, the Gamecocks won the turnover battle, but lost the game. Carolina forced three turnovers and committed just one against the Vols, but still came up short. The Gamecocks are now 3-1 when they have fewer turnovers, 0-2 when even in turnovers and 0-3 when committing more turnovers. For the season, they are plus-3 (15 gained, 12 lost). They forced a season-high five turnovers against Vanderbilt.
WHO WAS THAT? The Gamecocks showed a new wrinkle at Tennessee when they went to a three-back formation, which included linebacker Jonathan Walton lining up at in the backfield. Walton, a former high school running back, proved he was not inserted just to block, as he caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the contest.
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 only time this season they have not trailed heading into intermission.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Gamecocks are 24-4 in their last 28 home games (.857) and 40-7 (.851) in their last 47 home games. Carolina had its school-record 18-game home winning streak snapped in the 2014 season opener. The school's previous longest home winning streak was 15 games, set from 1978-80. The only home losses since the start of the 2009 season have come to top-ranked Florida in 2009, to 17th-ranked Arkansas in 2010 and to defending national champion Auburn in 2011 before the 2014 home losses to Texas A&M, Missouri and Tennessee and a 2015 loss to Kentucky.
HOME CROWD ADVANTAGE: The Gamecocks have played in front of 13 sellouts in their last 17 home contests. The Gamecocks ranked 16th in the nation in home attendance in 2014 with an average of 81,381 per game. Three of 2014's home crowds figured in the top-30 all-time at Williams-Brice Stadium. This season South Carolina is averaging 78,583 fans, 16th in the nation.
EVERY TIME OUT: The Gamecocks have had nine players start every game this season, including Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Shell, Mike Matulis, Will Sport and Mason Zandi on offense, and Gerald Dixon Jr., Marquavius Lewis, Skai Moore and Isaiah Johnson on defense.
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.
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 (6) 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, has solidified himself as the starting signal-caller. Orth, who spent part of the summer working in a local grocery store stocking shelves to help pay for his schooling, has completed 89-of-166 passes (53.6 percent) for 1,180 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. He is 1-4 as a starting quarterback.
OH PERRY: Perry Orth entered the 2015 season having completed just 1-of-3 passes for five yards. The redshirt junior's first extensive duty came in relief of the injured Connor 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. He completed 15-of-24 passes for 192 yards with two picks, and rushed 11 times for a career-high 64 yards, including a 66-yarder at Texas A&M. In his last start at Tennessee, he threw for 233 yards while logging career-highs with 20 completions, 39 attempts, and three touchdown passes.
TOUGH VENUES: No one may be happier to see a friendly home crowd than quarterback Perry Orth. Orth has had a challenging introduction to being a starting quarterback in the SEC. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find another quarterback in the country who took the field at such formidable venues as Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M and Tennessee, with just one home game in his first five career starts.
RUNNIN' WILDS: Fifth-year senior Brandon Wilds has been a workhorse 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 before carrying 20 times for 79 yards at Tennessee. He has three 100-yard rushing games this season and seven in his career. For the season, Wilds has carried 96 times for 507 yards, a 5.3-yard average, with two scores. His 84.5 yards per game would rank seventh in the SEC if he had enough games to qualify.
MOVING UP THE CHARTS: Brandon Wilds has moved into 21st place on Carolina's all-time list in career rushing with 1,784 yards. He needs 27 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.
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.
SOUTH CAROLINA PHAROH: Pharoh Cooper had a special season in 2014. He set the school record for receiving yards in a game with 233 against Tennessee and logged the third-highest single-season receiving yards total in school history with 1,136, a mark topped by only Alshon Jeffery and Sidney Rice. He accounted for 13 touchdowns: 9 receiving, 2 rushing and 2 passing.
2015 IS THE YEAR OF PHAROH: Pharoh Cooper ranks third in the SEC with 72.9 receiving yards per game and is fifth with 5.3 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. He also has five of Carolina's 11 touchdown receptions this season.
TRIPLE CROWN THREAT: Pharoh Cooper can also run and throw. He has averaged 7.9 yards per carry in his career, rushing 64 times for 507 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 ninth in school history with 120 receptions, has moved into the top-10 for receiving yards in a career with 1,846 and is tied with Philip Logan for ninth in touchdown receptions with 15. 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 18 receptions for 270 yards, including three touchdown receptions. He has 56 career catches for 826 yards, a 14.8-yard average with seven 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.
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 45 career starts is tied for the fourth-highest total in school history.
THE MIKE MAN: Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Mike Matulis gives Carolina veteran leadership up front. He has started 19 games in his career while battling shoulder and knee injuries. The 6-5, 293-pounder from Boynton Beach, Fla., was a first-team Freshman All-American in 2011, and 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.
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. With another sack at Tennessee, he has three sacks in his last four games. For the season, he has 35 tackles, tops among the 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 89 tackles is 29 more than Isaiah Johnson, who is second with 60. 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 five times, is third in the SEC averaging 9.9 tackles per game and is tied for third in the SEC with four interceptions. Moore now owns 238 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 22nd in the SEC with 60 tackles, 6.7 per game.
THE FRISCO KID: Elliott Fry, a 6-0, 164-pound junior from Frisco, Texas is 16-for-23 (69.6 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 1.8 field goals made per game is second in the SEC and is seventh in the country, while his 23 attempts is tied for first in the nation. He is eighth in the SEC in scoring among kickers at 7.4 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 49-of-66 career field goal attempts (74.2 percent), and that percentage increases to 80.3 when he attempts from under 54-yards out (49-of-61). He has connected on 124-of-125 extra points, including a school record 118 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 eighth in the SEC in punting with a 42.9-yard average, but the Gamecocks are sixth in the league in net punting average at 39.9. He has placed 18 inside the 20, tied for 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. He averaged 49.7 yards on five punts at Tennessee. The 5-10, 189-pounder from Oakland, Fla., who punted for FAU for two seasons, has punted 41 times with 10 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 24.3 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 step out of SEC action next Saturday when they host in-state FCS rival The Citadel at Williams-Brice Stadium. Carolina leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs by a 40-7-3 count, including a 14-4 advantage in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won 10 of the last 11 times the two schools have met on the gridiron, including a 41-20 score in 2011 in their last contest.
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