Nov. 18, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — It's Senior Day as the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5, 3-5 SEC) wrap up their 2016 home slate when they host the FCS Western Carolina Catamounts (2-7, 1-6 Southern) in a non-conference matchup. Game time is set for 4 pm ET and the game will be televised on the SEC Network Alternate channel.
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 591-567-44.
Last week's game at Florida marked the 200th regular season SEC game for South Carolina in this, its 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 86-113-1 (.433) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 30-26 (.536) since the start of the 2010 season.
CAROLINA VS. WCU
This is the fifth all-time meeting between South Carolina and Western Carolina. The previous four meetings all came in Columbia from 1986-89, with South Carolina prevailing in each contest. The 1986 contest was a bit of a shootout, with the Gamecocks outscoring the Catamounts, 45-24, but South Carolina rolled up impressive wins in each of the next three years, outscoring its FCS opponent from Cullowhee, N.C. by a combined score of 93-9.
Both the Gamecocks and Catamounts have faced East Carolina this season. The Pirates posted a season-opening 52-7 win over Western Carolina in Greenville on September 3, then two weeks later, South Carolina handed ECU a 20-15 setback in Columbia.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
An estimated Williams-Brice Stadium crowd of 62,000 was on hand when the Gamecocks handed Western Carolina a 24-3 setback on October 21, 1989. The 24th-ranked Gamecocks held the visitors to only 169 yards of total offense that day. Meanwhile running back Harold Green rushed 23 times for 150 yards, as Carolina netted 443 yards of total offense. The Gamecocks led just 7-0 at the intermission, but added touchdowns by Green and Mike Dingle (his second of the game) and a field goal from Collin Mackie in the second half.
IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING
The four-year series between South Carolina and Western Carolina from 1986-89 coincided with Todd Ellis's four-year stint as the Gamecocks' starting signal-caller. Ellis is now the play-by-play voice of Carolina Football. Here's how Ellis fared in the four contests against WCU:
THEY'RE NOT SEC WORTHY
South Carolina is 23-3 in its last 26 non-conference games, including a 2-0 mark this season, with wins over East Carolina and UMass. The Gamecocks had their 18-game non-conference winning streak snapped in the 2014 regular season finale at Clemson, then lost the final two games of the 2015 regular season to non-conference in-state foes The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to the Clemson loss at the end of the 2014 campaign, Carolina's last non-conference loss came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
PROTECT THIS HOUSE
South Carolina has won 24 of its last 26 home games against non-conference foes. The Gamecocks had won 22-straight home games against non-conference opponents before dropping the final two games of the 2015 regular season to in-state rivals The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to that, the last home loss to a non-SEC team was to Clemson in the 2007 regular-season finale.
Since the regular season was expanded to 12 games in 2006, Carolina has hosted an FCS opponent every year. The Gamecocks are 9-1 in those games, defeating Wofford (2006, 2008, 2012), South Carolina State (2007, 2009), Furman (2010, 2014), The Citadel (2011) and Coastal Carolina (2013), before suffering a 23-22 loss to The Citadel last season.
IT'S RARELY CLOSE
The Gamecocks generally have had little trouble in disposing of their FCS opponents. In the 10 games played since 2006, South Carolina has outscored its FCS opponent by a combined score of 362-139, or an average score of 36-14.
THE POWER OF FIVE
Since the turn of the century, the Gamecocks have a 39-2 mark against teams not currently in the Power 5 conference (SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12). The only two losses in that stretch came to UConn in the 2010 Papajohns.com Bowl and to The Citadel last season. It should be noted that UConn was in the Big East, which was a BCS automatic qualifier that season.
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.
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 LAST TIME OUT
The Gamecocks had their three-game winning streak and their slim SEC Eastern Division title hopes come to an end in a 20-7 setback to No. 22/16 Florida last Saturday in The Swamp. The Carolina offense had trouble sustaining any drives for much of the day, collecting just 256 yards of offense. The Gamecocks collected just 119 yards through three quarters, but tallied 137 yards and its only touchdown in the final stanza to make things interesting. True freshman quarterback Jake Bentley made his first career road start and was handed his first loss after three-straight wins. He completed 18-of-33 passes for 213 yards and threw his first career interception in front of hostile crowd of 89,614 in Will Muschamp's return to Gainesville. Darius English logged a career-high 10 tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss, while Steven Montac and Jonathan Walton each tallied nine stops.
NEVER GIVE UP
Despite trailing 20-0 and being outgained 352-119 through three quarters, the Gamecocks showed a "never give up" attitude in last week's loss. In the final 15 minutes, Carolina outgained the Gators 137-20.
HEY TURN ME OVER
The Gamecocks forced three Florida turnovers, all in the first half, to keep the game within reach. Bryson Allen-Williams forced one fumble that was recovered by Jamarcus King, and recovered another. T.J. Holloman picked off his third pass of the season. The Gamecocks have forced three or more turnovers in each of the last four games, and have forced 23 turnovers on the season, tying for third in the country.
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, had his redshirt taken off during the midseason bye week. He has been the starter in each of the last four games, his first career appearances, and owns a 3-1 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. He set career highs by completing 22 passes (in 28 attempts) for 254 yards with two scores. His first loss came on the road last week at Florida where he completed 18-of-33 passes for 213 yards with an interception. For the season, he is completing 67.3 percent of his passes (72-of-107) for 835 yards with six touchdowns and one interception.
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.
True freshman Jake Bentley passed on his senior year of high school to enroll at South Carolina in the summer. He joins Kansas safety Mike Lee as the only two FBS players in the country who could still be playing prep football this fall. However, Bentley is actually about six months older than fellow true freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain. Bentley will turn 19 on November 23, while McIlwain will not turn 19 until May 31.
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 became 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 majority of the carries of late after missing the first four games with a sports hernia. Junior David Williams (183 career carries) has many career rushes as the two freshmen have combined (176 carries). Dowdle has two career 100-yard games, while Turner and Williams have one each. 881 of the Gamecocks' 1,123 rushing yards have been by freshmen (78.5 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 which caused him to miss the season's first four games, 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 six contests, carrying 95 times for 458 yards, a 4.8-yard average, and four touchdowns. In the last four games, Dowdle has carried 79 times for 381 yards, 95.3 yards per game. He had 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 in just six 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. He did not play last week at Florida due to a knee sprain.
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. 70 of the Gamecocks' 187 pass receptions have been by freshmen (37.4 pct.), tops in the SEC, and 45 of 89 catches by the wide receiving corps have been by freshmen (50.6 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 33 passes for 457 yards in the last five contests. He has logged at least eight catches in three of the last four 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 seven games, Samuel does not qualify for the SEC leaders, but his 74.7 receiving yards per game would place him third in the league, while his 5.3 receptions per game would rank fourth. Samuel has also carried nine 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, 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 eighth in the nation among freshmen in receiving yards (47.2) and 13th 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 38 catches for 489 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
With three receptions at Florida, Hayden Hurst became the school's all-time leader in pass receptions for a tight end with 38, surpassing Jared Cook, and with 489 yards, is closing in on Cook's record for receiving yards by a tight end. Cook logged 37 receptions for 573 yards in 2008. Hurst is trying 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 38 catches for 489 yards, Crosby is fourth on the team with 20 receptions for 198 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
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 26 career starts, most on the squad.
JUST GET ME THE BALL
The Gamecocks have forced 23 turnovers this season, tying Texas A&M for the SEC lead and ranking in a tie for third in the country. The Gamecocks have recovered 10 fumbles and have picked off 13 passes. Carolina leads the SEC and is tied for seventh in the nation in turnover margin at +1.0. The Gamecocks are +10 in their five wins (14-4) and are even in the five losses (9-9).
WE MAY NEVER PASS THIS WAY AGAIN
The Gamecocks rank fourth in the SEC and 25th in the country in pass defense, allowing just 194.2 yards per game through the air.
RED ZONE DEFENSE
The Gamecocks rank fourth in the SEC and ninth in the nation in red zone defense, allowing points just 70.3 percent of the time. In 37 chances, the Carolina defense has allowed just 19 TDs and seven field goals, while forcing a league-high six turnovers in the red zone.
EVERY GAME QUA
Defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis has started all 22 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 8.0 of the squad's 19 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.
GETTING IN THE SACK
The Gamecocks have 19 sacks, producing a season-high four sacks against both East Carolina and Kentucky.
Carolina has picked off 13 passes, tying for the most in the SEC. Chris Lammons, Jamarcus King and T.J. Holloman have 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.
Elliott Fry became the school's all-time leading scorer in the win over Missouri, and now has tallied 337 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, three behind Florida's Caleb Sturgis.
THE FRISCO KID
Senior Elliott Fry is 9-for-13 in field goal attempts this season. He has connected on a school record 145 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 (151) and attempted (152) and is the school's all-time leader in points scored with 337.
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:
KICKIN' IT WITH KELLY
Senior punter Sean Kelly has been busy this season, punting 64 times, tying for the fourth most punts in the nation. He is averaging 42.2 yards with 25 inside the 20, 10 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 wrap up the 2016 regular season on Saturday, November 26, when they travel to Clemson. The Tigers lead the all-time series by a 67-42-4 count, including a 17-10-1 advantage when they play at home. Carolina has won five of the last seven meetings in the series.
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