Nov. 25, 2016
The 2016 regular season wraps up when the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-5) travel to face the No. 4/3 Clemson Tigers (10-1) on Saturday, Nov. 26. Game time is set for 7:30 pm ET. ESPN will televise the game nationally, with Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy in the booth and Tom Luginbill on the sidelines. Touchdown Radio, featuring Bill Roth and Gino Torretta, has the national radio call.
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 592-567-44.
The November 12 contest 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. CLEMSON
This is the 114th meeting between these two Palmetto State schools in a series that dates back to 1896. The teams have met every year since 1909, making the Carolina-Clemson series the second-longest running consecutively played series in college football at 108-straight meetings, behind only Minnesota vs. Wisconsin. The Tigers hold a 67-42-4 advantage, including a 50-32-3 advantage in Columbia and a 17-10-1 lead in Clemson. However, the Gamecocks have won five of the last seven and seven of the last 10 meetings. Carolina has won two of the last three meetings between the two squads in Clemson, posting a 29-7 win in 2010 and a 27-17 victory in 2012 before falling 35-17 in 2014.
THE PALMETTO SERIES
The winner of this week's game will earn that school another point in the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series between South Carolina and Clemson. Additionally, another point will be awarded today to the winner of the month-long Food Drive. The Gamecocks won the inaugural Palmetto Series trophy last year by a score of 10-5, and currently hold a 4-3 lead in this year's competition.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
Under interim head coach Shawn Elliott, the Gamecocks challenged the No. 1-ranked Tigers before succombing by a 37-32 score on Nov. 28, 2015 in Columbia. Perry Orth passed for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, with Deebo Samuel on the receiving end of five passes for 104 yards. Carolina's defense forced three turnovers in the contest.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET AT CLEMSON
The Gamecocks saw their five-game winning streak over Clemson snapped on Nov. 27, 2014 at Memorial Stadium, dropping a 35-17 decision to the #23/24 Tigers. Clemson was able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to claim a sizable 491-339 advantage in total yardage, including 221 yards on the ground. Dylan Thompson completed 21-of-39 passes for 249 yards, but the Gamecocks could only generate 63 rushing yards on 33 carries.
THE LAST GAMECOCK WIN
No. 10/9 South Carolina forced a half-dozen Clemson turnovers, turning three of them into touchdowns, as the Gamecocks won for the fifth-straight time over the #6/4 Tigers, 31-17 in Columbia on Nov. 30, 2013. The game was deadlocked at 17 heading into the final period, but Mike Davis scored on a two-yard run to cap a drive that took over six minutes off the clock, then Brandon Wilds scored on a 26-yard pass from Pharoh Cooper to seal the win. Connor Shaw posted 246 yards of total offense, including 94 on the ground, while All-American Kelcy Quarles led the defense with 2.5 sacks. Skai Moore had a fumble recovery and an interception in the contest.
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
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.
CAROLINA VS. THE ACC
South Carolina is 9-3 in its last 12 games against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference since the start of the 2009 season: Clemson (5-2), North Carolina (2-0), Miami (Fla.) (1-0), NC State (1-0), Florida State (0-1). South Carolina was a member of the ACC from 1953-1970.
The Gamecocks are 1-3 on the road this season and have dropped nine of their last 10 true road contests. However, Carolina is 15-16 in its last 31 true road games, with nine of the 16 losses coming to teams ranked in the top-25 in the country, including seven in the top-11.
BEATING THE BEST
Clemson enters the game as the nation's No. 4 team, according to the Associated Press. Five of Carolina's top seven wins, based on the AP ranking at the time of the game, have come since 2009. Here are the top-10 wins:
KNOCKING OFF A RANKED OPPONENT
The Gamecocks will be looking to knock off their second ranked opponent this season when they take on the No. 4/3 Clemson Tigers. They are 1-2 against ranked opponents in 2016, losing to No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 22 Florida around a 24-21 win over No. 18/18 Tennessee. The Tennessee win snapped a seven-game losing streak against ranked opponents, as Carolina's previous 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, while the best road win came at No. 3 North Carolina in 1981.
THEY'RE NOT SEC WORTH
South Carolina is 24-3 in its last 27 non-conference games, including a 3-0 mark this season. 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.
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 earned bowl-eligibility with a 44-31 win over FCS opponent Western Carolina out of the Southern Conference last Saturday in Columbia. The Gamecocks had their most productive offensive performance of the season, as they established season-highs in points (44), rushing yards (422) and total yards (588). Freshman running back Rico Dowdle led the way with 226 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while Deebo Samuel added three scores, including a 100-yard kickoff return. Elliott Fry was a perfect 3-for-3 in the field goal department. The Carolina defense limited the Catamounts to just 97 yards after intermission.
WHAT AN OFFENSE
The Gamecocks tallied 44 points in the win over Western Carolina, their high mark since putting up 48 at Vanderbilt on Sept. 20, 2014, and logged 588 yards of offense, their highest total since rolling up 625 against Tennessee on Nov. 1, 2014.
WHAT A RUSH
The Gamecocks rolled up 422 yards on the ground on 56 carries against Western Carolina, a gaudy 7.5 yards per carry. It was the first time they eclipsed the 400-yard mark since rushing for 415 against The Citadel in 1990 and the most yards since rushing for 440 against The Citadel in 1985.
WHAT A DAY
Rico Dowdle had a day for the record books against Western Carolina. The true freshman carried 21 times for 226 yards and two scores in the contest, averaging 10.8 yards per carry. Dowdle's 226 yards rushing was the sixth-highest single-game total in school history, the 11th 200-yard rushing game by a Carolina back and the most yards rushing since Marcus Lattimore logged 246 against Navy in 2011. Here are the top rushing games in school history:
SAMUEL TO THE HOUSE
Deebo Samuel showed his versatile play-making skills against Western Carolina. The Gamecock sophomore wide receiver carried the pigskin five times for 27 yards and two touchdowns, caught four passes for 56 yards and returned five kickoffs for 194 yards, including a 100-yarder for a score. Samuel is second on the team with six touchdowns and leads the squad in receiving with 41 catches for 579 yards, but amazingly has no touchdown receptions this season.
HEY TURN ME OVER
The Gamecocks have forced three or more turnovers in four of the last five games, and have forced 24 turnovers on the season. The Gamecocks are tied for first in the SEC and tied for sixth in the country in turnovers forced, and first in the SEC and tied for eighth in the country in turnover margin at plus-0.91.
RED ZONE DEFENSE
The Gamecocks rank fifth in the SEC and 10th in the nation in red zone defense, allowing points just 70.7 percent of the time. In 41 chances, the Carolina defense has allowed just 21 TDs and eight field goals, while forcing a league-high six turnovers in the red zone.
RETURN THAT KICK
The Gamecocks lead the SEC and are third in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 28.05 per return this season. Only San Diego State (29.68) and Pittsburgh (29.63) have a better kickoff return average. The Gamecocks boast three different returners who have posted a 50-yard return this season - Deebo Samuel (100), A.J. Turner (80) and Rashad Fenton (50).
NINE WINS BY FIVE DIFFERENT QB'S
The Gamecocks have won nine games over the past two seasons, with five different starting quarterbacks accounting for the wins. Jake Bentley leads the way with five wins, while Perry Orth has won twice. Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nuñez and Brandon McIlwain each have one win.
The Gamecocks have used three starting quarterbacks for the second-straight year. Senior Perry Orth entered 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. True freshman Brandon McIlwain enrolled in January and went through spring drills. He has appeared in seven games, logging a 1-2 mark as a starter. True freshman Jake Bentley, who arrived in the summer, had his redshirt taken off during the bye week. He owns a 4-1 record as a starter. Only Western Michigan (1), Georgia Tech (3) and Navy (3) have thrown fewer interceptions than the Gamecocks (4).
TURNING THE KEYS OVER TO BENTLEY
True freshman Jake Bentley is 4-1 in five starts. He made his debut in week 7 and earned the win over UMass, completing 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 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 when he set career highs by completing 22 passes (in 28 attempts) for 254 yards with two scores. His only loss came on the road at Florida where he completed 18-of-33 passes for 213 yards with an interception. For the season, he is completing 66.2 percent of his passes (86-of-130) for 989 yards with six TDs and one pick.
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.
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.
DID YOU KNOW?
South Carolina is the only FBS team to have freshmen lead the squad in both rushing yards and passing yards.
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 (187 career carries) has nearly as many career rushes as the two freshmen have combined (214 carries). Dowdle has three career 100-yard games, including a career-high 226 yards against Western Carolina, while Turner and Williams have one each. 1,238 of the Gamecocks' 1,545 rushing yards have been by freshmen (80.1 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 seven contests, carrying 116 times for 684 yards, a 5.9-yard average, and six touchdowns, with three 100-yard games. He had back-to-back games of 27 carries for over 100 yards - 127 yards versus Tennessee and 149 yards against Missouri, then rolled up a career-best 226 yards last week against Western Carolina. He leads the team with seven touchdowns, including six on the ground.
Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner earned the starting nod at running back during fall camp. The 5-10, 195-pounder 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 98 carries for 433 yards and two touchdowns, and has added 16 catches for 102 yards and a score. Turner also averages 25.5 yards per kickoff return.
With three more wins than last season, South Carolina is the most improved team in the SEC and tied for the ninth largest win improvement in FBS. UCF and Wyoming are each plus-6, Eastern Michigan and Colorado are plus-5, and Troy, Georgia Tech, North Texas and Army are each at plus-4. Wake Forest, Washington, Nebraska, Western Michigan, Old Dominion and SMU are at plus-3, matching South Carolina's improvement.
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. Zandi is also the only offensive starter not slated to return in 2017.
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. However, once Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards got healthy, the passing game has improved. 184 of the Gamecocks' 202 pass receptions have been by freshmen or sophomores (91.1 pct.), Terry Googer (7 catches) is the only upperclassman among the wide receivers with a catch this season.
SAMUEL IS KING
Deebo Samuel has 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 37 passes for 513 yards in the last six contests. He has logged at least eight catches three times 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 eight games, Samuel does not qualify for the SEC leaders, but his 72.4 receiving yards per game and 5.1 receptions per game would both rank fifth in the league. Samuel has also carried 14 times, with five going for scores. He is second on the team with six touchdowns, but has no receiving TDs.
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 ninth in the nation among freshmen in receiving yards (48.6).
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 is second on the team with 39 catches for 504 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 owns 39 catches, breaking the school record for receptions by a tight end. The previous mark of 38 was set by Doug Hamrick in 1970. With 504 receiving yards, Hurst is closing in on Danny Smith's record for receiving yards by a tight end. Smith logged 576 receiving yards in 1987. Hurst is trying to become the first non-wide receiver to lead the Gamecocks in receptions since Ryan Brewer in 2002, and could become the first tight end to lead the team in receptions since Chris Corley 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 39 catches for 504 yards, Crosby is fourth on the team with 21 receptions for 197 yards and leads the team with four touchdown receptions, and August has added five catches for 52 yards.
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.
STABILITY UP FRONT
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 27 career starts, most on the squad.
JUST GET ME THE BALL
The Gamecocks have forced 24 turnovers this season, recovering 11 fumbles with 13 pass interceptions. The Gamecocks are plus-10 in turnovers in their six wins (15-5) and are even in the five losses (9-9).
WE MAY NEVER PASS THIS WAY AGAIN
The Gamecocks rank fourth in the SEC and 17th in the country in pass defense, allowing just 189.1 yards per game through the air.
EVERY GAME QUA
Defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis has started all 23 games since his arrival in Columbia. He owns the longest current consecutive streak of starts on the squad.
TAKING ENGLISH LESSONS
Darius English leads the Gamecocks with 9.0 sacks, including a career-best 3.0 sacks against Kentucky. That was the most sacks by a Gamecock player since Jadeveon Clowney had 4.5 at Clemson in 2012. English is tied for third in the SEC in sacks and has moved into the school's top-10 list in both single-season and career sacks.
GETTING IN THE SACK
The Gamecocks have 20 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.
TRIO OF VETERAN LINEBACKERS
Seniors T.J. Holloman and Jonathan Walton, along with junior Bryson Allen-Williams share the linebacking duties. The trio ranks among the team's top four tacklers this season with All-Williams leading the way with 61 stops, followed closely by Holloman (59) and Walton (55).
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 351 points. The previous mark of 330 was held by Collin Mackie (1987-90). Fry is in 12th place on the SEC list of career points scored, two behind Georgia's Kevin Butler and three points behind Arkansas's Zach Hocker to move into a tie for 10th place on the SEC's all-time list.
THE FRISCO KID
Senior Elliott Fry hits a season-best three field goals in the win over Western Carolina. He is 12-for-16 in field goal attempts this season (75 percent). He has connected on a school record 150 consecutive extra points and has hit 74.7 percent (65-of-87) of his career field goal attempts. That average jumps to 80.5 percent (62-of-77) when attempting from under 50 yards out. He holds the school's career records for extra points made (156) and attempted (157) and is the school's all-time leader in points scored with 351.
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 65 times, the 12th most punts in the nation. He is averaging 42.4 yards with 25 inside the 20 with just three touchbacks. He has boomed 11 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 will wait to find out their bowl assignment, which will be announced on Sunday, Dec 4. The Gamecocks are bowl-eligible for the 12th time in the last 13 years. They elected not participate in a bowl game following a 6-5 season in 2004, did not receive a bowl bid following a 6-6 campaign in 2007, and did not qualify for a bowl following a 3-9 season in 2015. The Gamecocks are 5-4 in the nine bowl games played in that stretch, including wins in each of their last four bowl appearances.
BOWL TIE-INS: The SEC is tied in with the following bowl games:
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