Oct. 28, 2011
After enjoying a bye week, the No. 14/14 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 SEC) return to SEC action when they travel to Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 29, to take on the Tennessee Volunteers (3-4, 0-4 SEC). Game time is set for 7:15 pm ET on ESPN2. This is the second of three-straight SEC road games for the Gamecocks. They were at Mississippi State on Oct. 15 and will travel to Fayetteville next week to face the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Gamecocks are in control of their own destiny to win the SEC Eastern Division title for a second straight year. The Gamecocks are sitting atop the East with a 4-1 mark, including a 3-0 record within the division.
South Carolina has had success on the week following a bye under head coach Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks are 5-2 coming off a bye week, including a 35-21 win over top-ranked Alabama last season.
A LITTLE HISTORY: 2011 marks the 118th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 105th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina owns an all-time record of 549-542-44. The 2011 season marks South Carolina’s 20th year in the Southeastern Conference. The Gamecocks earned their first SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season.
THIS WEEK’S FOE: The Gamecocks travel to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols are 3-4 overall and winless in four league games this season under second-year head coach Derek Dooley. Their losses have come to Florida, Georgia, LSU and Alabama, who have a combined record of 25-5.
CAROLINA VS. TENNESSEE: This is the 30th game in a series that dates back to 1903. Tennessee leads the all-time series, 22-5-2, including a 14-1 advantage in Knoxville. The Vols also are 8-4-2 all-time in Columbia. South Carolina won last year’s meeting, 38-24, at Williams-Brice Stadium, and the teams have split the last six meetings evenly. South Carolina’s only two overtime contests (both losses) have come at Neyland Stadium, a 23-20 setback in 2003 and a 27-24 loss in 2007. The Gamecocks only win in Knoxville came in 2005 by a 16-15 score.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
* Alshon Jeffery (2,731) needs just 50 yards to match Kenny McKinley (2,781) as the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards.
* Alshon Jeffery needs three touchdown catches to tie Sidney Rice on the school’s all-time list for touchdown receptions at 23. Jeffery logged his fifth TD catch of the season and 20th of his career at Mississippi State, to break a tie with Robert Brooks, Jermale Kelly and Kenny McKinley.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Alshon Jeffery’s 70-yard touchdown catch broke a fourth-quarter tie and the Gamecocks went on to hand Tennessee a 38-24 setback on Oct. 30, 2010 in Columbia. When Devin Taylor returned an intercepted pass 24 yards early in the third quarter, the Gamecocks seemed to have things well in hand with a 24-10 lead, but Tennessee rallied behind Tyler Bray to knot the game early in the fourth period. But Jeffery’s score put Carolina back on top and Stephen Garcia sealed the win with a 1-yard run with 3:28 left in the contest, his second rushing touchdown of the day. Marcus Lattimore did the bulk of the work for the Gamecock offense, carrying 29 times for 184 yards and a touchdown.
THE LAST TIME IN KNOXVILLE: Decked out in black jerseys, Tennessee took three South Carolina fumbles and turned them into touchdowns as the Vols beat the No. 21 Gamecocks, 31-13 on Oct. 31, 2009. South Carolina outgained Tennessee on offense, 365-341, and had four more first downs, but could not overcome the turnovers, including a fumble on each of its first two possessions, resulting in a 14-0 Vol lead just four minutes into the contest.
THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his seventh season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 50-34 mark in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach ranks second on the school’s all-time wins list and second in games coached at South Carolina. He is the first coach to have a career winning record at Carolina since Joe Morrison (39-28-2) patrolled the sidelines from 1983-88. Spurrier owns a 192-74-2 mark as a collegiate head coach, with stops at Duke and Florida before his stint at South Carolina. He is signed through the 2014 season.
SPURRIER VS. TENNESSEE: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 12-8 all-time record against Tennessee, including a 3-3 mark as head coach at South Carolina. For a game-by-game listing, please refer to page 18 of these notes.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Gamecocks have established a school record by winning their last five “true” road games on their opponents’ home field. The Gamecocks won at Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson to wrap up the 2010 season, then won at Georgia and at Mississippi State this season. The only other time they posted four consecutive road wins occurred in 1914 (Wofford and Newberry) and 1915 (North Carolina A&M and Wofford).
REGULAR SEASON SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have won 16 of their last 20 regular season games, an 80 percent success rate, including nine of their last 10 regular season contests.
THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks used a solid defense and just enough offense to escape Starkville with a 14-12 win over Mississippi State on Oct. 15. The Gamecocks held the Bulldogs to under 300 yards of total offense and intercepted two passes, including a D.J. Swearinger theft at the Carolina 12-yard line with just over a minute left in the game to preserve the victory. Swearinger finished the day with a game- and career-high 12 tackles, earning co-SEC Player of the Week honors. Offensively, the Gamecocks were stymied most of the afternoon, but put together a 12-play, 79-yard fourth-quarter drive that consumed 5:54 on the clock, culminating with a Connor Shaw four-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery for the winning score. Bruce Ellington figured in on that final drive, returning the kick for 17 yards, rushing twice out of the “Wildcat” formation for 14 yards, completing a pass for eight yards and catching a pass for another eight yards. His efforts garnered him co-Freshman of the Week honors in the SEC.
COMEBACK KIDS: The Gamecocks have posted three come-from-behind fourth quarter victories this season, matching their total in Steve Spurrier’s first six years at the helm.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: With their sixth win of the season at Mississippi State, the Gamecocks became bowl eligible for a school-record eighth straight season.
PAYING THE PRICE: The Gamecocks came out of Starkville with a win, but paid a heavy price in doing so, as they lost All-America running back candidate Marcus Lattimore and special teams performer Matt Coffee to season-ending knee injuries. The Gamecocks are now playing without four players who were projected starters when the season began in Lattimore, senior quarterback Stephen Garcia (dismissed from team), senior offensive tackle Kyle Nunn (back), and senior cornerback Akeem Auguste (foot).
YOU GO FIRST: The Gamecocks have surrendered the game’s first points in all seven contests this season and in 10 straight games dating back to last year. They are 7-3 in those 10 contests despite being scored on first. The last time South Carolina scored first in a game was against Troy when they needed just 13 seconds to reach paydirt.
IN THE POLLS: The Gamecocks opened the 2011 season ranked 12th in both major polls. It’s the highest Carolina had been ranked to start a season in school history. Previously, they had been ranked six times in the preseason poll by the Associated Press. They were No. 14 in 1959, No. 17 in both 1970 and 1985; 19th in 1988, 21st in 2001 and 22nd in 2002. are currently ranked 14th in both polls. They came in at No. 13 in this week’s BCS rankings. The current stretch of consecutive weeks in the A.P. Top-25, dating back to the second week of the 2010 season, is a school record.
DEFENSE STEPS UP: After surrendering 79 points in the season’s first two games (East Carolina-37; Georgia-42), the Carolina defense has stepped it up. The Gamecocks have allowed 55 points over the last five contests (Navy-21; Vanderbilt-3; Auburn-16; Kentucky-3; Mississippi State-12), an average of 11.0 points per game. Their opponents’ scoring average has dipped from 39.5 points per game after two games to just 19.1 points per game. The Gamecocks are 18th in the country in scoring defense.
TOP-10 D: After holding both Vanderbilt (77) and Kentucky (96) to under 100 yards of total offense in the last four games, South Carolina has moved into the nation’s Top-10 in total defense. Four of the nation’s top seven defenses reside in the SEC.
NOT BY AIR: The Gamecock lead the country in pass defense, allowing just 133.7 yards per game through the air. Four of the top nine and five of the top 11 teams are in the SEC.
TURN IT OVER: The Gamecocks are tied with Oklahoma State for second in the nation in turnovers gained with 24, behind only Rutgers (25). Carolina is tied for seventh in the country with 10 fumbles recovered and is fifth with 14 interceptions.
PICK THIS: The Gamecocks have 14 interceptions this season, including 10 over the last three games. The school record for interceptions in a season is 23, set three times: 1981, 1984 and 1987.
RECORD PACE: The Gamecocks are on pace for their best season under head coach Steve Spurrier in gaining turnovers, with 24 turnovers forced through seven games, an average of 3.4 turnovers gained per game. The school record for turnovers forced in a season is 39 (3.25 per game), set in the 12-game 1987 campaign.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: The Carolina defense and special teams have been responsible for six touchdowns this season. Defensive end Melvin Ingram has scored three times, a 68-yard run on a fake punt and a five-yard fumble return, both at Georgia, and a fumble recovery in the end zone against Vanderbilt; Spur Antonio Allen has scored twice, a 25-yard fumble return against ECU and a 25-yard interception return against Georgia; and Ace Sanders scored on a 68-yard punt return against East Carolina. The Gamecocks scored six defensive touchdowns all last season.
HERE THEY COME: The Gamecocks recorded a season-high five sacks against Auburn and have 13 sacks in their last four contests. Carolina is third in the SEC with 15 sacks through seven games, although LSU (19) and Alabama (17) have both played eight games. They had a school record 41 sacks last season.
SACK ATTACK: South Carolina features the top sack tandem in the SEC in senior Melvin Ingram (5.5 sacks) and freshman Jadeveon Clowney (5.0 sacks), who rank 2-3 in the SEC in sacks. With 17.0 career sacks, Ingram ranks fourth on Carolina’s all-time list behind only Eric Norwood (29.0), Andrew Provence (26.0) and John Abraham (23.5).
GOING FOR IT: Head coach Steve Spurrier has not been shy about going for it on fourth down this season. The Gamecocks hold a big lead in the SEC in both fourth-down attempts (18) and conversions (11). Only Duke (15-of-23), Army (14-of-21) and Air Force (16-of-19) have more fourth-down attempts and conversions than the Gamecocks.
PLAYING WITHOUT ONE OF THE BEST: The Gamecocks will be without standout sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore for the remainder of the season after he suffered a knee injury late in the game against Mississippi State. Lattimore finished his second campaign with 818 yards on 163 carries, an average of 116.9 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. He currently ranks second in the SEC and 13th in the nation in rushing, second in the SEC and tied for 18th in the country in scoring at 9.4 points per game, and second in the SEC in all-purpose yards per game at 142.9.
HE WILL BE MISSED: After just two seasons, Marcus Lattimore has left his mark on the Gamecock record books. He ranks 14th in school history with 2,015 rushing yards, is tied for third with 27 rushing touchdowns and is third with 30 touchdowns scored. Lattimore has four 100-yard rushing games this season and eight in his career. He ranks in a tie for seventh on the South Carolina list for 100-yard rushing games in a career with Jay Lynn Hodgin and Clarence Williams. He was a third-team Phil Steele Midseason All-American and first-team All-SEC performer.
RUNNING WILDS: True freshman Brandon Wilds is penciled in as the starting tailback when the Gamecocks play at Tennessee. A 6-1, 223-pounder from Blythewood, S.C., Wilds began the fall camp listed as the fifth string tailback. Injuries to Marcus Lattimore (knee), Shon Carson (knee), Kenny Miles (wrist) and Eric Baker (ankle) have vaulted Wilds to the top of the heap. Used primarily as a special teams performer early in the season, Wilds has appeared in all seven games, rushing 13 times for 75 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry.
THE SHAW SHOW: Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw is 3-0 as a starter this season, with victories over East Carolina, Kentucky and Mississippi State. He is the only the fourth Gamecock quarterback in the last 30 years to start his career with three straight wins, joining Bobby Fuller (1990), Steve Taneyhill (1992) and Chris Smelley (2007). He was shaky in his debut against East Carolina, completing 3-of-9 passes for 21 yards and rushing seven times for 26 yards in one quarter of action. His second career start came against Kentucky and he responded with an SEC Offensive Player of the Week performance. The 6-1, 204-pounder from Flowery Branch, Ga., completed 26-of-39 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. The four touchdown passes was the most for a Gamecock quarterback since Blake Mitchell in 2006. he completed 20-of-28 passes for 155 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in his first road start at Mississippi State. For the season, Shaw is 50-of-78 (64.1 percent) for 495 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
BROTHER ACT: South Carolina’s Connor Shaw and Georgia Southern’s Jaybo Shaw, make a rare pair of brothers that are starting quarterbacks on their respective college teams. Other recent quarterbacking brother acts in college football include the Mannings (Payton and Eli), Detmers (Ty and Koy), Hasselbecks (Matt and Tim), McCowns (Randy, Josh, and Luke), Huards (Damon, Luke and Brock), Vicks (Michael and Marcus), Glennons (Sean and Mike), Forciers (Jason, Chris and Tate) and Weatherfords (Drew and Joe).
POINT PRODUCTION: The Gamecocks are averaging 32.4 points per game through seven contests. In 2010, they set the school record for points in a season when they tallied 433, an average of 30.9 points per game. The Gamecocks have given up the first score in all seven games this season (and in 10 straight contests overall) and have been outscored 36-20 in the first stanza, but have outscored their opponents 72-37 in the second period, 69-21 in the third quarter and 66-40 in the fourth quarter. 135 of their 227 points (60 percent) have come after the break.
TRENDING ALSHON: Biletnikoff candidate Alshon Jeffery has been “held” to somewhat modest numbers in the first seven games. The junior wideout leads the team with 30 catches for 451 yards, an average of 15.0 yards per catch. He is fifth in the SEC in receptions per game (4.3) and is fifth in receiving yards per game (64.4). He owns five of the 10 touchdown receptions this season. He logged five catches for 92 yards against ECU and came back with five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown at Georgia. He was limited to just two catches for 35 and 34 yards in each of the next two games, against Navy and Vanderbilt, respectively, his fewest receptions in a game since South Carolina State held him to two catches in 2009. He came back with five catches for 86 yards against Auburn, including a 50-yard TD reception, and season highs with six catches, 95 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky. He was held to five catches for just 24 yards against Mississippi State, but caught the game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. He has caught at least one pass in 30 straight games. Jeffery has vaulted past Sterling Sharpe (2,497) into second place on the all-time receiving yards list in South Carolina history with 2,731 yards, trailing only Kenny McKinley (2,781). He is tied with Sidney Rice for the most 100-yard receiving games in school history with 11.
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Bruce Ellington has made an impact on the gridiron after doing so on the hardwood last winter. Ellington is Carolina’s top kick returner, averaging 22.2 yards on 11 returns. He also worked out of the “Wildcat” formation, rushing 11 times for 91 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown burst against Kentucky. He has completed 2-of-3 passes for 24 yards. As a wideout, he has caught a dozen passes for 129 yards (10.8 per catch), including three for 60 yards against Auburn. The 5-9, 197-pounder from Moncks Corner, S.C. was the starting point guard for the Gamecocks’ basketball team as a freshman. He earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team after leading the squad with a 12.8 points per game average. He started all 30 games for a squad that went 14-16. He is expected to rejoin the basketball team at the conclusion of the football season. He was a standout prep athlete in both sports for Berkeley High.
STARTS ON THE LINE: The Gamecocks used the same starting five along the offensive line in each of the four games this season. In game five versus Auburn, true freshman Mike Matulis made the start at left tackle for the injured Kyle Nunn (lower back), and against Kentucky and Mississippi State, redshirt freshman Cody Gibson got the nod at right tackle with Rokevious Watkins moving to left tackle to replace Nunn. The O-line has combined for 105 starts. Center T.J. Johnson leads the way with 34, followed by Watkins (21), sixth-year senior guard Terrence Campbell (20) and the injured Nunn (20). Redshirt freshman guard A.J. Cann has started all seven games this season. Watkins is considered the best of the group by most, while Johnson is a Rimington candidate.
TAKING THE FIFTH (AND THE SIXTH): Linebacker Rodney Paulk and offensive guard Terrence Campbell were both granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Paulk earned second-team Freshman All-America honors from Sporting News as a freshman in 2006. He ranked fourth on the squad with 64 tackles during his sophomore season in 2007. Paulk injured his knee in August of 2008 and saw limited action in the first four games of that campaign before sitting out of the remainder of the season. He was granted his first medical redshirt following the season. In 2009, Paulk suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season-opening win at NC State, and was granted his second medical redshirt. He sat out the spring drills in 2010 while continuing his rehab work, and returned to the field in August. Paulk graduated in December with a degree in marine science. Campbell also came to Carolina in 2006, but suffered a season-ending knee injury early in his first camp and was granted a medical redshirt. He played in one game as a defensive lineman in 2007 before moving to the offensive side of the ball. He was a regular at right guard in 2008 then, after starting the first two games of the 2009 season, he suffered a neck/shoulder stinger that sidelined him for the remainder of the season and earned him a second medical redshirt season. He played sporadically in `10 but returns as a probable starter in 2011. Campbell earned his degree in retail in May. Paulk and Campbell are the second and third Gamecocks to have a sixth year of eligibility granted in the Spurrier Era, joining former tight end Andy Boyd.
BIG PLAY INGRAM: Senior defensive end Melvin Ingram is turning in an All-America season with big play after big play. In fact, he was named to Phil Steele’s Midseason First-Team All-America squad. He is second in the SEC in sacks with 5.5 and is tied for fourth in tackles for loss with 9.0.
ALLEN SPURS D: While many other Gamecock defenders receive the accolades, senior Spur Antonio Allen is having a stellar of a final campaign. A third-team Phil Steele Midseason All-American, he leads the team in tackles with 60 (8.6 per game) which ranks tied for fourth in the SEC. He is third in the SEC and is tied for 12th in the country with three forced fumbles, is tied for the SEC lead and is tied for fifth in the nation with three fumble recoveries, and is tied for sixth in the league with three interceptions. Allen had the best game of his career in the season opener against East Carolina. He logged a game-high 16 tackles, doubling his previous career high, and the most for a Gamecock since Jonathan Martin had 17 at LSU in 2002. Allen also forced two fumbles and recovered a pair, including a strip that he took 25 yards to paydirt. He came back with six tackles against Georgia and intercepted a pass, returning it 25 yards for a score. He led the team with 10 tackles in the win over Navy, was credited with a forced fumble and sealed the game with an interception in the final minute. He had four tackles and a fumble recovery in the win over Vanderbilt. He led the team with 13 tackles with 3.0 TFL and an interception against Auburn. He reached double-digits in tackles again at Mississippi State with 10.
SEND IN THE CLOWNEY: Freshman sensation Jadeveon Clowney was in the starting lineup against ECU, the first true freshman to start on the D-line at Carolina since Travian Robertson in 2007. Clowney finished the opener with seven tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. At Georgia, he was credited with just two tackles, but both were sacks, the first two of his career, including one late in the game that forced a fumble that Melvin Ingram scooped and scored, sealing the win. He had three stops against Navy, including a half-tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry. He had a pair of sacks and forced two fumbles in the win over Vanderbilt. He forced another fumble on a sack at Mississippi State. For the season, he is third in the SEC with 5.0 sacks (the only freshman in the top 20), is tied for 10th with 7.0 tackles for loss, and is tied for the SEC lead and is tied for third in the country with four fumbles forced.
IN THE SECONDARY: The Gamecocks feature a talented group in the secondary, led by All-SEC performer and third-team All-American Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore led the team in tackles a season ago with 79. He logged 10 tackles in the opener against East Carolina. He had four stops against Georgia, and also scooped up a fumble and rambled 56 yards, setting up a Carolina score. He had his first pick of the season against Vanderbilt and added a second against Kentucky. D.J. Swearinger is the other awards candidate in the secondary. He is considered the hardest hitter in the defensive backfield and recorded 66 tackles last year. He is second on the team with 42 tackles and had a career-day at Mississippi State, logging a game- and career-high 12 tackles and sealed the win with an interception with just over a minute remaining, earning co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week accolades.
GILMORE DOES IT ALL: Gamecock cornerback Stephon Gilmore was one of only six players to earn first-team All-SEC honors by either the Associated Press or Coaches and also be named to the 2010 Fall Academic Honor Roll. The others were Alabama offensive guard Barrett Jones, Florida punter Chas Henry, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, Auburn center Ryan Pugh and Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod.
DOUBLE DIGITS TACKLES: Antonio Allen (16) and Stephon Gilmore (10) were both credited with double digits in tackles against East Carolina. Allen logged another 10 in the win over Navy, and three players (Allen -13, Reginald Bowens-11 and Melvin Ingram-11) all eclipsed the double figure total against Auburn. Both D.J. Swearinger (12) and Allen (10) reached double figures at Mississippi State. Interestingly, no Gamecock had 10 or more tackles in a game during the 2010 season.
COMING UP ACES: Sophomore Ace Sanders returned just one punt against East Carolina, but it paid big dividends, as he scooted 68 yards for a score. It was the first kickoff or punt return for a touchdown for the Gamecocks during the Steve Spurrier Era, and was a nice way for new special teams coach John Butler to get started. Sanders became the first Gamecock to return a punt for a TD since Chavez Donnings went 73 yards against Florida in 2003.
HARD TO BELIEVE BUT…: Ace Sanders’ 68-yard punt return against ECU gave the Gamecocks three more yards in punt returns than they had during the entire 14-game season of 2010. Last year Sanders, Stephon Gilmore and the “Team” combined on 19 punt returns for just 65 yards.
WOOTEN WOWS `EM: Senior Jay Wooten has been solid this season, hitting on 29-of-31 of his extra point attempts and nailing four of his six fields goal attempts – the difference in two games – with a 49-yarder at Georgia and a 48-yarder versus Navy. Oddly, all six attempts have come between 40 and 49 yards out. The senior from Laurinburg, N.C., has previous experience, as he kicked for North Carolina during the 2008 season, going 4-for-6 in field attempts and was successful on all 11 extra point tries. He is averaging 5.9 points per game, ninth among the kickers in the SEC.
GOOD FROM AFAR: The Gamecocks have been in the redzone 23 times this season and have come away with 17 touchdowns, but no field goals. They have not even attempted a field goal when penetrating the red zone. In fact, South Carolina is the only team in the country to not have a field goal attempt of under 40 yards this season.
THE PUNTER: Joey Scribner-Howard, a senior from Irmo who gained experience kicking for Carson-Newman College in 2007 and `08 and as a kickoff specialist for Carolina in 2010, won the punting duties in fall camp and averaged 31.8 yards on four punts in the opener, but did not allow any return yardage. He upped his game at Georgia, averaging 44.8 yards per punt on six punts, including a career-long 59 yarder and three inside the 20. He did not enter the game against Navy, as Carolina was not forced to punt, but the layoff did not hurt him, as he averaged 46.3 yards on three punts with a long of 56 against Vanderbilt. He had another 59-yarder against Auburn and boomed a career-long 60-yarder at Mississippi State. He ranks seventh in the SEC with a 40.5 yards per punt average.
GOOD HOME COOKIN’: The Gamecocks have done a good job of protecting their home turf of late. In each of the past two seasons (2009 and `10), Carolina posted a 6-1 home record. The only losses in those years came to top-ranked Florida in 2009 and to 17th-ranked Arkansas in 2010. South Carolina is 2-1 at home this season, losing to defending national champion Auburn, and is 17-3 in its last 20 home games.
FIRST ACTION: Eleven true freshmen have seen action for South Carolina this season. That list included Rory Anderson, Damiere Byrd, Shon Carson, Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Harris, Kadetrix Marcus, Mike Matulis, Kelcy Quarles, Brandon Shell, Brandon Wilds and Brison Williams.
FIRST START: Sixteen Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season. Six Gamecocks made their first career collegiate starts in the opener against East Carolina, including Reginald Bowens, A.J. Cann, Jadeveon Clowney, Jimmy Legree, Connor Shaw and Dalton Wilson. In the Georgia contest, Aldrick Fordham and Ace Sanders both made their initial collegiate start. Lamar Scruggs made his first collegiate start against Navy. Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones and Mike Matulis all made their first start against Auburn. Rory Anderson, Cody Gibson and Chaz Sutton each made his first career start against Kentucky. Quin Smith got the nod for his first start at Mississippi State.
SQUAD BREAKDOWN: The Gamecocks have 110 players listed on their roster. The squad breakdown consists of 15 seniors, 26 juniors, 19 sophomores, 14 redshirt freshmen and 36 true freshmen.
MR. FOOTBALL: The Gamecocks have signed the last three “Mr. Football” winners in the state of South Carolina: Stephon Gilmore in 2009, followed by Marcus Lattimore in 2010 and Jadeveon Clowney in 2011.
DID YOU KNOW: South Carolina has played each of the last five defending National Champions? The Gamecocks played Florida (2007 and `09), LSU (2008), Alabama (2010) and Auburn (2011) in the year following their national title. The Gamecocks went 1-4 in those contests, with their lone win coming against Alabama.
IN THE BOOTH: Ellis Johnson, Steve Spurrier Jr. and Jeep Hunter coach from the press box.
ENROLLING EARLY: The Gamecocks welcomed freshman Martay Mattox into the fold this spring. Mattox graduated from Clarke Central High in Athens, Ga. in December, enrolled at Carolina in January and went through spring drills. Mattox became the 11th freshman since Coach Spurrier’s arrival in Columbia to enter college earlier than the norm. Clark Gaston did so in 2006, while Stephen Garcia and Travian Robertson arrived in January of 2007. Jay Spearman, C.C. Whitlock and Shaq Wilson all went through spring drills in 2008 after graduating from high school in the previous December. In 2009, Jarvis Giles, Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman made the early leap from high school to college. Quarterback Connor Shaw made the leap in 2010.
IN THE CLASSROOM: The Gamecocks have been impressive in the classroom of late. The squad placed 31 players on the 2010 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll while posting a team GPA of 2.779, the program’s highest GPA on record. They followed that up with a spring GPA of 2.711. Those who made the SEC Honor Roll include returnees Jacob Baker, Jason Barnes, Payton Brady, Billy Byrne, Andrew Clifford, Stephon Gilmore, Walker Inabinet, Damario Jeffery, T.J. Johnson, Rodney Paulk, Travian Robertson, Seth Strickland, Dalton Wilson, Jay Wooten and Adam Yates.
DONNING THE CAP AND GOWN: Five returning Gamecocks have received their degrees from the University. Those who have their diplomas in hand include Terrence Campbell (retail), Stephen Garcia (sociology), Byron McKnight (criminal justice), Rodney Paulk (marine science) and Travian Robertson (criminal justice).
OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE: The Gamecocks are 2-0 in non-conference action this season after going 4-1 in non-league games in 2010. They won all of their regular season non-conference games in 2010 for the second-straight year before falling in the bowl game. They are 23-7 in non-conference games under head coach Steve Spurrier, including wins in 21 of their last 26 non-SEC tilts. The year-by-year breakdown: 2005 (2-2); 2006 (5-0); 2007 (3-1); 2008 (3-2); 2009 (4-1); 2010 (4-1); 2011 (2-0). They have a regular season winning streak over non-conference opponents of 10 games. South Carolina’s last regular season non-conference loss came over 1,000 days ago, at Clemson in 2008.
THEY PAY TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS PLAY: South Carolina averaged 76,668 fans for its seven games last season, ranking 18th in the nation in average home attendance. The largest crowd came on Oct. 9 as 82,993 fans packed Williams-Brice Stadium to witness the historic Gamecock upset of No. 1 Alabama. The Gamecocks are averaging 78,357 through four home games of the 2011 season, which ranks 16th in the country. The Florida and Clemson games have already been declared sellouts.
BOWL GAME PARTICIPANTS: For the second straight season, 10 of the Gamecocks’ 11 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents are coming off bowl games. Vanderbilt was the lone exception.
WINNING MORE OFTEN PART I: South Carolina won nine games for the third time in school history (and eight or more for just the 10th time) in 2010. But more impressive is the fact that the Gamecocks had 29 wins over a four-year period (2007-10), the best four-year win total in school history. The Gamecocks had managed four-year stretches of 28 wins on two other occasions – 1990 and 2008 senior classes.
WINNING MORE OFTEN PART II: The Gamecocks have posted three-straight winning seasons and seven-consecutive seasons of at least a .500 record. The Gamecocks went 6-5 in 2004, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 6-6 in 2007, and 7-6 in both 2008 and 2009 before logging a 9-5 record in 2010. The team has equaled a school-record stretch from 1928-34 in which it had seven-straight seasons at .500 or better.
WORKING OVERTIME: The Gamecocks have played just two overtime games in their history, both at Tennessee. They dropped a 23-20 decision in Knoxville on Sept. 27, 2003, then fell by a 27-24 score on Oct. 27, 2007, at Neyland Stadium. Every other SEC team has played at least four overtime games since the rule was established in 1996.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks will wrap up their three-game SEC road swing next week when they travel to Fayetteville to face the Arkansas Razorbacks. It will be the 20th meeting on the gridiron between the two squads that joined the SEC back in 1992. Arkansas holds a 12-7 advantage in the all-time series, including a 7-2 margin when the teams meet on the Hogs’ home turf. Arkansas won last year’s meeting, 41-20 in Columbia, and has won four of the last five battles.