Nov. 18, 2011
The No. 14/14 South Carolina Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2 SEC) host their annual in-state FCS opponent this week as The Citadel Bulldogs (4-6, 2-6 SoCon) make their way to Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) on Saturday, November 19, for the first time since the 1990 season. Game time is set for noon ET. The game will be televised throughout the Palmetto State on a pay-per-view basis.
With eight wins in their first 10 games, the Gamecocks are enjoying one of their best seasons in school history. Carolina has posted six SEC wins for the first time and has a chance to win nine or more games overall for just the fourth time in school history. They posted a school record 10 wins in 1984, and have won nine games on two occasions – first in 2001 and again in 2010.
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 551-543-44. 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 host The Citadel Bulldogs (4-6, 2-6 SoCon) out of the Southern Conference. This is the final game of the season for The Citadel. They are coached by Kevin Higgins, who is wrapping up his seventh season in Charleston.
CAROLINA VS. THE CITADEL: This is the 50th meeting between these two Palmetto State schools. The teams met every year from 1907 until 1937, and 11 more times from 1940 to 1954, but got together just twice in the `60s and three times in the `80s. The Citadel won the last matchup, a 38-35 victory in Columbia in 1990, snapping a nine-game Carolina win streak in the series. The Gamecocks have won 24 of the last 26 matchups dating back to 1929. South Carolina holds a commanding 39-7-3 advantage in the series, including a 13-4 mark in Columbia. They also hold a 9-2-1 lead when playing in Charleston and a 17-1-2 mark when the game has been played at a neutral site.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Citadel shocked South Carolina, 38-35, on Oct. 20, 1990, for its first victory over the Gamecocks since 1950. The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. A pair of second quarter Bobby Fuller touchdown passes tied the game at the intermission. Rob DeBoer scored twice in the fourth quarter to put Carolina on top 35-28 with eight minutes remaining, but the Bulldogs kicked a field goal with 3:11 left, then recovered an onside kick. Quarterback Jack Douglas scored on a one-yard run with 22 seconds remaining to give The Citadel the upset win.
THE LAST CAROLINA WIN IN THE SERIES: South Carolina opened the 1985 season with a convincing 56-17 win over The Citadel. Carolina scored twice in the first eight minutes and rolled to a 28-0 advantage by the half. The Citadel scored all 17 of its points in the third quarter, but Carolina tallied 14 more in the period to take a 42-17 lead into the final stanza, when the Gamecocks tacked on another 14 points in the rout. Carolina rolled up 636 yards of offense, including 440 on the ground, compared to The Citadel’s 336 total yards.
JEFFERY BREAKS RECORD: Junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (172 receptions for 2,784 yards) broke Kenny McKinley’s school record of 2,781 receiving yards in last week’s win over Florida. He ranks second behind McKinley’s 207 career receptions. He needs three touchdown catches to tie Sidney Rice on the school’s all-time list for touchdown receptions at 23.
THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his seventh season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 52-35 mark (.598) in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach ranks second on the school’s all-time wins list behind only Rex Enright (64) and third in games coached with 87 behind Enright (140) and Paul Dietzel (96). Spurrier owns a 194-75-2 mark (.720) as a collegiate head coach, with stops at Duke and Florida before his stint at South Carolina. He is signed through the 2013 season.
SPURRIER VS. THE CITADEL: Steve Spurrier has defeated The Citadel both times that he has faced the Bulldogs. He led Duke to a 41-17 win in Durham on Sept. 17, 1988, then directed his third-ranked Florida team to a season-opening win in Gainesville by a 49-10 score on Sept. 5, 1998. This will mark Coach Spurrier’s first effort against The Citadel as Carolina’s head coach.
CAROLINA VS. THE SOUTHERN CONFERENCE: The Gamecocks own a 96-32-4 (.742) all-time record against teams that currently play football in the Southern Conference. In addition to their 39-7-3 mark against The Citadel, they are 27-20-1 against Furman, 18-4 versus Wofford, 8-1 against Appalachian State, and 4-0 versus Western Carolina.
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.
PERFECT RECORD: Head coach Steve Spurrier is a perfect 43-0 all-time against schools outside of BCS automatic qualifier conferences, including a 17-0 mark since coming to South Carolina. He has defeated East Carolina and Navy in 2011.
REGULAR SEASON SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have won 11 times in their last 13 regular season contests. Going back further, the Gamecocks have won 18 of their last 23 regular season games.
EIGHT IS NOT ENOUGH: With an 8-2 record, Carolina has eight-or-more wins for the 11th time in school history. The previous 8-, 9- and 10-win seasons: 8 wins – 7 times: 1903, 1979, 1980, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2006. 9 wins – 2 times: 2001, 2010. 10 wins – 1 time: 1984
BACK-TO-BACK: The Gamecocks have posted 17 wins over the past two seasons (9 in 2010 and 8 in 2011), matching the 2000 (8) and 2001 (9) seasons for the most in back-to-back seasons in school history.
SENIOR CLASS WINS: The win over Florida extended the Carolina senior class record to 31 wins (7 in 2008 and `09; 9 in `10 and 8 in `11). The previous four-year high was 29 wins, set last season.
AN SEC SIX-PACK: The Gamecocks recorded six SEC wins for first time in school history. They finished the 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2010 seasons with 5-3 SEC marks. The 2011 season marks the ninth time they finished with at least a .500 record in SEC play (also 4-4 in 1994, 1996, 2004 and 2008).
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: The Gamecocks have swept the “Big Three” of the SEC East – Florida, Georgia and Tennessee – in back-to-back seasons. They had never pulled the trifecta in any season prior to 2010. From 1992-2003, Carolina was 5-34 against the “Big Three,” going 4-9 against Georgia, 1-12 versus Tennessee and winless in 13 tries against Florida. Since Coach Spurrier took over in 2005, Carolina is 10-11 against those same three teams including a 6-0 mark in the past two seasons. Since 2005, they are 4-3 versus Tennessee and 3-4 against both Georgia and Florida.
THE LAST TIME OUT: As has been the pattern in most of their wins this season, the Gamecocks used a stellar defensive performance and just enough offense to grind out a 17-12 win over Florida last Saturday afternoon in Columbia. The Gamecocks got two second-quarter rushing touchdowns from Connor Shaw to take a 14-3 lead into the intermission. Carolina outgained the Gators 299-261, with 215 of the Gamecocks’ yards coming on the ground. Freshman Brandon Wilds eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark for the second time in three starts, collecting 120 yards on 29 carries. Shaw added a career-high 88 yards on 16 totes. The Gamecock defense logged 11 tackles for loss, including three sacks, and forced a pair of fumbles. Senior defensive tackle Travian Robertson (2.0 TFLs, 1 sack) was selected as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his efforts.
GOOD HOME COOKIN’: The Gamecocks have done a good job of protecting their home turf of late. The Gamecocks are 4-1 at home this season after posting a 6-1 home record in both 2009 and 2010. The only home losses in the last three years came to top-ranked Florida in 2009, to 17th-ranked Arkansas in 2010 and to defending national champion Auburn in 2011. Carolina is 18-3 in its last 21 home games.
AND NOT BAD ON THE ROAD EITHER: The Gamecocks had their school record six-game road winning streak snapped at Arkansas. Carolina finished the 2011 campaign with a 3-1 road record (wins at Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee, loss at Arkansas), their best road record since posting a 4-1 mark in the 2006 season (wins at Mississippi State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Clemson, loss at Florida).
WINNING MORE OFTEN: The Gamecocks have guaranteed themselves a fourth-straight winning season and a school-record eighth-straight season of at least a .500 record, surpassing the previous mark of seven-straight seasons of .500 or better set from 1928-34. 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.
BCS STANDINGS: The Gamecocks are ranked 12th in the latest BCS Standings. After getting off to a 6-1 start, they came in 14th in the initial BCS Standings of 2011. They climbed to 13th the following week, then rose to No. 9 before losing at No. 7 Arkansas. The No. 9 ranking was the school’s highest since they were 6-1 and ranked sixth in the BCS during the 2007 season.
IN THE POLLS: Carolina opened the 2011 season ranked 12th in both polls, the highest ever to start a season. Previously, they had been ranked six times in the preseason AP poll. They were No. 14 in 1959, No. 17 in both 1970 and 1985; 19th in 1988, 21st in 2001 and 22nd in 2002. The current stretch of consecutive weeks in the AP Top-25, dating back to the second week of the 2010 season, is a school record.
YOU GO FIRST: The Gamecocks have surrendered the game’s first points in all 10 contests this season and in 13 straight games dating back to last year. They are 9-4 in those 13 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.
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. Here are the specifics of the late rallies:
2005: SC trails at Tennessee, 15-13 after a UT field goal with 7:39 to play. Carolina gets 49-yard field goal from Josh Brown to win, 16-15.
2008: SC trails 17-14 at Kentucky after three quarters. Ryan Succop kicks a 42-yard field goal to tie it at the 11:58 mark, then Weslye Saunders catches a 7-yard pass from Stephen Garcia with 7:08 remaining for the 24-17 win. 2009: SC trails Vanderbilt 10-7 after three quarters. Stephen Garcia connects with Alshon Jeffery on a 43-yard touchdown pass with 12:51 left on the clock in a 14-10 win.
2011: SC trails 35-31 after a Georgia touchdown with 6:28 to play. Marcus Lattimore gives the Gamecocks the lead at the 3:28 mark, then Melvin Ingram scoops and scores on a fumble recovery in a 45-42 win.
2011: SC trails Navy, 21-17 after three quarters, but Marcus Lattimore scores from 7 yards out with 12:45 to play and the Gamecock defense limits Navy to 35 yards in the final stanza for the win. Navy had been 24-0 under head coach Ken Niumatalolo when leading after three quarters.
2011: After a Mississippi State field goal put the Bulldogs in front 10-7 with 9:50 left in the contest, Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington led the Gamecocks on a 12-play, 79-yard drive that consumed 5:54 of the clock, culminating with a four-yard Shaw to Alshon Jeffery touchdown pass with 3:50 remaining to put Carolina on top, 14-10. D.J. Swearinger’s interception with just over a minute remaining sealed the win.
DEFENSE STEPS UP: The Gamecock defense has surrendered 21 touchdowns this year, but 14 of those have come in three games, while they have allowed just seven touchdowns in the other seven contests. The Gamecocks have allowed 114 points over its last eight contests, an average of 14.3 points per game, after allowing 79 points in the first two games. Their opponents’ scoring average has dipped from 39.5 points per game after two games to 19.3 points per game. The Gamecocks are 19th in the country in scoring defense.
TOP-10 D: The Gamecocks have held three teams to under 200 yards of total offense this season (Vanderbilt-77, Kentucky-96 and Tennessee-186). South Carolina ranks seventh in the country in total defense. They are one of only 10 schools that have allowed under 300 yards of offense per game this season.
NOT BY AIR: The Gamecock are third the country in pass defense and pass efficiency defense, allowing just 150.50 yards per game through the air.
TURN IT OVER: The Gamecocks are tied with San Jose State for second in the nation in turnovers gained with 29, behind only Oklahoma State (34). Carolina is first in the SEC and third in the country with 17 interceptions, and first in the SEC and tied for 13th in the country with 12 fumbles recovered.
PICK THIS: The Gamecocks have an SEC-leading 17 interceptions this season, including 13 over the last six games. Two have gone for “pick-sixes” with one from Antonio Allen at Georgia and one from Devin Taylor at Arkansas. The school record for interceptions in a season is 23, set three times: 1981, 1984 and 1987.
HIGH WATER MARK: The Gamecocks have established a new high mark under Coach Spurrier with 29 turnovers forced through 10 games, an average of 2.9 per game. The previous record under Coach Spurrier was 27 turnovers forced during the 2008 season. 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 seven 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; Ace Sanders scored on a 68-yard punt return against East Carolina and Devin Taylor scored on a 48-yard pass interception at Arkansas. The Gamecocks scored six defensive touchdowns all last season.
SACK ATTACK: South Carolina features one of the top sack trios in the SEC in senior Melvin Ingram (T4th-6.5 sacks), freshman Jadeveon Clowney (T7th-5.0 sacks), and junior Devin Taylor (T11th-4.0 sacks). With 18.0 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 lead the SEC in with 15 fourth-down conversions. Only Duke (19), Air Force (18) and Army (16) have converted more fourth downs than Carolina
MAKING A POINT: The Gamecocks are averaging 28.6 points per game, ranking fifth in the SEC. They set the school record in 2010 when they tallied 433 points, an average of 30.9. The Gamecocks have been outscored 52-27 in the first stanza but have outscored their opponents 100-51 in the second period, 83-30 in the third quarter and 76-60 in the fourth quarter.
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 5.0 yards per carry. He ranked among the SEC and national leaders in rushing at 116.9 yards per game, scoring at 9.4 points per game, and 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 had 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.
MISSING YOU: The Gamecocks are playing without four starters from when fall camp began: TB Marcus Lattimore (knee), offensive tackle Kyle Nunn (back), cornerback Akeem Auguste (foot) and quarterback Stephen Garcia (dismissed).
RUNNING WILDS: True freshman Brandon Wilds has taken over the running duties in Lattimore’s absence. 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) vaulted Wilds to the top of the heap and he made his first career start at Tennessee. Used primarily as a special teams performer early in the season, Wilds had appeared in each of the first seven games, rushing 13 times for 75 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. He had his coming out party in Knoxville against Tennessee, rushing 28 times for 137 yards, an average of 4.9 yards per carry, with a long of 24 yards. He also was the Gamecocks leading receiver with three catches for 31 yards. He was held in check at Arkansas with 10 carries for just 21 yards, but scored his first collegiate touchdown. He bounced back with his second 100-yard rushing game in three starts last week when he went for 120 yards on 29 carries against Florida.
THE SHAW SHOW: Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw is 5-1 as a starter this season, with victories over East Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Florida, and a loss at Arkansas. He became just the third Gamecock quarterback since 1971 to start his career with four straight wins, joining 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. He was 10-of-18 for 87 yards with one touchdown and one interception at Tennessee, but also rushed 16 times for 64 yards and a score. He completed 16-of-25 passes for 128 yards with an interception and ran for two scores at Arkansas before leaving the game with a concussion. He rushed for a career-high 88 yards on 16 carries against Florida For the season, Shaw is 82-of-133 (61.7 percent) for 791 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
FAMILY ACT: South Carolina’s Connor Shaw has led his team to an 8-2 record and a No. 14 national ranking, but he’s the low man on the family totem pole. Connor’s dad, Lee, has coached the Flowery Branch (GA) High School to a 10-1 mark, while brother, Jaybo, has quarterbacked Georgia Southern to a 9-1 record and a Top-5 ranking in the FCS. The trio has a combined record of 27-2 this season.
TRENDING ALSHON: 2010 Biletnikoff finalist Alshon Jeffery has been held to modest numbers this season. The junior wideout leads the team with 38 catches for 504 yards, an average of 13.3 yards per catch. He is tied for sixth in the SEC in receptions per game (3.8) and is ninth in receiving yards per game (50.4). He owns five of the 11 touchdown receptions this season. He has caught at least one pass in 33 straight games. Jeffery has surpassed Kenny McKinley (2,781) as the school’s career-leader in receiving yards with 2,784. 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. A multiple threat, Ellington has returned 15 kickoffs for a 23.1-yard average. He has worked out of the “Wildcat” formation, rushing 17 times for 106 yards, an average of 6.2 yards per carry, including a 61-yard touchdown burst against Kentucky. He has completed 3-of-4 passes for 27 yards. As a wideout, he has caught 14 passes for 140 yards (10.0 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.
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). In each of the next four contests, redshirt freshman Cody Gibson got the nod at right tackle with Rokevious Watkins moving to left tackle to replace Nunn. Last week against Florida, Matulis returned to the starting lineup at right tackle. The O-line has combined for 120 starts. Center T.J. Johnson leads the way with 37, followed by Watkins (24) and sixth-year senior guard Terrence Campbell (23). Redshirt freshman guard A.J. Cann has started every game 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 lineman 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 and is a semifinalist for both the Lombardi and Bednarik awards. He is tied for fourth in the SEC in sacks with 6.5 and is tied for sixth in tackles for loss with 11.5. Here are some of the highlights: East Carolina: Recorded his first career interception. Georgia: Named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week and National Defensive Player of the Week by Rivals.com after scoring twice… ran a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and scooped and scored on a fumble recovery that sealed the win… was only the third Division I player since 2006 to score an offensive and defensive touchdown in the same game. Vanderbilt: Had 3.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks and fell on a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Auburn: Credited with a career-high 11 tackles including 4.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks… also intercepted a pass… despite the loss, named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for the second straight week.
ALLEN SPURS D: Senior Spur Antonio Allen is having a stellar season. A semifinalist for the Thorpe Award and a third-team Phil Steele Midseason All-American, he leads the team and is ninth in the SEC in tackles with 69 (7.7 per game). He is fourth in the SEC and is tied for 22nd in the country with three forced fumbles, is tied for the SEC lead and tied for 10th in the nation with three fumble recoveries, and is ninth 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. He 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. He did not play at Arkansas after suffering a sprained neck in practice.
SEND IN THE CLOWNEY: Freshman standout 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 and was credited with his fifth forced fumble against Florida. For the season, he is tied for seventh in the SEC with 5.0 sacks (the only freshman in the top 20), is 15th with 7.0 tackles for loss, and leads the SEC and tied for fifth in the country with five 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, added a second against Kentucky and notched his third at Tennessee. 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 63 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. He had another key interception in the win at Tennessee.
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.
IN THE BOOTH: Ellis Johnson, Steve Spurrier Jr. and Jeep Hunter coach from the press box.
COMING UP ACES: 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 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 37-of-39 of his extra point attempts and nailing five of his eight fields goal attempts. He was the difference in two wins with a 49-yarder at Georgia and a 48-yarder versus Navy. Seven of his eight attempts have come between 40 and 49 yards out. The senior from Laurinburg, N.C., kicked for North Carolina during the 2008 season, going 4-for-6 in field attempts and was successful on all 11 extra point tries.
THE PUNTER: Joey Scribner-Howard, a senior from Irmo who gained experience kicking for Carson-Newman in 2007 and `08 and as a kickoff specialist for Carolina in 2010, won the punting duties in fall camp. He ranks ninth in the SEC with a 39.2 yards per punt average, but he has seven kicks of over 50 yards, including a career-long 60-yarder at Mississippi State.
FIRST ACTION: Twelve 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, Kenny Robinson, Brandon Shell, Brandon Wilds and Brison Williams.
FIRST START: Twenty Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season, with at least one player making his initial start in nine of the 10 games: East Carolina: Reginald Bowens, A.J. Cann, Jadeveon Clowney, Jimmy Legree, Connor Shaw, Dalton Wilson Georgia: Aldrick Fordham, Ace Sanders Navy: Lamar Scruggs Auburn: Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones, Mike Matulis Kentucky: Rory Anderson, Cody Gibson, Chaz Sutton Mississippi State: Quin Smith Tennessee: Kelcy Quarles, Brandon Wilds Arkansas: Bruce Ellington Florida: Brison Williams
RECRUITING SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are coming off another successful February signing day. They inked defensive end Jadeveon Clowney from South Pointe High School in South Carolina, who many consider the nation’s number 1 prospect. Overall, the Gamecocks signed 32 players to National Letters of Intent, including four who count against last year’s list. The Gamecocks have put together seven consecutive classes that rank among the nation’s top 25, according to Rivals.com.
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.
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: Four Gamecocks have received their degrees. Those who have their diplomas in hand include Terrence Campbell (retail), Byron McKnight (criminal justice), Rodney Paulk (marine science) and Travian Robertson (criminal justice).
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.
THEY PAY TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS PLAY: The Gamecocks are averaging 78,735 through five home games of the 2011 season, ranking 16th in the country. Both of the final two games have been declared sellouts.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks host the Clemson Tigers on Saturday, Nov. 26 in Columbia. The Tigers lead the all-time series, 65-39-4, but Carolina has won the last two and are looking to make it three straight for the first time since 1968-70.