Nov. 25, 2011
It’s the annual Palmetto State Showdown as the No. 14/13 South Carolina Gamecocks (9-2, 6-2 SEC) host their in-state rival, the No. 18/17 Clemson Tigers (9-2, 6-2 ACC) on Saturday, Nov. 26, in the final regular season contest for both squads. ESPN will televise the 7:45 p.m. game nationally with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe providing the descriptions and accounts of the game. The Gamecocks are ranked 12th in the latest BCS Standings while the Tigers come in at No. 17. The game sponsor is Founders Federal Credit Union.
With nine wins, the Gamecocks are enjoying one of their best seasons in school history. Carolina posted six SEC wins for the first time, swept through the SEC East for the first time, and has a chance to win 10 or more games overall for just the second time in school history. They posted a school record 10 wins in 1984, and have won nine games on two previous occasions – first in 2001 and again in 2010. 2010-11 marks the first time they have won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons.
SENIOR SALUTE: The following 16 Gamecocks will be playing in their final game at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday: Antonio Allen, Eric Baker, Jason Barnes, Terrence Campbell, Josh Hinch, Melvin Ingram, Marty Markett, Byron McKnight, Kenny Miles, Kyle Nunn, Rodney Paulk, Travian Robertson, Joey Scribner-Howard, Rokevious Watkins, C.C. Whitlock, Jay Wooten. The senior class has won more games than any other class in school history.
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 552-543-44. 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 Clemson Tigers (9-2, 6-2 ACC). Clemson has won the Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference and will play in their conference title game next week. They are coached by Dabo Swinney, who is in his third full season guiding the Tigers.
CAROLINA VS. CLEMSON: This is the 109th 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 rivalry in college football at 103 straight meetings, behind only Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (105). The Tigers hold a 65-39-4 advantage, including a 49-30-3 mark when playing in Columbia. However, the Gamecocks have won the last two and three of the last five meetings.
EYEING THE TRIFECTA: The Gamecocks have won each of the last two meetings and are looking to make it three straight over the Tigers. The last time South Carolina defeated Clemson in three straight games was from 1968-70, when Tommy Suggs was quarterbacking the Gamecocks to consecutive wins of 7-3, 27-13 and 38-32. Speaking of Suggs, he has been part of the Gamecock radio broadcast for 442 games, ranking fifth among active broadcasters.
BOTH TEAMS RANKED: For the sixth time in the last seven years in this rivalry game, at least one of the teams comes into the game ranked, but this is the first time both teams come into the game ranked since 2000 and just the fourth time overall. Despite being the lower ranked team in all three previous games when both teams were ranked, the Gamecocks have prevailed in two of those contests.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Eastern Division champion Gamecocks warmed up for the SEC Championship with a 29-7 victory at Clemson on Nov. 27, 2010. Stephen Garcia threw for two touchdowns, Alshon Jeffery logged a 100-yard receiving game and the Gamecocks posted their third nine-win season in school history. Clemson was held scoreless for the game’s final 58 minutes. Spencer Lanning added three field goals for Carolina, while Antonio Allen put the icing on the cake with a 37-yard interception return early in the third quarter, putting Carolina on top 26-7.
THE LAST TIME IN COLUMBIA: C.J. Spiller returned the opening kick 88 yards for a touchdown, but it was all Carolina after that in a 34-17 Gamecock win over the 15th-ranked Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium on Nov. 28, 2009. Stephen Garcia threw for three touchdowns and Kenny Miles rushed for 114 yards as Carolina rolled up 388 total yards. Meanwhile the Gamecock defense limited the Tigers to 260 total yards, including just 138 through the first three quarters as Carolina built a 24-7 advantage.
COMBINED WINS: Clemson (9-2) and Carolina (9-2) come in with a combined 18 wins, the most ever when the two teams have met. The previous high was 16 combined wins, accomplished in 1981 (CU-10, SC-6), 1984 (CU-7, SC-9), 1987 (CU-9, SC-7) and 1988 (CU-8, SC-8).
THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his seventh season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 53-35 mark (.602) in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach ranks second on the school’s all-time wins list with 53 behind only Rex Enright (64) and third in games coached with 88 behind Enright (140) and Paul Dietzel (96). Spurrier owns a 195-75-2 mark (.721) 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. CLEMSON: Steve Spurrier is 4-5 in nine previous contests against Clemson. He was 1-2 as the head coach at Duke University, and is 3-3 in six meetings with the Tigers as the Gamecocks’ head coach.
SPURRIER VS. SWINNEY: Steve Spurrier is 2-1 against Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. The Tigers posted a win when the two coaches squared off for the first time in 2008, but Spurrier has had the better of it over the past two seasons, outscoring Clemson by a combined score of 63-24.
CAROLINA VS. THE ACC: South Carolina, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference from 1953-70, is 194-241-22 all-time against teams that currently comprise its former league. Clemson is the opponent Carolina has faced the most (108 meetings), followed by NC State (57), Wake Forest (56) and North Carolina (55). Carolina’s most recent encounter came against Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE: The Gamecocks are 3-0 in non-conference action this season and are looking to go 4-0 in regular season non-conference play for the third consecutive year. They were 4-1 in non-league games in 2010 after losing to Florida State in bowl game. They are 24-7 in non-conference games under head coach Steve Spurrier, including wins in 22 of their last 27 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 (3-0). They have a regular season winning streak over non-conference opponents of 11 games. South Carolina’s last regular season non-conference loss came over 1,000 days ago, at Clemson in 2008.
REGULAR SEASON SUCCESS: The Gamecocks have won 12 times in their last 14 regular season contests. Going back further, the Gamecocks have won 19 of their last 24 regular season games.
NINE IS FINE: With a 9-2 record, Carolina has posted a nine-win season for just the fourth time in school history. They won a school record 10 games in 1984 and have posted nine-win seasons twice previously – in 2001 and again in 2010. A win over Clemson would tie the school single-season record with 10 victories.
BACK-TO-BACK: The Gamecocks have posted 18 wins over the past two seasons (9 in 2010 and 9 in 2011), surpassing the 2000 (8) and 2001 (9) seasons for the most wins in back-to-back seasons in school history. This is the first time that Carolina has posted back-to-back nine-win seasons in school history.
SENIOR CLASS WINS: The Gamecock seniors have won a school record 32 times (7 in 2008 and `09; 9 in `10 and 9 in `11). The previous four-year high was 29 wins, set last season.
THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecock offense was efficient all day, scoring touchdowns on six of seven possessions in a 41-20 win over The Citadel last Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium. Led by quarterback Connor Shaw, the Gamecocks rolled up 473 yards of offense on just 55 plays. Shaw was 16-of-18 for 217 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed 11 times for 90 yards and another score. Freshman Brandon Wilds logged his third 100-yard rushing game over the last four contests with 109 yards and two scores on 20 carries.
GOING FIRST: The Gamecocks produced the game’s first points against The Citadel, with Brandon Wilds scoring on a one-yard plunge at the 10:17 mark of the first quarter. That snapped a string of 13 consecutive games in which the Gamecocks surrendered the game’s first points. The last time they scored first prior to The Citadel game was against Troy in Game 11 of the 2010 season.
PERFECT RECORD: Head coach Steve Spurrier extended his streak to a perfect 44-0 against schools outside of BCS automatic qualifier conferences, including an 18-0 mark since coming to South Carolina. He has defeated East Carolina, Navy and The Citadel in 2011.
GOOD HOME COOKIN’: The Gamecocks have done a good job of protecting their home turf of late. The Gamecocks are 5-1 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 19-3 in its last 22 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.
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).
GAMECOCKS IN THE SEC: The Gamecocks wrapped up their 20th season of league play in the Southeastern Conference with a school record six SEC victories. They have played 160 SEC regular season contest since joining the league. They have had significantly more success of late. Here’s a breakdown of the four five-year segments in conference regular season action:
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.
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 28 consecutive weeks in the AP Top-25, dating back to the second week of the 2010 season, is a school record.
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.
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 23 touchdowns this year, but 14 of those have come in three games, while they have allowed just nine touchdowns in the other eight contests. The Gamecocks have allowed 134 points over its last nine games, an average of 14.9 points per game, after allowing 79 points in the first two games. Their opponents’ scoring average is at 19.4 points per game, 15th in the country.
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 fifth 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 second the country in pass defense and pass efficiency defense, allowing just 137.55 yards per game through the air.
TURN IT OVER: The Gamecocks are tied for sixth in the nation in turnovers gained with 29. Carolina is tied for first in the SEC and tied for fourth in the country with 17 interceptions, and tied for first in the SEC and tied for 17th in the country with 12 fumbles recovered.
PICK THIS: The Gamecocks are tied with Vanderbilt with an SEC-leading 17 interceptions. 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 11 games, an average of 2.6 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 (T12th-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 with 18 fourth-down conversions. Only Duke (22), Air Force (20) and Army (18) have converted as many fourth downs as Carolina.
MAKING A POINT: The Gamecocks are averaging 29.7 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 59-34 in the first stanza but have outscored their opponents 113-57 in the second period, 90-30 in the third quarter and 90-67 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. Since moving into the starting lineup, he has logged three 100-yard games in four contests. 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 when he went for 120 yards on 29 carries against Florida. He logged 109 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against The Citadel.
THE SHAW SHOW: Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw is 6-1 as a starter this season, with victories over East Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Florida and The Citadel, 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 He had an efficient 16-of-18 performance, throwing for 217 yards and three touchdowns against The Citadel last week, and also rushed 11 times for a career-best 90 yards, including a career-long 60-yard TD run. For the season, Shaw is 98-of-151 (64.9 percent) for 1008 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
FAMILY ACT: South Carolina’s Connor Shaw has led his team to a 9-2 record and a No. 14 national ranking, but he’s only average on the family totem pole. Connor’s dad, Lee, has coached the Flowery Branch (GA) High School to a 11-1 mark, while brother, Jaybo, has quarterbacked Georgia Southern to a 9-2 record and a Top-5 ranking in the FCS. The trio has a combined record of 29-5 this season.
TRENDING ALSHON: 2010 Biletnikoff finalist Alshon Jeffery has been held to modest numbers this season. The junior wideout leads the team with 43 catches for 585 yards, an average of 13.6 yards per catch. He is fifth in the SEC in receptions per game (3.9) and is ninth in receiving yards per game (53.2). He owns six of the 14 touchdown receptions this season. He has caught at least one pass in 34 straight games, tying for the second-longest streak in school history. Jeffery has surpassed Kenny McKinley (2,781) as the school’s career-leader in receiving yards with 2,865. 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 17 kickoffs for a 22.2-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, and has completed 3-of-4 passes for 27 yards. As a wideout, he has caught 14 passes for 140 yards, including three for 60 yards against Auburn. The 5-9, 197-pounder from Moncks Corner, S.C. was the starting point guard for the Carolina basketball team. 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 will rejoin the basketball team next week.
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. In the last two weeks, Matulis has returned to the starting lineup at right tackle. The O-line has combined for 125 starts. Center T.J. Johnson leads the way with 38, followed by Watkins (25) and sixth-year senior guard Terrence Campbell (24). 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.
PAULK SETS THE STANDARD: Sixth-year senior Rodney Paulk has played in more games in the Garnet & Black than any other player in school history. Paulk has played in 55 contests, one more than fifth-year senior Travian Robertson.
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 was 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 74 (7.4 per game). He is tied for third in the SEC and is tied for 12th in the country with four forced fumbles, is tied for the SEC lead and tied for 10th in the nation with three fumble recoveries, and is 10th 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. He forced his fourth fumble of the season against The Citadel.
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 9.0 tackles for loss, and is tied for the SEC lead and tied for sixth 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 71 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.
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.
WOOTEN WOWS `EM: Senior Jay Wooten has been solid this season, hitting on 42-of-45 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 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-one Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season, with at least one player making his initial start in 10 of the 11 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 The Citadel: DeAngelo Smith
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 BOOTH: Ellis Johnson, Steve Spurrier Jr. and Jeep Hunter coach from the press box.
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 78,416 through six home games of the 2011 season, ranking 16th in the country. The Clemson game has been declared a sellout.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks will await word on which bowl game they will attend. They are bowl-eligible for a school-record eighth consecutive season and will be playing in their fourth-consecutive bowl game. The Gamecocks are 4-12 in their bowl appearances.