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Nov. 29, 2013

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South Carolina Notes

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The No. 10/9 South Carolina Gamecocks (9-2, 6-2 SEC) wrap up the 2013 regular season slate with the annual Palmetto State Showdown against the No. 6/4 Clemson Tigers (10-1, 7-1 ACC) on Saturday, November 30. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at a sold out Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia. ESPN2 has the national broadcast with Mark Jones and Brock Huard working in the booth and Jessica Mendoza on the sidelines. Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs handle the call for the Gamecock Radio Network with Langston Moore on the sidelines. WKNT in Columbia (107.5 The Game) is the flagship station for Gamecock Athletics.

Date: Saturday, November 30
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
Series: Clemson leads 65-41-4
RADIO Flagship – 107.5 FM “The Game” & the IMG Network

A LITTLE HISTORY: 2013 marks the 120th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 107th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina is 27 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 574-547-44. The Gamecocks were nine games under .500 until head coach Steve Spurrier took the reins in 2005, but are 36 games over since.

SEC HISTORY: The 2013 season marks South Carolina’s 22nd year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their first SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. The Gamecocks are 78-97-1 all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 23-9 since 2010 in conference action.

SENIOR SALUTE: The Gamecocks list just five seniors on their roster. The quintet of Jimmy Legree, Ronald Patrick, Connor Shaw, Chaz Sutton and David Wilkins will be playing in their final game at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday against the Tigers. That is the fewest number of seniors in Division I FBS football in 2013.

LEAVING EARLY?: Three juniors, Jadeveon Clowney, Victor Hampton and Kelcy Quarles are considering taking part in the “Senior Day” ceremonies. All three are exploring their options of either returning for their senior year or entering the 2014 NFL Draft.

40 IN 4: Although small in numbers, this year’s senior class will go out as the winningest class in school history. Only 11 Division I-A schools have recorded 40 or more wins over the past four seasons, including South Carolina. Here are those squads and their win totals: 1. Alabama (46) T2. Oregon (45) T2. Northern Illinois (45) T4. Boise State (42) T4. Florida State (42) T4. LSU (42) T4. Stanford (42) T8. Ohio State (41) T8. Oklahoma (41) T8. Oklahoma State (41) 11. South Carolina (40)

CAROLINA VS. CLEMSON: This is the 111th 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 105 straight meetings, behind only Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (107). The Tigers hold a 65-41-4 advantage, including a 49-31-3 cushion when playing in Columbia. However, the Gamecocks have won the last four and five of the last seven meetings. Carolina has won the last two times the teams have met at Williams-Brice Stadium. The teams annually play for the state championship, the Hardee’s Trophy and, more importantly, bragging rights for the following year.

ONE FOR THE THUMB: The Gamecocks have won each of the last four meetings in the series, matching the stretch from 1951-54 as the longest Carolina winning streak in the history of this rivalry. The Gamecocks have won each of the last four games by double-digits and a combined score of 124-54.

ALWAYS A WINNER: Carolina seniors Jimmy Legree and Chaz Sutton have participated in each of the last three games against Clemson and are trying to finish their careers with a perfect 4-0 mark against the Tigers. If they are successful, they will join nine seniors from last season: Reginald Bowens, Justice Cunningham, DeVonte Holloman, T.J. Johnson, Kenny Miles, D.L. Moore, Quin Smith, D.J. Swearinger and Devin Taylor as the only Gamecocks who participated in four wins against Clemson. Johnson remains the only player in Carolina history who has started in four varsity wins over the Tigers.

BEST MATCHUP IN HISTORY: Using the Associated Press rankings, this marks the best game in the history of this rivalry, as South Carolina enters the game ranked 10th and Clemson is the sixth in the nation according to the A.P., edging the 1987 contest (CU-8; SC-12) for that distinction. This is the third-straight year that both teams enter the game ranked and just the sixth time overall. It is also the eighth time in the last nine years that at least one of the teams enters the game ranked among the nation’s Top-25. The Gamecocks have prevailed in four of the previous five contests when both teams were ranked, including last season’s 27-17 win in Clemson. The higher-ranked team entering the game has lost three of the previous five matchups when both teams were ranked. Here are the results when both teams were ranked by the A.P. entering the contest:
1979 – (No. 19) SC 13, (No. 9) CU 9
1987 – (No. 12) SC 20, (No. 8) CU 7
2000 – (No. 25) CU 16, (No. 16) SC 14
2011 – (No. 14) SC 34, (No. 18) CU 13
2012 – (No. 13) SC 27, (No. 12) CU 17
2013 – (No. 10) SC vs. (No. 6) CU ???

THESE TEAMS ARE GOOD…AGAIN: Clemson (10-1) and Carolina (9-2) enter this year’s contest with identical records of a year ago. The combined 19 wins this year and last are the most ever in the series, one win more than in 2011 when both teams came in with 9-2 marks. Prior to 2011, the high was 16 combined wins, accomplished four times.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Head coach Steve Spurrier became the winningest coach in Carolina history as the Gamecocks posted a 27-17 win at Clemson on November 24, 2012. Backup quarterback Dylan Thompson went the distance, completing 23-of-41 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns, while defensive end Jadeveon Clowney set stadium and school records with 4.5 sacks to lead the Gamecocks. The Carolina offense rolled up 444 total yards, while the defense limited the high-octane Tiger attack to 328 yards. Ace Sanders caught six passes for a career-high 119 yards, while Bruce Ellington hauled in seven passes for 72 yards and two scores. Clemson held a 14-10 advantage heading into intermission, but the Gamecocks outscored the Tigers, 17-3, in the second half. After rolling up 163 yards on 21 snaps in the first quarter alone, Clemson was limited to 91 yards on just 19 plays throughout the entire second half.

THE LAST TIME IN COLUMBIA: The No. 14/13 Gamecocks got a career-high 107 yards rushing and three TD passes from Connor Shaw in a convincing 34-13 win over No. 18/17 Clemson on November 26, 2011. Shaw completed 14-of-20 passes for 210 yards. The Gamecock defense held the Tigers to 153 yards of offense and tallied five sacks. Carolina allowed just three points and 72 yards in the second half.

THE DEFENSE RESTS: A key factor in the four-game winning streak over Clemson has been the play of the Carolina defense which has logged 16 sacks, including 11 in the last two years. Here’s a look at what the Clemson offense was averaging entering the game and how they fared against the Carolina defense:
Year CU PPG VS SC CU YPG VS SC 2009 – 33.1 (avg. points) 17 vs. SC; 370.7 (avg. yards) 260 vs. SC
2010 – 25.4 (avg. points) 7 vs. SC; 345.7 (avg. yards) 251 vs. SC
2011 – 33.8 (avg. points) 13 vs. SC; 459.3 (avg. yards) 153 vs. SC
2012 – 44.6 (avg. points) 17 vs. SC; 535.6 (avg. yards) 328 vs. SC

SPURRIER VS. CLEMSON: Steve Spurrier is 6-5 in 11 contests against Clemson. He was 1-2 as the head coach at Duke University, and is 5-3 in eight meetings with the Tigers as the Gamecocks’ head coach. He is 2-2 against Clemson in Williams-Brice Stadium.

SPURRIER VS. SWINNEY: Steve Spurrier is 4-1 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 won the last four times, outscoring Clemson by a combined score of 124-54.

WINNING NINE IS FINE: South Carolina has posted a nine-win season for the fourth-straight year. Prior to the current stretch, they had only won nine games twice in school history.

9-plus win seasons 1892-2009: 2 1984 (10), 2001 (9).
9-plus win seasons 2010-2013: 4 2010 (9), 2011 (11), 2012 (11); 2013 (9).

GOOD HOME COOKIN’: The Gamecocks have established a school record by winning their last 17 games at Williams-Brice Stadium. They are also 33-3 (.917 winning percentage) in their last 36 home games. The only home losses since 2009 came to top-ranked Florida in 2009, to 17th-ranked Arkansas in 2010 and to defending national champion Auburn in 2011. The Gamecocks’ 17-game home winning streak is the longest in the nation, two more than Ohio State and Stanford. Northern Illinois has won 25-straight games in its home stadium, but the NCAA considers its loss to Iowa at Chicago’s Soldier Field in the 2012 season opener as a “home” loss and credits them with a 10-game home winning streak.

TOP HOME STREAKS: The Gamecocks have won 17-straight home games, the longest streak in school history, surpassing the mark of 15 set from 1978-80.

STREAKING OUTSIDE THE SEC: The Gamecocks have taken care of business in recent years against non-conference opponents. A few of the current streaks:

South Carolina has won 13-straight games against non-conference opponents. It’s last non-conference loss came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

South Carolina has won 19-straight regular-season games against non-conference opponents. The last regular-season non-conference loss came at Clemson in the 2008 regular-season finale.

South Carolina has won 17-straight home games against non-conference opponents. It’s last home loss to a non-conference team was to Clemson in the 2007 regular-season finale.

South Carolina has won three straight and six of its last seven games against ACC opponents.

PERFECT AT HOME: Carolina is 6-0 at home in 2013 and is looking to go 7-0 for the second-straight year. 2012 marked the first time they ran the table at home since joining the SEC. The last time they had gone undefeated at home prior to 2012 was in 1987. They have been undefeated and untied at home 10 times.

IT’S NEVER EASY: The Gamecocks have faced one of the top non-conference slates in the country this season. Their four non-conference foes of Clemson (10-1), UCF (9-1), Coastal Carolina (10-2) and North Carolina (6-5) have a combined record of 35-9, a .795 winning percentage.

BIGGER THINGS AHEAD?: Carolina posted a 6-2 SEC mark for the third-straight season, something that had never been accomplished before 2011. With a win earlier this season over Missouri, the Gamecocks hold the tie-breaker over the SEC Eastern Division-leading Tigers. If Missouri loses at home versus Texas A&M, South Carolina would represent the East in the SEC Championship for the second time in four years. This year’s game will be played in Atlanta on December 7 at 4 p.m. If Mizzou wins, it would mark the third-consecutive year that Carolina would have defeated the Eastern Division champion. The winner of the “Iron Bowl” between top-ranked Alabama and Auburn will represent the West in the SEC Championship game.

INDIVIDUAL HONORS: Several Gamecocks were in the hunt for postseason individual national honors. Quarterback Connor Shaw is one of 10 finalists for Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and was one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award. Running back Mike Davis is one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was one of 12 semifinalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award.

THE LAST TIME OUT: The No. 12/11 Gamecocks stepped out of conference last week and hosted instate FCS opponent Coastal Carolina, co-champions of the Big South Conference. The Gamecocks dominated from start to finish in rolling up a 70-10 victory. Carolina scored 28 first-quarter points and led 42-7 at the intermission. The cushion allowed Coach Spurrier to clear his bench, with five quarterbacks completing passes to 11 different receivers and 11 players carried the pigskin. The Gamecocks did all of the damage without the services of four starters – Mike Davis, Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Brison Williams – all who were sidelined with injuries.

REWRITING THE RECORD BOOK: The Gamecocks offense posted several notable marks in the win over Coastal Carolina:

The 70 points scored were the fifth-most in school history and the most in the Steve Spurrier Era. The previous high under Spurrier was 69 against Troy in 2010.

The 28 first-quarter points was the most since scoring 28 in the first 15 minutes against Troy in 2010. The last time Carolina had scored 28 points in any quarter was the third quarter against East Carolina in 2011.

The 639 yards of total offense matched the total posted against Kentucky in 2011 for the most in the Spurrier Era and was just 17 yards off the school record of 656 versus Vanderbilt in 2001.

The 352 yards rushing were the most under Coach Spurrier, eclipsing the previous high of 288 versus Kentucky in 2011.

The team matched its high mark of 32 first downs under Coach Spurrier, previously accomplished against Kentucky in 2011 and at Arkansas earlier this season.

BEST OFFENSE IN HISTORY?: South Carolina is averaging 465.8 yards per game of total offense, including 211.2 on the ground and 254.6 through the air. They are on pace to shatter the school record for average yards of total offense. The school record for total offense in a season is 5,499 set in 2010. This year’s squad has 5,124 with at least two games to play.

CHARTING THE DRIVES: Through six games, Carolina had been one of the best teams in the country in logging the fewest 3-and-outs, recording just seven in their first 60 drives. For the season, Carolina has been held to 3-and-out 25 times in 124 drives, 20.2 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have scored on 62-of-124 drives, 50.0 percent, with 48 touchdowns.

BETTER THAN AVERAGE: The Carolina defense has held nine of its 11 opponents below their season scoring average, with six held double-digits below that average. Only Georgia and Kentucky have scored more against the Gamecocks than their season average. Overall, South Carolina is holding its opponents to 10 points less a game than they are accustomed to scoring. The Gamecocks are fourth in the SEC and 20th in the country in scoring defense at 20.3 points per game.

PROTECT THIS BALL: The Gamecocks have taken care of the ball of late, winning the turnover battle by a 9-0 margin over the last three games. Carolina has committed just four turnovers in its six home games, with three of those four coming against Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks are plus-5 in turnovers this season. YES THEY CALL IT A STREAK: The Gamecocks are tied for the fifth-longest current streak of being ranked in the Associated Press’s Top 25. Carolina and Stanford have been ranked for 61-consecutive weeks, trailing only Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma. Carolina’s streak started with the second week of the 2010 season and is the longest consecutive streak in school history.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF GAMECOCK FOOTBALL: The Gamecocks put together back-to-back 11-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, the first back-to-back double-digit win seasons in school history. The only previous 10-win campaign came in 1984. The Gamecocks won 22 games from 2011-12; 31 from 2010-12, and 38 from 2009-12, all school records. This year’s senior class has surpassed last year’s senior class for the most wins in a four-year period in school history with 40.

THE HEAD BALL COACH: Steve Spurrier is in his ninth season directing the Gamecock football program. He has logged a 75-39 mark (.658) in Columbia. The Head Ball Coach is Carolina’s winningest coach with 75 victories and is second in games coached with 114, behind Rex Enright (140). Coach Spurrier owns a 217-79-2 mark (.732) in 24 seasons as a collegiate head coach, with previous stops at Duke and Florida.

ATOP THE LIST: Steve Spurrier became the all-time winningest coach at Carolina in the 2012 the regular-season finale at Clemson, surpassing Rex Enright (64) for the most coaching wins in school history. He is also the winningest coach at Florida with 122 victories. The legendary Bear Bryant (60 at Kentucky and 232 at Alabama) is the only other coach to own the most wins at two SEC schools.

TOPS IN HIS FIELD: Steve Spurrier became the 71st head college football coach (all divisions) and the 22nd in Division I history to record 200 wins when he accomplished that feat against UAB in 2012. He ranks third among active Division I coaches with 217 wins. In addition, the HBC has 47 wins as a head coach at the professional level, giving him 264 career wins.

NEW TERRITORY: The Gamecocks have been bowl-eligible in each of Coach Spurrier’s now nine campaigns. No other coach has taken Carolina to more than three bowl games. Coach Spurrier is 3-4 in bowl games at Carolina, including back-to-back bowl wins over Nebraska (Capital One Bowl) and Michigan (Outback Bowl) in the last two seasons. He is the only Gamecock coach to post three bowl victories.

LEADER OF THE PACK: Senior quarterback Connor Shaw is 25-5 as a starter, including a 16-0 mark at home. With 5,610 yards passing and 1,542 yards rushing, he became not only the first 4,000-1,000 yard player in school history, but the first 5,000-1,000. He is the school’s all-time leader in completion percentage at 65.1 percent, is second with 52 touchdown passes, and is fourth in total offense with 7,152 yards. Shaw was named one of 16 semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award and is one of 10 finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

1. Steve Taneyhill (1992-95) – 62
2. Connor Shaw (2010-13) – 52
3. Todd Ellis (1986-89) – 49
4. Stephen Garcia (2008-10) – 47

1. Todd Ellis (1986-89) – 9,351
2. Stephen Garcia (2008-11) – 8,374
3. Steve Taneyhill (1992-95) – 8,164
4. Connor Shaw (2010-13) – 7,152
5. Blake Mitchell (2004-07) – 5,873

THROWING STRIKES: When the Gamecocks pitch it around, there’s been no one who has been more accurate in school history than Connor Shaw. Shaw is hitting 65.1 percent of his career pass attempts. He had gone a career-best and school record 177 pass attempts without an interception before getting picked at Tennessee. He has now gone 275 passes with just the one INT. This season he ranks fourth in the SEC and 13th in the country in pass efficiency with a mark of 160.8, tossing 20 touchdowns with one interception while completing 61.8 percent of his passes.

JUST WIN BABY: Connor Shaw is the winningest quarterback in Carolina history with 25 victories as a starter, passing Todd Ellis on the all-time list. Only five Carolina quarterbacks have recorded 20 or more wins as a starter. Shaw easily has the best winning percentage of those QB’s with an 83.3 percent success rate.

THROWN’ IN THE WIND: Junior Dylan Thompson, a 6-3, 218-pounder from Boiling Springs, S.C., has proven to be a solid backup for Shaw. Thompson is 3-0 as a starter in his career. His two starts in 2012 came against East Carolina and at Clemson and he responded by throwing for over 300 yards with three touchdowns in both of those contests. In addition, he was 7-of-10 for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl win over Michigan, including the game-winning 32-yard pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds remaining in the contest. In 2013, Thompson has made one start, getting the nod at Missouri. He went 15-for-27 for 222 yards with one INT in that contest. He also saw significant action at UCF, going 15-for-32 for 261 yards with one pick. For the season, he is 52-of-89 (58.4 percent) for 783 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions.

BE LIKE MIKE: Sophomore running back Mike Davis has put together seven 100-yard rushing games this season, earning a midseason addition to the Maxwell Award watch list, and spots on Phil Steele’s midseason first-team All-SEC and third-team All-America squads. He is also a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. The Lithonia, Ga. product is the SEC’s leading rusher, averaging 111.2 yards per contest, is third in all-purpose yardage at 144.4 yards per game, and is tied for ninth in scoring at 6.0 points per game. Davis ranks 16th in the nation in rushing and 17th in all-purpose yards. He has scored a touchdown in seven games this season with 10 TDs total. He became the 41st player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau for his career. With 1,387 career yards, he is currently in 26th place on the all-time list. Alex Hawkins is 25th with 1,490 yards.

A GRAND SEASON: Mike Davis surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the win over Mississippi State. He has 1,112 yards through 11 games but did not play against Coastal. It’s just the 10th 1,000-yard rushing season in school history and he is the eighth player to accomplish the feat (George Rogers did it three times).

THE CENTURY CLUB: The Gamecocks have nine 100-yard rushing games this season, seven from Mike Davis and one each from Shon Carson and Jamari Smith, more than doubling their total from a season ago when they got three from Marcus Lattimore and one from Kenny Miles. The Gamecocks have five players on the roster with 100-yard rushing games under their belt, with Davis (7), Carson (1) and Smith (1) joining Brandon Wilds (3) and Connor Shaw (1). Both Wilds and Shaw turned in their 100-yard efforts in 2011.

100 OR BUST: Mike Davis has logged seven 100-yard rushing games this season. Only 10 other Gamecocks have logged as many as seven 100-yard rushing games in a career. Here is the list of the most single-season 100-yard rushing games in school history:

GO THE DISTANCE: Mike Davis has logged four rushes of 50 yards or more in his first two seasons. He had a 50-yarder against UAB last season. His 75-yard burst against North Carolina in the 2013 season opener and his first career start was the longest by a Gamecock since Bobby Wallace went for 88 against Middle Tennessee in 2006, and tied for the 12th-longest run in school history. He matched that with another 75-yard burst at Georgia, playing for the first time as a collegian in his home state. Of the 14 runs in school history of 75 yards or longer, Davis is the only one to do it twice. His fourth-career 50-yard jaunt came at UCF, a 53-yard TD run. Only Derek Watson has more runs of 50-plus yards at Carolina.

MAKING A POINT: Mike Davis has logged a touchdown in seven games this season, recording 10 TDs overall. That moves him into the top-10 single-season marks in school history:

1. Marcus Lattimore (2010) – 17
2. Harold Green (1987) – 15
3. George Rogers (1980) – 14
T4. Jeff Grantz (1975) – 12
T4. Andrew Pinnock (2001) – 12
T6. Derek Watson (2000) – 11
T6. Marcus Lattimore (2012) – 11
T8. Marcus Lattimore (2011) – 10
T8. Mike Davis (2013) – 10

CARSON CITY: The Gamecocks got a big lift from little-used tailback Shon Carson in the win over Florida. Carson, a 5-8, 219-pound sophomore from Scranton, S.C., rushed 13 times for a career-high 102 yards against the Gators, including a key 58-yard burst from the Carolina 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, that led the game-winning field goal. Carson entered the game with just 114 rushing yards through the season’s first nine contests. It was his first career 100-yard game. He made his first career start against Coastal Carolina and responded with 38 yards on 11 carries.

RETURN OF WILDS: Sophomore tailback Brandon Wilds returned to the playing field against Coastal. Wilds had been sidelined since dislocating his left elbow in the win at Central Florida. When the elbow healed, a hamstring flared up over the last couple of weeks. Wilds carried seven times for 62 yards and two scores against the Chants. For the season he has rushed 37 times for 202 yards, an average of 5.5 yards per rush with three touchdowns. The Blythewood, S.C. product has three 100-yard rushing games in his career.

MR. SMITH COMES TO COLUMBIA: True freshman Jamari Smith, who is fourth on the depth chart, made his first impact for the Garnet & Black in the win over Coastal Carolina. The Jacksonville, Fla. product entered the game with just four carries for five yards on the season, but rushed 10 times for 103 yards and a score against CCU, including a 52-yard burst.

ON THE RECEIVING END: The Gamecocks have spread the wealth in the passing game this season with 18 different players getting receptions and four different players leading the team in receiving. The Gamecocks list no seniors on the three-deep at the three wide receiver positions.

Bruce Ellington is the top receiver. He logged 40 receptions for 600 yards and seven touchdowns last season, including two scores against Clemson. After a slow start this year, he broke loose against Vanderbilt, catching eight passes for 111 yards, both then-career highs. He topped that with a 10-catch, 136-yard, 2-touchdown effort at Missouri. For the season, he has a team-high 39 catches for a team-leading 584 yards with six touchdowns, including two against both Arkansas and Missouri. Ellington went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for his career in the win at UCF. With 14 touchdown receptions he is ninth on Carolina’s all-time list. With four more catches he will become the 14th player in school history with 100 career receptions.

Damiere Byrd, the fastest player on the squad, has come on strong after a slow start. After logging just three catches for 34 yards in the first three contests, he has 27 receptions for 515 yards in the last eight games. He caught a career-high five passes for 74 yards at UCF, then logged another five-catch game against Kentucky, this time for 98 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown reception. He added a 45-yard scoring pass at Arkansas. At Tennessee, he had four catches for a career-high 121 yards, including a 76-yard TD. He has 30 catches on the season for 549 yards with four touchdowns.

Shaq Roland, the 2011 “Mr. Football” recipient in the state of South Carolina, caught four passes for 72 yards and a score against Coastal last week. He averages 18.9 yards per catch with four touchdowns. Three of his last seven receptions have been scores.

Nick Jones is not the biggest guy on the roster or have the most raw talent. All he does is catch passes. The 5-7, 174-pounder from Moore, S.C. had his best game as a Gamecock, catching six passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the loss at Georgia, all career highs. His previous highs were four receptions (4 times) and 78 receiving yards. For the season, he has 24 catches for 256 yards and five scores. He had just one career touchdown coming into the season.

HANGIN’ WITH MR. COOPER: Pharoh Cooper has seen more action as the season has progressed, logging time at wide receiver, as the kickoff and punt returner and taking the direct snap in the “wildcat” formation. Cooper has caught three passes for 54 yards and a score, has rushed 14 times for 175 yards including a 71-yard scoring burst against Coastal, and has completed his only pass. He also has averaged 21.5 yards on 11 kick returns and 4.4 yards on nine punt returns.

SCORING WITH BRUCE: Junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington has logged six touchdown receptions this season and has 14 in his career. That moves him into sole possession of ninth place in school history.

CAREER RECEIVING TOUCHDOWNS T1. Sidney Rice (2005-06) – 23
T1. Alshon Jeffery (2009-11) – 23
T3. Robert Brooks (1988-91) – 19
T3. Jermale Kelly (1997-00) – 19
T3. Kenny McKinley (2005-08) – 19
T6. Sterling Sharpe (1983-87) – 17
T6. Zola Davis (1995-98) – 17
8. Philip Logan (1974-77) – 15
9. Bruce Ellington (2011-13) – 14
10. Four Players Tied – 13

MORE BYRD DROPPINGS: Junior wide receiver Damiere Byrd earned a spot on the Capital One Academic All-District 4 Team as a wide receiver for the second-consecutive year. To be nominated, student-athletes must have a 3.30 cumulative grade-point average. He majors in sport and entertainment management.

STELLAR TIGHT ENDS: The Gamecocks are blessed with a pair of standout tight ends. Junior Rory “Busta” Anderson is an All-SEC candidate. He came into the season with eight touchdown receptions among his 22 career catches but has not reached paydirt yet this season despite 17 receptions. Sophomore Jerell Adams averaged over 22 yards a catch on just four receptions last season, and has a 17.0-yard average this year. The two combined for six catches and 86 receiving yards in the win at Missouri. With the 6-5, 242-pound Anderson and the 6-6, 237-pound Adams, both can present a matchup advantage.

THE O-LINE: The Gamecocks boast a veteran offensive line with four returning starters. Junior left guard A.J. Cann is the most experienced of the group with 36 career starts, the most on the squad, and is an All-SEC candidate. He was a midseason first-team All-SEC selection by Phil Steele. Senior right guard Ronald Patrick started all 13 games last season and has started 23 of the last 24 games, missing the Tennessee contest with a high ankle sprain. Junior left tackle Corey Robinson started nine of the final 10 games a season ago, while right tackle Brandon Shell was a Freshman All-American while making 10 starts in 2012. The two tackles have started every game this season. A pair of redshirt freshmen, Cody Waldrop and Clayton Stadnik have split time at center. Waldrop started the opener, but suffered a foot sprain in the win over North Carolina. He was replaced by Stadnik, who started the next two games before Waldrop returned to face UCF. Waldrop continued to be plagued by injuries, so Stadnik started the next five games before Waldrop returned to the starting lineup against Florida. Clayton’s twin brother, Brock, is also a member of the Carolina offensive line, and was the more highly-recruited of the two. The two played side-by-side at the collegiate level for the first time in the win at Arkansas.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS: The 2013 Gamecocks feature one of the game’s top players in junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney, who is regarded by most as the top defensive player in the country and a likely top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, was just the second Gamecock to earn unanimous All-America honors in 2012, joining George Rogers from his Heisman Trophy season in 1980. Clowney was named the Hendricks Award winner as the nation’s top defensive end, and the All-America Player of the Year, presented by AT&T as selected by the fans on He finished sixth in the Heisman race and was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award and the Bednarik Award after being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches. Clowney was named one of 12 semifinalists for the 2013 Rotary Lombardi Award.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Coming off his trip to L.A. to receive the ESPY Award for the top play of the year, Jadeveon Clowney continues to cause havoc for quarterbacks around the southeast. As a sophomore, Clowney set school records last season for sacks in a game (4.5 at Clemson), sacks in a season (13.0) and tackles for loss in a season (23.5). The 6-6, 274-pounder was on everyone’s preseason All-America list. With 2.0 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss this season, he continues to move up the all-time Carolina charts in those categories. In addition, he has a school-record nine career forced fumbles. Here is where the junior ranks on Carolina’s all-time lists:

1. Eric Norwood (2006-09) – 54.5
2. Jadeveon Clowney (2011-13) – 44.0
3. Devin Taylor (2009-12) – 35.5
4. Andrew Provence (1980-82) – 35.0
5. Frank Wright (1981-84) – 32.0

1. Eric Norwood (2006-09) – 29.0
2. Andrew Provence (1980-82) – 26.0
3. John Abraham (1996-99) – 23.5
4. Jadeveon Clowney (2011-13) – 23.0
5. Melvin Ingram (2007-11) – 21.5

CAREER FORCED FUMBLES 1. Jadeveon Clowney (2011-13) – 9
2. John Abraham (1996-99) – 8
T3. Ricky Hagood (1980-83) – 7
T3. Stacy Evans (1993-94) – 7
T3. Cliff Matthews (2007-10) – 7

FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE: Junior Kelcy Quarles, an All-SEC candidate, is reaping the benefits of the attention Clowney draws. Quarles leads the team and is tied for fourth in the SEC in sacks (7.0) and leads the team and is sixth in the SEC in tackles for loss (11.0), surpassing his 2012 totals of 3.5 sacks and 8.0 TFLs. Fifth-year senior Chaz Sutton, who has spent the past two years backing up Clowney and Devin Taylor, is third on the team with 6.5 tackles for loss and has 18.0 in his career.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES: The Gamecocks have tallied 74 tackles for loss, an average of 6.7 tackles for loss per game, fourth in the SEC and 31st in the country, including a season-high 14 in the loss at Tennessee. 23 different players have contributed to the TFLs, led by Kelcy Quarles (11.0), Jadeveon Clowney (8.5), Chaz Sutton (6.5) and Sharrod Golightly (6.0).

SACK MASTERS: The Gamecocks led the SEC and finished fifth in the country with 43 sacks a year ago. This season, Carolina has 19 sacks, an average of 1.7 per game.

YOUNG `BACKERS: The Gamecocks graduated five seniors who manned the linebacker and Spur positions a year ago and have a host of youngsters to fill in those slots this season. True freshman Skai Moore has taken over the starting duties at the Will linebacker slot and leads the team with 48 tackles. Marcquis Roberts, who also plays the Will position, has 42. Mike linebackers Kaiwan Lewis (39) and T.J. Holloman (41) also rank among the team’s top eight tacklers.

SHARING THE WEALTH: The Gamecocks have used the team approach in stopping their opponents this season. Eight players, Skai Moore (48), Jimmy Legree (43), Marcquis Roberts (42), Sharrod Golightly (42), T.J. Holloman (41), Victor Hampton (41), Brison Williams (40) and Kaiwan Lewis (39) have between 39 and 48 tackles this season. An additional four players have 30 or more stops.

SECONDARY IN NATURE: South Carolina returned three starters in the secondary in junior cornerback Victor Hampton, senior cornerback Jimmy Legree and junior safety Brison Williams. Hampton is considered the shutdown corner and was the SEC Defensive Player of the Week against Mississippi State, while Legree has played both corner and safety during his career. Legree has six picks in his career, one more than Hampton. The Gamecocks intercepted three passes against Mississippi State after logging just six picks through the first eight contests. Legree’s late INT sealed the win over Florida. They added two more against Coastal Carolina.

THE FRISCO KID: True freshman Elliott Fry walked on to the Gamecock squad this summer and earned the starting placekicking chores. The Frisco, Texas product is 14-for-17 in field goal attempts and has hit eight of his last nine attempts after making his first five attempts of the season. He connected on 2-of-3 at Missouri, hitting from 20-yards out in the fourth quarter then nailing the eventual game-winner in the second overtime from 40-yards away, earning SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He was successful on both of his kicks against Mississippi State, including a then-season-long 44-yarder. His career-high four field goals against Florida, including a career-long 45-yarder, proved to be the difference in the game and earned him SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. He is seventh in the SEC in scoring and fourth among kickers, averaging 8.0 points per game. He became the first true freshman placekicker to kick in the Gamecocks’ season opener since Courtney Leavitt in 1996.

WHO’S YOUR DADDY? Elliott Fry is quickly moving up the charts at South Carolina:

1. Spencer Lanning (2010) – 51
2. Jay Wooten (2011) – 50
3. Adam Yates (2012) – 49
4. Elliott Fry (2013) – 46
5. Scott Hagler (1984) – 45

1. Marcus Lattimore (2010) – 114
2. Collin Mackie (1987) – 113
3. Spencer Lanning (2010) – 102
4. Harold Green (1987) – 96
5. Ryan Succop (2008) – 90
6. Elliott Fry (2013) – 88

HULL OF A PUNTER: Junior Tyler Hull is in his second season as the Gamecocks’ punter. The 6-2, 206-pounder from Mount Airy, N.C. spent his first season at Guilford College before transferring to South Carolina just prior to the start of the 2012 campaign. Last season, he averaged 39.4 yards per punt. This year he is averaging 38.2 yards per punt with nine of his 38 punts inside the 20 and a long of 55 yards. He punted eight times at Tennessee and eight times versus Mississippi State after logging just 16 punts through the first six games.

GAMECOCKS IN THE SEC: The Gamecocks are in their 22nd season of SEC play in 2013. They have played 176 SEC regular-season contests since joining the league. They have just a .446 all-time winning percentage in SEC play, but have a 23-9 mark (.719) since the 2010 season.

AN SEC SIX-PACK: The Gamecocks went 6-2 in the SEC for the third-straight season. They had never logged six SEC wins in a season prior to 2011. They finished the 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2010 seasons with 5-3 SEC marks. Carolina posted at least a .500 conference mark for the 11th time in 22 seasons and have put together four-straight .500-or-better SEC records for the first time in history.

BEATING THE EAST: The Gamecocks went 4-2 against SEC Eastern Division foes this season and are 18-4 over the past four seasons. They had never won more than four games in the division prior to Coach Spurrier’s arrival, but have done it five times since 2005:

ROAD WARRIORS: The Gamecocks are 12-5 in their last 17 true road contests. Four of the five road losses in that stretch came to nationally-ranked opponents: at No. 8 Arkansas in 2011, at No. 9 LSU and No. 3 Florida in 2012 and at No. 11 Georgia in 2013, before losing to unranked Tennessee earlier this season. Those are the only five losses for Connor Shaw as the starting QB.

COMEBACK OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS: The Gamecocks rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter on the road to the No. 5 team in the country to pull out a 27-24 double-overtime win against Missouri earlier this season. That victory has to be considered as one of the greatest come-from-behind wins in school history. It was the largest comeback by the Gamecocks at any point of a game since rallying from a 17-point second-quarter deficit vs. East Carolina on Sept. 3, 2011. Connor Shaw (offense), Kelcy Quarles (defensive line) and Elliott Fry (special teams) all earned SEC Player-of-the-Week honors for their efforts.

KEEPING THE FANS HAPPY: The Gamecocks have taken care of business against their top rivals in recent seasons. Since 2010, they are an impressive 12-3 against SEC Eastern Division rivals Georgia (3-1), Florida (3-1) and Tennessee (3-1) and against in-state rival Clemson (3-0). In fact, Carolina has won the Palmetto State Championship four years in a row, the longest winning streak over the Tigers since 1951-54.

FIRST TIMERS: 22 Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season. Eight made their first career start in the season-opening win over North Carolina, including four on offense (TB Mike Davis, TE Drew Owens, WR Shaq Roland and OC Cody Waldrop) and four on defense (Spur Sharrod Golightly, LB Kaiwan Lewis, SS Kadetrix Marcus and LB Marcquis Roberts). OC Clayton Stadnik and CB Ahmad Christian both made their first career starts at Georgia. Mason Zandi, who has spent the majority of his young career at tackle, made a start at tight end against Vanderbilt. Fullback Connor McLaurin, defensive end Darius English and linebacker T.J. Holloman all made their first start against Kentucky. Cornerback Rico McWilliams and safety Chaz Elder both made their first starts at Arkansas. Offensive guard Will Sport and wide receiver Pharoh Cooper made their first starts at Tennessee. Safety Chaz Elder made his first start against Mississippi State. Tailback Shon Carson, defensive tackle Phillip Dukes and defensive end Gerald Dixon all got the nod for their first start against Coastal Carolina.

EVERY TIME OUT: Seven players have started every game this year, three on offense and four on defense: Junior offensive guard A.J. Cann, junior spur Sharrod Golightly, senior cornerback Jimmy Legree, junior offensive tackle Corey Robinson, sophomore offensive tackle Brandon Shell, junior defensive tackle J.T. Surratt and senior defensive end Chaz Sutton.

THEY PAY TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS PLAY: The winning on the field has translated into fans in the stands. Every game this season has been declared a sell out. The last time Carolina sold out seven games in a season was in 1980. Buoyed by 51,967 season tickets, the Gamecocks rank 14th in the nation in average attendance at 82,105, which would establish a new school record. The single-game high this year was 83,853 for the Florida contest, ranking 10th on the all-time list, in the 80,250-seat Williams-Brice Stadium. Carolina ranks eighth in the NCAA averaging 102.48 percent of seating capacity. The stadium record for one game was set last season against Georgia when 85,199 packed WBS to see a Carolina 35-7 win over the Bulldogs.