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Sept. 5, 2014

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South Carolina Notes

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Gamecocks (0-1, 0-1 SEC) and East Carolina Pirates (1-0, 0-0 AAC) resume their rivalry this week at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. The 7 p.m. ET game will be televised nationally on ESPNU with Anish Shroff and Kelly Stouffer in the booth and Cara Capuano 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, September 6
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
Series: South Carolina leads 12-5
RADIO Flagship – 107.5 FM “The Game” & the IMG Network

A South Carolina win over East Carolina would…
– Be Coach Steve Spurrier’s 200th win as an SEC head coach. He currently has 199 career victories as an SEC head coach, 122 at Florida and 79 at South Carolina. Only Paul “Bear” Bryant (292) and Vince Dooley (201) have won more as an SEC head coach.

– Be Steve Spurrier’s 50th home win as the head coach at South Carolina. He is 49-15 at Williams-Brice Stadium as the Gamecocks’ head coach.

– Extend the Gamecocks’ non-conference winning streak to 16-straight games and their regular season non-conference winning streak to 21 games. The Gamecocks last non-conference loss came in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl to Florida State.

– Be the Gamecocks’ third-straight win over East Carolina and improve their all-time record over the Pirates to 13-5.

A LITTLE HISTORY: 2014 marks the 121st season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 108th-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 28 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 576-548-44. The Gamecocks were nine games under .500 until head coach Steve Spurrier took the reins in 2005, but are 37 games over since that time.

SEC HISTORY: 2014 marks South Carolina’s 23rd 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. Carolina was 37-66-1 (.361) in SEC action from 1992-2004, but are 41-32 (.562) in conference play since Coach Spurrier took the reins, including an 18-7 mark over the last four years.

CAROLINA VS. THE PIRATES: South Carolina holds a 12-5 advantage in the all-time series with East Carolina, including a 9-4 lead in games played in Columbia. The Gamecocks won each of the first eight meetings between 1977 and 1990, before ECU finally got into the winning ledger in 1991. The Pirates actually won four of five games between 1991 and 1996. ECU’s last win came in the 1999 season by a 21-3 score. More recently, South Carolina won by a 56-37 score to open the 2011 season in Charlotte, then walked away with a 48-10 win in 2012.

SPURRIER AGAINST ECU: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is 2-0 against East Carolina, with both wins coming as the Gamecocks’ head coach. He was on the sidelines for the 56-37 win in Charlotte to open the 2011 season, then led the Gamecocks to a 48-10 win in 2012. Both of those wins came with Ruffin McNeill in charge of the Pirates’ sideline. Coach Spurrier’s offense has average 52.0 points per game in two meetings against the Pirates.

NON-CONFERENCE WINS: South Carolina has won 15-straight games against non-conference opponents. Its last non-conference loss came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl. Since that loss they have defeated East Carolina (twice), Navy, The Citadel, Clemson (three times), Nebraska, UAB, Wofford, Michigan, North Carolina, UCF, Coastal Carolina and Wisconsin.

REGULAR SEASON NON-CON WINS: The Gamecocks have posted 20-consecutive regular season victories against non-conference opponents, dating back to the start of the 2009 season. Over the past five seasons, Carolina has logged regular season non-conference wins over Clemson (5 times), East Carolina (twice), North Carolina State, Florida Atlantic, South Carolina State, Southern Miss, Furman, Troy, Navy, The Citadel, UAB, Wofford, North Carolina, Central Florida and Coastal Carolina.

THE LAST TIME OUT: South Carolina had no answer for a sharp Texas A&M attack in a 52-28 setback to the Aggies on Thursday, August 28. The Gamecock defense surrendered school-record marks for plays (99), yards (680) and passing yards (511) allowed. Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson tried to keep the Gamecocks in the contest by completing 20-of-40 passes for 366 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. The 366 yards passing was a career high and ranks ninth on the single-game list in school history. Senior wide receiver Nick Jones caught five passes for a career-best 113 yards and two TDs.

O SNAP: The Gamecocks had several long winning streaks snapped in the 52-28 loss to Texas A&M in the season opener. Included was the Gamecocks’ 18-game home winning streak (the longest in the country), their 14-game season-opening winning streak (tied for the fifth-longest in the country) and their overall six-game winning streak (tied for the fourth-longest in the country). It was also just the second season-opening loss for Steve Spurrier in 25 years as a collegiate head coach.

FIRST START: Three Gamecocks, all on defense, made their first career start in the season opener against Texas A&M. Getting the nod for the first time were linebackers Jonathan Walton and Bryson Allen-Williams and cornerback Al Harris Jr. Allen-Williams and Harris Jr. are true freshmen.

WE REMEMBER HIM: Bryson Allen-Williams and Al Harris Jr. became the first true freshmen to start a season opener for Carolina since Jadeveon Clowney in 2011.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: In his first career start, sophomore Dylan Thompson threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns to lead ninth-ranked South Carolina to a 48-10 win over East Carolina on September 8, 2012. Thompson completed 21-of-37 passes, helping the Gamecocks amass 528 yards of offense. Carolina had 11 different receivers catch a pass in the contest. South Carolina led 21-0 at the intermission and held a 41-3 lead in the fourth quarter.

STEPPING UP: Fifth-year senior Dylan Thompson takes over as the starting signal-caller for the Gamecocks in 2014. Thompson has waited patiently for his turn behind Connor Shaw, the winningest quarterback in school history. The 6-3, 218-pounder from Boiling Springs, who proposed marriage to his girlfriend at midfield in August, is 3-1 as a starter, recording wins against East Carolina and at Clemson in 2012, and at Missouri in 2013 before suffering his first loss in the 2014 season opener against Texas A&M. He has thrown for over 300 yards in three of his four starts, and has thrown at least three touchdowns in three of his four starts. He also threw the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the 2013 Outback Bowl win over Michigan. In the 2104 season opener against Texas A&M, Thompson connected on 20-of-40 passes for a career-high 366 yards, the ninth-highest single-game mark in school history, and a career-high four touchdowns. For his career, he has completed 54.3 percent of his passes (140-for-258) for 2,193 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions.

LIFE AFTER 40: Dylan Thompson completed two TD passes of 40 or more yards (69 to Nick Jones and 46 to Damiere Byrd) against Texas A&M. It was the first time a Gamecock quarterback had accomplished that feat since Blake Mitchell found Kenny McKinley on a pair of 43-yard TD strikes in the 2006 Liberty Bowl against Houston. Seven of Thompson’s 20 completions against the Aggies went for 20-or-more yards.

A SPECIAL FRIENDSHIP: Fifth-year seniors quarterback Dylan Thompson and offensive guard A.J. Cann have developed a special bond. Not only are they great friends and roommates, but they also spent a week over the summer together in Israel, where they were able to teach some of the locals about football. The once in a lifetime experience was one they will both remember forever.

HE IS NOT ALONE: Although Mike Davis has received the lion’s share of the publicity, he is not the only capable runner in the Gamecock backfield. Junior Brandon Wilds (6-2, 230) has 752 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 159 career carries. Wilds made the start in the season opener against Texas A&M and carried nine times for 45 yards. As a true freshman in 2011, he started the year as the fifth-team tailback, but as injuries mounted, he climbed the depth chart and posted three 100-yard rushing games, including a career-high 137 against Tennessee. Junior Shon Carson (5-8, 201), who has also dabbled a little in baseball during his Carolina career, possesses a burst, as witnessed by his 58-yard carry against Florida last season. He was also used as the kick returner in the opener against Texas A&M. Gamecock coaches believe redshirt freshman David Williams (6-1, 222) has the size and speed to be the long-term answer at tailback. He is still looking for his first collegiate carry.

NOTHING CATCHY ABOUT THIS: The Gamecocks feature four wide receivers that are expected to receive the bulk of the action:

Junior Shaq Roland (6-1, 176), a former “Mr. Football” in the state of South Carolina (following in the footsteps of Stephon Gilmore, Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney), is the most gifted of the bunch. He came on strong at the end of his sophomore season, posting a career-high 112 receiving yards on six catches in the 2014 Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin.

Senior Nick “Governor Nicky” Jones (5-7, 168), has been consistent and sometimes overlooked throughout his Carolina career. He just has a knack for getting open and catching the ball. He logged the first 100-yard receiving of his career against Texas A&M, catching five passes for a career-best 113 yards and two touchdowns, including a 69-yard TD reception.

Senior Damiere Byrd (5-9, 170) is the fastest Gamecock and one of the fastest players in the SEC. He has eight career receptions of 40 yards or more, including a 46-yard TD catch against Texas A&M, is a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and was a captain on the Gamecocks’ track & field squad.

Sophomore Pharoh Cooper (5-11, 201) was an All-SEC Freshman selection last season as both an all-purpose back and return specialist. He had three catches in the season opener against Texas A&M, doubling his career total. He also saw some action at the “Wildcat” position against the Aggies.

STELLAR TIGHT ENDS: The Gamecocks are blessed with a pair of standout tight ends. Senior Rory “Busta” Anderson (6-5, 227) is an All-SEC candidate. Anderson has averaged 17.8 yards per catch with eight touchdowns in his career. He suffered a torn triceps muscle late in spring drills but worked his way back and caught three passes for 52 yards in the opener against Texas A&M. Junior Jerell Adams (6-6, 242) has averaged 16.7 yards per catch and had three scores in his first two campaigns. He had two catches for 40 yards against A&M. Senior Cody Gibson (6-7, 278) made the conversion to tight end this fall after spending his career at tackle. Drew Owens and Brendan Nosovitch could also see action at tight end.

90 IS THE NEW 78: Fifth-year senior Cody Gibson made the transition this fall from offensive tackle, where he worked during his first four seasons at South Carolina, to tight end. He changed his number to 90 from 78. He is expected to see action primarily in two-tight end sets.

IMPRESSIVE O-LINE: The Gamecocks feature what many believe may be the best offensive line in school history. Senior left guard A.J. Cann (6-4, 311) is the anchor. He has made 39 career starts, the most on the squad, and has been named to five preseason first-team All-America squads. Senior left tackle Corey Robinson (6-8, 344) has made 23 starts and was a second-team preseason All-SEC pick by both the media and coaches. Junior right tackle Brandon Shell (6-6, 333) has made 24 career starts and was a preseason third-team All-SEC selection by the league’s 14 coaches. Center Clayton Stadnik (8 starts) and right guard Cody Waldrop (7 starts) both gained experience last season as redshirt freshmen. The quintet has combined for 101 career starts.

SHARING THE WEALTH: The Gamecocks distributed their tackles fairly evenly last season, with nine players recording between 39 and 56 tackles. Six of the top eight tacklers return, led by Skai Moore (56) and Kaiwan Lewis (54). That trend seemed to continue in the opener against Texas A&M, as six players had between six and eight tackles, and another four players logged five stops. Chris Moody led the way with eight tackles, including seven solos.

THE SKAI’S THE LIMIT: The best linebacker in the SEC that no one has heard about may be sophomore Skai Moore. The 6-2, 213-pounder from Cooper City, Fla. led the Gamecocks in both tackles (56) and interceptions (4) as a true freshman in 2013, despite starting just four games. He logged six tackles, all solo stops, in the season opener against Texas A&M, including the Gamecocks’ lone sack.

YOUNG BUCKS: Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has been impressed by several true freshmen on the defensive side of the ball. Al Harris Jr., whose father Al Harris was an NFL Pro Bowl cornerback, is slated to be a starter at one cornerback position. Wesley Green and Chris Lammons did not arrive on campus until August, but project to see playing time at corner as well this season after the Gamecocks lost both starting corners from a year ago, Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree. Despite the entire stable of linebackers returning in tact, Bryson Allen-Williams figures to see significant action this season as well, especially when Carolina lines up in a 3-4 defense.

LEADER IN THE SECONDARY: Senior Brison Williams is the unquestioned leader in the secondary. The 5-11, 208-pound senior from Warner Robins, Ga., has played both safety positions during his Gamecock career, but will slide over to corner to start the 2014 campaign. He has started 25 times in his career. He logged seven solo tackles against Texas A&M.

THE FRISCO KID: Elliott Fry walked on to the Gamecock squad last summer and earned the starting placekicking chores. The Frisco, Texas product went 15-for-18 in field goal attempts and was successful on 54-of-55 extra point attempts for a team-leading 99 points, earning Freshman All-SEC accolades. His 99 points were the fourth-highest single-season total in school history. He missed his only field goal attempt in the opener against A&M, but that came from 54 yards out.

HULL OF A PUNTER: Senior Tyler Hull will handle the punting chores for Carolina for a third-straight season. He has averaged 38.7 yards on 100 punts throughout his career. He had a solid season opener against Texas A&M, punting four times for a 44.0-yard average.

UP NEXT: Carolina wraps up its three-game season-opening homestand on Saturday, September 13, when the Gamecocks host the Georgia Bulldogs in an SEC Eastern Division showdown. The 3:30 p.m. contest will be televised nationally on CBS, the Gamecocks’ first appearance on CBS since the Arkansas game in 2012. Georgia leads the all-time series, 47-17-2, including a 19-9-2 advantage in games played in Columbia, but the Gamecocks have won three of the last four. Last season, the Bulldogs pulled out a wild 41-30 win in Athens.