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Sept. 19, 2014

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South Carolina Notes

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The No. 14/16 South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1 SEC) and Vanderbilt Commodores (1-2, 0-1 SEC) meet in an SEC Eastern Division showdown at Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350) in Nashville on Saturday, September 20. The 7:30 p.m. ET (6:30 local) game will be televised nationally on the SEC Network with Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer in the booth and Maria Taylor 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 20
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Nashville, Tenn.
Stadium: Vanderbilt Stadium (40,350)
Series: South Carolina leads 19-4
TV: SEC Network
RADIO Flagship – 107.5 FM “The Game” & the IMG Network

A South Carolina win over Vanderbilt would…
Be Steve Spurrier’s 202nd win as an SEC head coach, passing Georgia legend Vince Dooley for sole possession of second on the all-time list. He currently has 201 career victories as an SEC head coach, 122 at Florida and 79 at South Carolina. Only Paul “Bear” Bryant (292) has won more as an SEC head coach.

Be its sixth-straight over the Commodores. The Gamecocks have won five straight, 12 of the last 14 and 19 of the previous 23 meetings with Vanderbilt.

Improve head coach Steve Spurrier’s record over Vanderbilt to 20-2. His 19 wins against Vanderbilt trails only his 20 career victories over Kentucky in wins over any opponent.

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 owns an all-time record of 578-548-44. The Gamecocks were nine games under .500 until head coach Steve Spurrier took the reins in 2005, but are 39 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 is 42-32 (.567) in conference play since Coach Spurrier took the reins, including a 19-7 mark over the last four years.

CAROLINA VS. VANDERBILT: This is the 24th all-time meeting between South Carolina and Vanderbilt, with the Gamecocks holding a 19-4 advantage, including a 10-2 record when the games have been played in Nashville and a 9-2 mark when the teams have met in Columbia. In the previous 23 outings, Vanderbilt has tallied more than 17 points just four times (24 in 2003, an all-time high 28 in 2005, 24 in 2008 and 25 in 2013). The Gamecocks won last year’s meeting in Columbia by a 35-25 count and won by a 17-13 score in 2012 on their last trip to Nashville. The Gamecocks have won five straight in the series and 12 of the last 14. In those last five wins, Carolina has surrendered just 58 total points. Vandy’s four wins have come in back-to-back fashion on two occasions – first in 1998 and `99, then again in 2007 and `08. Those four wins have been by a combined total of 22 points. The teams met just once (1961) before they became SEC Eastern Division rivals beginning in 1992, and have met every year since. Of the Division I FBS opponents against whom the Gamecocks have at least 10 all-time meetings, Carolina has its best winning percentage against Vanderbilt at .826.

SPURRIER VS. VANDERBILT: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 19-2 all-time record against Vanderbilt, including a 7-2 mark as head coach at South Carolina. He was a perfect 10-0 against the Commodores while head coach at Florida from 1990-2001, and bested Vanderbilt twice in 1987 and 1988 while head coach at Duke. The only team Coach Spurrier has defeated more often than Vanderbilt in his career is Kentucky (20-1).

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Behind senior quarterback Connor Shaw’s 368 yards of total offense, South Carolina held on to defeat Vanderbilt 35-25 on Sept. 14, 2013 at Williams-Brice Stadium. Shaw threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns on 21-for-29 passing while also leading the Gamecocks in rushing with 84 yards on 19 carries. Junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington hauled in eight catches for 111 yards and a score, while sophomore running back Mike Davis added 144 all-purpose yards (77 rushing, 67 receiving) in the victory. The Gamecocks opened up a 35-10 lead entering the final period, but Vandy made it interesting with a pair of quick touchdowns early in the 4th quarter. Jimmy Legree picked off a pass at the goal line with just under nine minutes remaining and Carolina put together a 17-play drive that consumed nearly eight minutes to basically run out the clock and preserve the victory.

THE LAST TIME IN NASHVILLE: The Gamecocks opened the 2012 season with a hard-fought 17-13 win at SEC Eastern Division rival Vanderbilt on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. The Gamecocks survived two turnovers on their first three plays from scrimmage and took a 10-0 advantage early in the second quarter. The Commodores rallied back to take a 13-10 lead heading into the final stanza. Carolina was able to put together a nine-play, 66-yard drive that culminated in a Marcus Lattimore one-yard plunge to go on top 17-13 early in the fourth quarter, and held on for the win. The Gamecock defense limited Vandy to just 17 yards in the final period. Lattimore led the Carolina offense with 110 yards rushing and two scores, earning SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors, while quarterback Connor Shaw carried 14 times for 92 yards as the Gamecocks rolled up 205 yards on the ground. Senior linebacker Shaq Wilson tied for the team lead with eight tackles and also logged a key interception. Carolina recorded five sacks that night.

ROAD WARRIORS: This is Carolina’s first road game of the 2014 campaign. 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 in 2013.

THE LAST TIME OUT: No. 24/23 South Carolina surprised No. 6/6 Georgia by a 38-35 score last Saturday in Columbia. Dylan Thompson completed 21-of-30 passes for 271 yards and three TDs. Brandon Wilds (93) and Mike Davis (66) combined for 159 rushing yards. The Gamecocks put together four touchdown drives of exactly 75 yards. Skai Moore led the Carolina defense with 10 tackles. The Bulldogs had a chance to take the lead late in the contest after gaining a turnover, but the Carolina defense stiffened after facing a first-and-goal at the four, holding the Dawgs scoreless and preserving the victory.

LONG DRIVE CONTEST: The Gamecocks have put together 17 scoring drives this season, culminating in 12 touchdowns and five field goals. Ten of the 17 drives have been 75 yards or longer. Only two drives have started on the opponents’ half of the field.

FIRST START: Five Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season. Three players, 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. Center Alan Knott and safety Chris Moody both made their first start against East Carolina.

STEPPING UP: Fifth-year senior Dylan Thompson is 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 5-1 as a starter in his career. He has thrown for over 300 yards in three of his six career starts, and has thrown at least three touchdowns in four of those 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. He was more efficient against East Carolina, connecting on 25-of-38 for 266 yards. He was 21-for-30 with three TDs against Georgia. After three weeks, he ranks fourth in the SEC averaging 301.0 yards passing per game and is fifth with 304.0 yards of total offense per game. He has thrown eight touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 61.1 percent of his passes. For his career, he has completed 57.1 percent of his passes (186-for-326) for 2,730 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight INTs.

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.

BE LIKE MIKE: Junior tailback Mike Davis has earned preseason All-America recognition. The 5-9, 223-pounder from Atlanta, Ga., logged the fourth-most single-season rushing yards in school history last season when he rambled for 1,183 yards with 11 touchdowns. He was limited to six carries for 15 yards in the opener against Texas A&M before leaving with bruised ribs, but bounced back with an 18-carry, 101-yard, 2 TD effort against East Carolina. He had 16 carries for 66 yards against Georgia. For the season, he has rushed 41 times for 182 yards. In his third season at Carolina, he ranks 22nd in school history with 1,640 rushing yards and owns eight 100-yard rushing games. Davis is the younger brother of former Clemson standout James Davis.

GO THE DISTANCE: Mike Davis logged four rushes of 50 yards or more in his first two seasons. He had a 50-yarder against UAB in 2012. 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. He matched that with another 75-yard sprint at Georgia. 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.

AGAIN AND AGAIN: Only 11 players in South Carolina history have eight or more games of 100-yard rushing in their career. That list now includes Mike Davis:

Player 100 Yd Games
George Rogers 27
Brandon Bennett 11
Harold Green 11
Marcus Lattimore 11
Steve Wadiak 10
Duce Staley 9
Derek Watson 9
Thomas Dendy 8
Jay Lynn Hodgin 8
Clarence Williams 8
Mike Davis 8

RUNNING WILDS: 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) actually leads the squad in rushing after three games with 187 yards on 37 attempts, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. For his career, he has 894 yards and seven touchdowns on 187 rushes. 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. He had a 2014 season-high 93 yards rushing in the win over Georgia.

NOTHING CATCHY ABOUT THIS: The Gamecocks feature four wide receivers that 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 receiving corps. 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. He had a career-high seven catches for 94 yards against ECU. He is second on the squad with a dozen catches for 143 yards and one score.

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 game 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. He leads the team and ranks among the SEC’s top-10 in both receptions per game (4.7-T8th) and receiving yards per game (81.3-6th) after three contests.

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, matching his career total, and topped that with five receptions against ECU. He has also seen some action at the “Wildcat” position.

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 17.3 yards per catch with nine 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. He had a big day against Georgia with five catches for 67 yards and a score. Junior Jerell Adams (6-6, 242) has averaged 16.6 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 could also see action at tight end.

THREE OF THE BEST: The Gamecocks feature what many believe may be the best offensive line in school history, led by three veterans. Senior left guard A.J. Cann (6-4, 311) is the anchor. He has made 41 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 25 starts and was a second-team preseason All-SEC pick by both the media and coaches. He was the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance against Georgia. Redshirt junior right tackle Brandon Shell (6-6, 333) has made 26 career starts and was a preseason third-team All-SEC selection by the league’s 14 coaches.

CANN DO: Senior left guard A.J. Cann made his 41st career start against Georgia. He is one of only 11 players in school history to make 40 or more starts for the Garnet & Black.

LIFE WITHOUT CLOWNEY: Senior defensive tackle J.T. Surratt (6-2, 310) is the leader of the defensive line. He is the only returning starter along the front four, as Carolina replaced Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton, the first two of whom earned All-America honors. Surratt and Gerald Dixon are the Gamecocks’ active leaders in career sack with 2.0. In fact, the entire current roster has combined for just 15.0 sacks, well short of Clowney’s career total of 24.0. The Gamecocks had 2.0 sacks against Georgia after notching just one in the first two games combined.

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, and has led the team in tackles in each of the last two games with seven stops against East Carolina and a career-best 10 vs. Georgia.

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 has moved over to corner to start the 2014 campaign. He has started 27 times in his career. He is tied for fourth on the team with a dozen tackles, all solo stops.

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. He rebounded against East Carolina, going 4-for-4 in field goals, matching his career-best performance, and accounting for 15 points while earning SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He hit again from 32-yards out against Georgia, giving him a streak of five in a row. He is tied for sixth in the SEC in points scored by kicking, averaging 9.0 points per game.

HULL OF A PUNTER: Senior Tyler Hull handles the punting chores for Carolina for a third-straight season. He averaged 39.4 yards as a sophomore and 37.8 yards as a junior. He is off to a better start this season, punting seven times for a 44.1-yard average, which ranks fifth in the SEC.

UP NEXT: Carolina will return home next week to host the Missouri Tigers in the annual Parent’s Weekend game. Game time is set for 7 p.m. ET at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. The teams have evenly split the four games played previously. Missouri won a pair of bowl games, the 1979 Hall of Fame Bowl and the 2005 Independence Bowl. The Gamecocks have won each of the two meetings as SEC Eastern Division rivals, 31-10 in South Carolina in 2012 and a memorable 27-24 double-overtime win in Missouri last season.