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Oct. 24, 2014

South Carolina Notes

DATE: Saturday, October 25
KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m. ET
LOCATION: Auburn, Ala.
STADIUM: Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
SERIES: Auburn leads 9-1-1
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: Flagship – 107.5 FM “The Game” & the IMG Network

The South Carolina Gamecocks (4-3, 2-3 SEC) return to SEC action on Saturday, October 25, traveling to the Plains to take on the No. 5/6 Auburn Tigers (5-1, 2-1 SEC). Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. ET (6:30 p.m. CT) at Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451). The game will be televised nationally on the SEC Network with Brent Musberger and Jesse Palmer in the booth and Maria Taylor on the sidelines.

A South Carolina win over Auburn would…
Snap the Gamecocks two-game conference losing streak. The Gamecocks have dropped their last two SEC games to Missouri and Kentucky. The Gamecocks have not lost three-straight league games since the final three SEC contests of the 2009 season (Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida).

Give the Gamecocks their first win ever at Auburn. South Carolina is 0-3 in games played on Auburn’s home field.

Match Carolina’s second-best road win in history, according to the Associated Press Rankings.

Snap the Tigers’ seven-game winning streak in the series. South Carolina’s last (and only) win in the previous 11 contests with Auburn came in Birmingham in 1933.

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 580-550-44. 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 43-34 (.558) in conference play since Coach Spurrier took the reins, including a 20-9 (.690) mark since 2011.

CAROLINA VS. AUBURN: This is the 12th gridiron meeting between South Carolina and Auburn in a series that dates back to 1930. The Tigers hold a 9-1-1 lead in the series, including a 3-0 advantage in Auburn. The Tigers have won all seven meetings between the two squads since Carolina joined the SEC, including a 16-13 win in Columbia in 2011, the last time the two teams met. The Gamecocks’ lone win came on Dec. 2, 1933 by a 16-14 count in Birmingham.

SPURRIER VS. AUBURN: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier owns a 10-8 all-time record against Auburn, including an 0-5 mark as head coach at South Carolina. He has lost his last six decisions to the Tigers since a 28-6 win in the 2000 SEC Championship Game.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Auburn’s Philip Lutzenkirchen hauled in a 9-yard pass from Barrett Trotter with 1:38 left in the game to lift the Tigers to a 16-13 win over #10/9 South Carolina on Oct. 1, 2011 at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Tigers ran 92 plays and held the ball for nearly 36 minutes in the contest. Michael Dyer led the Tigers with a game-high 141 yards rushing on a school-record 41 carries. The defenses combined to force eight turnovers. The Gamecocks were led by quarterback Stephen Garcia (9-23-2-160), tailback Marcus Lattimore (17-66, 1 TD) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (5-86, 1 TD). Carolina won a school-record 18 consecutive home games after that loss to Auburn before falling in the 2014 season opening loss to Texas A&M.

THEN AND NOW: Four Gamecocks that started against Auburn in 2011 – wide receivers Damiere Byrd and Nick Jones, left tackle Mike Matulis and left guard A.J. Cann – are still on the squad. Other current Gamecocks who saw action in that contest include Rory Anderson, Cody Gibson, Sharrod Golightly, Kadetrix Marcus, Brandon Wilds and Brison Williams.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET IN AUBURN: Cam Newton and the 17th-ranked Tigers scored 14 fourth-quarter points to pull out a 35-27 win over No. 12 South Carolina on Sept. 25, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Newton rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns and completed 16-of-21 passes for 158 yards and two more scores. The Gamecocks opened up a 20-7 lead midway through the second quarter on the strength of a pair of Alshon Jeffery TD catches. Jeffery finished the game with eight receptions for 192 yards. Auburn dominated the running game, collecting 334 rushing yards to just 79 for Carolina. The Gamecocks responded with 305 passing yards, but committed four fourth-quarter turnovers.

ROLLERCOASTER RIDE: The Gamecocks opened the 2014 campaign ranked ninth in both national polls. It marked the first time in school history that Carolina has been ranked in the Associated Press’ preseason Top-25 in four straight seasons. Only five schools – Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, South Carolina and LSU – have been in preseason A.P. Top-12 each of last four years. In what has been an up-and-down first half of the season, the Gamecocks spent the first five weeks in the nation’s Top-25, extending their streak to a school-record 69 consecutive polls, but have not been ranked in each of the last three polls. Only Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma and Stanford had streaks as long as Carolina before it fell out of the Top-25 after a loss to Missouri.

THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks got back on the winning track with a 41-10 win over FCS instate rival Furman last Saturday in Columbia. The Gamecocks garnered a season-high 548 yards of offense, 267 on the ground and 281 through the air, in rolling to the victory. Mike Davis (111) and David Williams (110) each went over the 100-yard rushing mark, while Shon Carson added 85 on the ground on just seven carries. Dylan Thompson completed 14-of-22 passes for 262 yards and two scores. The Carolina defense forced three turnovers and limited the Paladins to just 91 yards through the air.

THAT’S A LOT OF O: The Gamecocks rolled up a season-high 548 yards of offense against Furman. That was the fourth-highest single-game total in the Steve Spurrier Era at South Carolina, and the 13th time the squad has eclipsed the 500-yard plateau under the Head Ball Coach.

BACK-TO-BACK: The Gamecocks totaled 500 yards at Kentucky before collecting a season-high 548 yards against Furman. It’s the first time Carolina has had back-to-back games of 500-plus yards since defeating East Carolina (528) and UAB (501) in the 2012 season. The last time South Carolina had three-straight games of 500 total yards came in the 1995 season versus Kent (544), Mississippi State (652) and Vanderbilt (508).

REACHING THE CENTURY MARK: Mike Davis (111) and David Williams (110) each went over the 100-yard rushing plateau against Furman. It’s the first time Carolina has had two backs eclipse the 100-yard barrier since Cory Boyd (132) and Mike Davis (102) accomplished the feat against South Carolina State on September 15, 2007. Shon Carson (85) nearly gave the Gamecocks three 100-yard rushers in game, something that has been done just once in school history – 1995 versus Navy (Thomas Dendy-156; Anthony Smith-123; and Mike Hold-104).

MAKING A POINT: Just over halfway through the season, the Gamecocks are averaging 35.1 points per game. That puts them just slightly ahead of the record-setting mark of 34.1 points per game, set last season.

ROAD WARRIORS: Carolina is 1-1 on the road this season. The Gamecocks are 13-6 in their last 19 true road contests. Four of the six 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 and at unranked Kentucky in 2014.

IN THE ZONE: The Gamecocks have scored on 27-of-28 possessions in the redzone, with 19 touchdowns and seven field goals. That’s a 96.4 percent scoring rate, the SEC’s best mark and the nation’s third-best mark.

THROWIN’ IN THE WIND: Fifth-year senior Dylan Thompson has taken virtually every meaningful snap for the Gamecocks this season. Thompson, a 6-3, 218-pounder from Boiling Springs, S.C., waited patiently for his turn behind Connor Shaw, the winningest quarterback in school history. It’s already been a big year for Thompson, as he proposed marriage to his girlfriend at midfield in August. Thompson is 7-3 as a starter, is one of only 13 players in school history to throw for over 3,000 yards and has moved into 10th place on the all-time list with 3,666 passing yards. He has thrown for over 300 yards in a game on three occasions and has thrown at least three touchdown passes in a game three times.

THOMPSON IN 2014: Dylan Thompson has completed 61.3 percent of his passes this season (146-for-238) for 1,839 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ranks third in the SEC in passing yards per game (262.7) and sixth in total offense (260.0). His best game came when he threw for a career-high 366 yards with a career-high four touchdowns against Texas A&M. The 366 yards ranks as the ninth-best single-game performance in school history.

BE LIKE MIKE: Junior tailback Mike Davis is starting to play like the player that 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. This year, he has four 100-yard rushing games, posting an 18-carry, 101-yard, 2 TD effort against East Carolina, carrying 22 times for 104 yards and a score against Missouri, going for a career-high 183 yards on 23 carries with three scores at Kentucky, then rumbling for 111 yards and 2 TDs on 18 carries against Furman. For the season, he has rushed 121 times for 662 yards and a team-high eight scores. In his third season at Carolina, he became the 16th player in school history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a career. Davis is the younger brother of former Clemson standout James Davis.

A SOLID SIX-PACK: Mike Davis has logged 11 100-yard rushing games in his career, tying him with Brandon Bennett, Harold Green and Marcus Lattimore for second on the all-time list behind only George Rogers

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

Sophomore Pharoh Cooper (5-11, 201) was an All-SEC Freshman selection last season as both an all-purpose back and return specialist. He is the Gamecocks’ top pass catcher with 33 receptions (4.7/game, 7th in the SEC), with 426 receiving yards (60.9/game, 9th in the SEC) and with four touchdown receptions. He had a breakout game at Vanderbilt, catching 10 passes for 114 yards, both career highs. He added six catches for 83 yards and a score at Kentucky. He has also seen action at the “Wildcat” position, rushing 10 times for 96 yards, and handles the punt return duties. He has two carries in his career of 70 yards or more.

Fifth-year 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 scores, including a 69-yard TD reception. He is second on the squad in receptions (27), receiving yards (363) and touchdown receptions (3).

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 East Carolina. He is fourth on the squad with 17 catches for 225 yards and three scores.

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, is a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy and was a captain on the Gamecocks’ track & field squad. He had four catches at Kentucky, doubling his season total, while two of his nine receptions have gone for touchdowns.

CANN DO: Senior left guard A.J. Cann made his 45th career start at Kentucky. He is one of only 11 players in school history to make 40 or more starts for the Garnet & Black.

No. Player Starts 1. T.J. Johnson (2009-12) 53
2. Cliff Matthews (2007-10) 47
3. Travelle Wharton (2000-03) 45
Ladi Ajiboye (2007-10) 45
Devin Taylor (2009-12) 45
A.J. Cann (2011-14) 45

THE SKAI’S THE LIMIT: Skai Moore, a 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. This season, he was named to Phil Steele’s Midseason All-SEC second team. He has led the team in tackles three times with seven stops against East Carolina, a career-best 10 vs. Georgia and nine more tackles at Kentucky.

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, and has spent the bulk of the 2014 season at cornerback. He has started 31 times in his career. He is sixth on the team with 20 tackles, including 17 solo stops, and has a team-high five pass breakups. He turned the Vandy game around with his 53-yard interception return for a touchdown.

THE FRISCO KID: Elliott Fry continues to be a bright spot. A midseason first-team All-SEC selection by Phil Steele, Fry missed his only field goal attempt in the opener against A&M (from 54 yards out) and hasn’t missed since, converting all 12 of his attempts, just three shy of the school record, set by Collin Mackie. He went 4-for-4 against East Carolina, matching his career-best performance, and accounting for 15 points while earning SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He leads the SEC with with 12 field goals and is seventh in the country with a 92.3 percent field goal accuracy. He is second in the league in points scored by kicking, averaging 9.4 points per game. Fry walked on to the Gamecock squad last summer and earned the starting placekicking chores. The Frisco, Texas product who also deals with Type 1 diabetes, 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. The point total was the fourth-highest single-season mark in school history.

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 having his best season to date, punting 23 times for a 42.4-yard average, which ranks ninth in the SEC.

EVERY TIME OUT: The Gamecocks have had seven players start every game this season. On offense, LT Corey Robinson, LG A.J. Cann, RT Brandon Shell and QB Dylan Thompson have made every start. On defense, DT J.T. Surratt, DB Brison Williams and S T.J. Gurley have been starters in each contest.

UP NEXT: South Carolina returns home next week for another SEC Eastern Division contest when they host the Tennessee Volunteers at Williams-Brice Stadium on Satuday, November 1. It will be the 33rd meeting in a series that dates back to 1903. Tennessee leads the all-time series, 23-7-2. The Vols hold an 8-5-2 all-time mark in Columbia. South Carolina has won three of the last four meetings, but were surprised last year in Knoxville by a 23-21 score.