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Nov. 27, 2015

The 2015 regular season comes to an end when the South Carolina Gamecocks (3-8) host the #1/1 Clemson Tigers (11-0) in the annual Palmetto Bowl on Saturday, November 28. Game time is set for Noon ET. ESPN will televise the game nationally, with Dave LaMont and Ray Bentley in the booth and Jeannine Edwards on the sidelines.

A HISTORY LESSON: 2015 marks the 122nd season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 109th-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 25 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 586-561-44. The Gamecocks were 10 games under .500 through the 2003 season, but are 35 games over .500 since the start of the `04 campaign.

SEC, SEC: South Carolina is in its 24th year of football in the Southeastern Conference. 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 45-43 (.511) in conference play since that time, including a 22-18 mark (.550) since the start of the 2011 season.

CAROLINA VS. CLEMSON: This is the 113th 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 107 straight meetings, behind only Minnesota vs. Wisconsin. The Tigers hold a 66-42-4 advantage, including a 49-32-3 advantage in Columbia and a 17-10-1 lead in Clemson. However, the Gamecocks have won five of the last six and seven of the last nine meetings. Carolina has won the last three times the teams have met at Williams-Brice Stadium, all by at least two touchdowns, posting a 34-17 win in 2009, a 34-13 victory in 2011 and a 31-17 win in 2013.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Gamecocks saw their five-game winning streak over Clemson snapped on November 27, 2014 at Memorial Stadium, dropping a 35-17 decision to the #23/24 Tigers. Clemson was able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to claim a sizable 491-339 advantage in total yardage, including 221 yards on the ground. Dylan Thompson completed 21-of-39 passes for 249 yards, but the Gamecocks could only generate 63 yards on 33 carries.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: No. 10/9 South Carolina forced a half-dozen Clemson turnovers, turning three of them into touchdowns, as the Gamecocks won for the fifth-straight time over the #6/4 Tigers, 31-17 in Columbia on November 30, 2013. The game was deadlocked at 17 heading into the final period, but Mike Davis scored on a two-yard run to cap a drive that took over six minutes off the clock, then Brandon Wilds scored on a 26-yard pass from Pharoh Cooper to seal the win. Connor Shaw posted 246 yards of total offense, including 94 on the ground, while All-American Kelcy Quarles led the defense with 2.5 sacks. Skai Moore had a fumble recovery and an interception in the contest.

TIME IS OUR ON SIDE: In the five-game winning streak from 2009-13, the Gamecocks dominated the time of possession. Carolina held the ball for 186:38 of the clock (37:20/game), compared to just 113:22 for the Tigers (22:40/game). In Clemson’s win last season, the Tigers narrowed that gap considerably, although the Gamecocks still had an advantage.

DID YOU KNOW… Pharoh Cooper has completed 3-of-4 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Tigers.

ELLIOTT IN CHARGE: The Gamecocks are 1-4 under the direction of interim head coach Shawn Elliott. Elliott, a 1996 graduate of Appalachian State and a Camden, S.C. native, was promoted to his current position by Athletics Director Ray Tanner on October 13, following the resignation of Steve Spurrier. Elliott is in his sixth season at South Carolina and served as the offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator before his promotion. Prior to coming to Columbia, Elliott coached at Appalachian State, where he helped the Mountaineers to three-straight national championships (2005-07).

SENIOR SALUTE: Sixteen Gamecock seniors will be playing in their last game in the Garnet & Black at Williams-Brice Stadium this week. The list includes: Jerell Adams, Landon Ard, Shon Carson, Cedrick Cooper, Gerald Dixon, Gerald Dixon Jr., Phillip Dukes, Garrison Gist, T.J. Gurley, Carlton Heard, Shamier Jeffery, Isaiah Johnson, Mike Matulis, Brandon Shell, Will Sport and Brandon Wilds.

NON-CONFERENCE WINS: South Carolina has won 21 of its last 23 non-conference games. The Gamecocks had their 18-game non-conference winning streak snapped in the 2014 regular season finale at Clemson, then lost last week to The Citadel. Prior to the Clemson loss, Carolina’s last non-conference loss came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

NON-CON WINS AT HOME: South Carolina had won 22-straight home games against non-conference opponents until last week’s upset loss to The Citadel. Prior to that game, the last home loss to a non-conference team was to Clemson in the 2007 regular-season finale.

CAROLINA VS. THE ACC: South Carolina has won eight of its last 10 games against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference since the beginning of the 2009 season: Clemson (5-1), North Carolina (2-0), NC State (1-0), Florida State (0-1).

PLAYING THE BEST: Clemson enters this week’s contest as the nation’s No. 1 team, according to the Associated Press. The Gamecocks are 1-4 when playing the top-ranked team in the country, according to the AP poll.

THE LAST TIME OUT: The Gamecocks hosted the Southern Conference co-champion Citadel Bulldogs last Saturday and came up on the short end of a 23-22 decision. Quarterback Perry Orth had a career day, completing 28-of-43 passes for 367 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Bulldogs’ 350 yards on the ground. Pharoh Cooper (11 catches for 191 yards) and Jerell Adams (6 for 105) each went over the 100-yard mark in receiving yards, but the Gamecocks could only muster 72 yards on the ground and had to settle for three Elliott Fry field goals in the first half.

AIRING IT OUT: The Gamecocks produced a pair of 100-yard receivers against The Citadel, with Pharoh Cooper catching 11 passes for 191 yards and Jerell Adams adding six catches for 105. It was the first time Carolina had two receivers eclipse the 100-yard mark since Bruce Ellington (140) and Shaq Roland (112) did so in the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2014.

INTO THE RECORD BOOKS: Perry Orth threw for a career-high 367 yards against The Citadel, the ninth-highest single-game total in school history. Pharoh Cooper had 11 receptions, tying for the eighth-highest single-game total, while his 191 receiving yards tied for the sixth-best single-game mark in Carolina history. Cooper now has 887 receiving yards this season, the ninth-highest single-season mark in school history, with one game to play.

GET THIS PARTY STARTED: The Gamecocks went into the locker room at Texas A&M tied at the half. It was the only time this season they have not trailed heading into intermission. The last time Carolina led going into the locker room after 30 minutes was in the 2014 Duck Commander Independence Bowl when the Gamecocks held a 17-6 advantage over Miami (Fla.). However, Carolina has outscored its opponents 134-111 in the second half of games this season.

NEED TO WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE: The Gamecocks are 3-1 when they have won the turnover battle, with their only setback coming at Tennessee when having fewer turnovers. They are 0-4 when even in turnovers and 0-3 when committing more turnovers. For the season, they are plus-3 (17 gained, 14 lost). They forced a season-high five turnovers against Vanderbilt.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Gamecocks are 24-6 in their last 30 home games (.800) and 40-9 (.816) in their last 49 home games. Carolina had its school-record 18-game home winning streak snapped in the 2014 season opener. The school’s previous longest home winning streak was 15 games, set from 1978-80.

EVERY TIME OUT: The Gamecocks have had six players start every game this season, including Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Shell and Will Sport and on offense, and Gerald Dixon Jr., Marquavius Lewis and Isaiah Johnson on defense.

FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Nineteen Gamecocks have made their first career starts this season. Carlton Heard, Marquavius Lewis, Connor Mitch, Deebo Samuel and Taylor Stallworth did so in the season-opening win over North Carolina. Larenz Bryant earned the start for the first time in his career against Kentucky. Terry Googer and Perry Orth made their first career starts at Georgia. Those who earned their first start against UCF were Jacob August, Zack Bailey, D.J. Neal, Lorenzo Nuñez and Dante Sawyer. Matrick Belton made his first start at Missouri and David Williams got the start at LSU. Boosie Whitlow got the start versus Vanderbilt and Hayden Hurst made his first start vs. Florida. True freshmen Blake Camper and Kyle Markway made their first collegiate starts vs. The Citadel.

IT’S A GAME OF SKILL: The Gamecocks have started 14 players at the skill positions on offense, including three quarterbacks (Connor Mitch, Perry Orth and Lorenzo Nuñez), three tailbacks (Brandon Wilds, Shon Carson and David Williams), and eight wide receivers (Pharoh Cooper, Deebo Samuel, Carlton Heard, Shamier Jeffery, Terry Googer, D.J. Neal, Matrick Belton and Hayden Hurst).

THE ORTH QUAKE: Former walk-on quarterback Perry Orth, who went on scholarship prior to the start of the season, has emerged as the No. 1 signal-caller. Orth, who spent part of the summer working in a local grocery store stocking shelves to help pay for his schooling, has completed 130-of-233 passes (55.8 percent) for 1,710 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. He is 1-6 as a starting quarterback.

OH PERRY: Perry Orth entered the 2015 season having completed just 1-of-3 passes for five yards. The redshirt junior’s first extensive duty came in relief of the injured Connor Mitch against Kentucky, where he responded by completing 13-of-20 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He made his first career start at Georgia, where he completed 6-of-17 passes for 66 yards with an interception. His second start was much better, as he hit on 14-of-28 passes for 200 yards with two touchdowns and an interception at LSU. He was even better in his next start against Vanderbilt, completing 17-of-28 for 272 yards with a touchdown and an interception, including a career-long 78-yard touchdown pass. He completed 15-of-24 passes for 192 yards with two picks, and rushed 11 times for a career-high 64 yards, including a 66-yarder at Texas A&M. At Tennessee, he threw for 233 yards while logging then-career-highs with 20 completions, 39 attempts, and three touchdown passes. He threw for 163 yards and a TD vs. Florida, then had a career day last week against The Citadel completing 28-of-43 passes for 367 yards, all career highs, with a touchdown and no turnovers. Orth ranks 10th in the SEC in both passing yards and total offense.

RUNNIN’ WILDS: Fifth-year senior Brandon Wilds has been a workhorse since his return from a stretch in which he missed three consecutive games with a rib injury. The 6-2, 220-pounder carried a season-high 24 times for 119 yards in a win over Vanderbilt, then came back with a 17-carry, season-high 128-yard, two touchdown effort at Texas A&M before carrying 20 times for 79 yards at Tennessee. He has three 100-yard rushing games this season and seven in his career. For the season, Wilds has carried 120 times for 559 yards, a 4.7-yard average, with three scores in eight games.

MOVING UP THE CHARTS: Brandon Wilds has moved into 20th place on Carolina’s all-time list in career rushing with 1,836 yards. He needs 17 yards to move past Duce Staley and Andrew Pinnock (1,852) into 18th place and 164 yards to reach the 2,000-yard plateau for his career.

TRIPLE CROWN THREAT: Pharoh Cooper can also run and throw. He has averaged 7.8 yards per carry in his career, rushing 67 times for 523 yards with four TDs, and has completed 9-of-15 passes for 118 yards with four scores, including a 17-yard TD pass to Perry Orth against Florida this season.

2015 IS THE YEAR OF PHAROH: Pharoh Cooper ranks second in the SEC with 80.6 receiving yards per game and is fourth with 5.6 receptions per game. He has five 100-yard receiving games this season, including a school record-tying three in a row, and nine in his career.

GOOD COMPANY: Pharoh Cooper has logged 887 receiving yards this season, the ninth-best single-season mark in school history. He joins Sidney Rice, Sterling Sharpe and Kenny McKinley as Gamecocks with two of the top-10 single-season receiving totals in Carolina history.

KING TUTT_CHDOWN: Pharoh Cooper is moving up the Carolina all-time receiving lists. He is ninth in school history with 134 receptions, is eighth in receiving yards with 2,077 and is tied for sixth in touchdown receptions with 17.

ADAMS’ MARK: Senior tight end Jerell Adams, a 6-6, 231-pounder from Pinewood, S.C., had the top game of his career last week against Citadel when he logged career highs with six receptions and 105 receiving yards. He is the team’s second-leading receiver with 28 receptions for 421 yards, including three touchdowns. He has 66 career catches for 977 yards, a 14.8-yard average with seven touchdowns. Adams has also produced in the classroom, as he is a two-time member of the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll and was named the recipient of the prestigious Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student-Athlete Representative of the University of South Carolina at the 2015 Spring Game.

THE SHELL GAME: The Gamecocks’ front line is headlined by fifth-year senior left tackle Brandon Shell. Shell, a 6-6, 328-pounder from Goose Creek, S.C. who has been tabbed to some preseason All-SEC units, made the move from right tackle to left tackle this season, a position where he made his first career start (at Vanderbilt in 2012), before moving to the right side where he made 35 consecutive starts entering the 2015 season. His 47 career starts is tied with Cliff Matthews for the third-highest total in school history.

THE MIKE MAN: Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Mike Matulis adds veteran leadership up front. He has started 20 games in his career while battling shoulder and knee injuries. The 6-5, 293-pounder from Boynton Beach, Fla., was a first-team Freshman All-American in 2011, and was penciled in as the starting right guard a year ago, but suffered a left knee injury midway through fall camp and only saw limited time during the season before undergoing surgery.

GOING BOTH WAYS: Jonathan Walton has spent some time in the last three games on both sides of the ball. A linebacker throughout his career, Walton lined up in the backfield for the first time at Tennessee. The former high school running back proved he was not inserted just to block, as he caught a 10-yard touchdown pass in the contest. He has started at linebacker in each of the last two week, but also saw time in the backfield in the Gamecocks’ three-back set.

THE SKAI’S THE LIMIT: The Gamecocks top linebacker is Skai Moore. Moore, a junior from Cooper City, Fla., is on his way to leading the team in tackles for a third-straight year, as his 98 tackles is 30 more than Isaiah Johnson, who is second with 68. He became the first Gamecock to lead the team in tackles in back-to-back years since Emanuel Cook (2007-08), while the last to do it three years in a row was Tony Watkins (1992-94). The 6-2, 218-pounder who garnered Defensive MVP honors in the 2014 Independence Bowl, tallied a team-high 11 tackles and a pair of interceptions in the season opening win over North Carolina, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week accolades. It was the third time he’s logged two interceptions in a game, also in the 2014 Capital One Bowl versus Wisconsin and in 2014 against South Alabama. He had a career-high 14 stops at Texas A&M. He has recorded double-figures in tackles five times, is fourth in the SEC averaging 8.9 tackles per game and is tied for third in the SEC with four interceptions. Moore now owns 247 career tackles and 11 interceptions.

REACHING THE CENTURY MARK: Skai Moore needs just two tackles to reach the 100-tackle plateau this season. He could become the first Gamecock to cross that threshold since Jasper Brinkley tallied 107 tackles in 2006.

PICKIN’ AND GRINNIN’: Carolina linebacker Skai Moore has 11 career interceptions, including four this season, two in the opener against North Carolina and one against both Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

WAVING THE WHEAT GOODBYE: Senior safety Isaiah Johnson graduated from the University of Kansas, came to Carolina late in the summer, and quickly moved into a starting role. The 6-0, 209-pounder from Cary, N.C. was voted the Big 12 Coaches’ Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2013. He is second on the squad and 23rd in the SEC with 68 tackles, 6.2 per game.

THE FRISCO KID: Elliott Fry is 19-for-26 (73.1 pct.) in field goals this season with a career long of 52 yards. His 1.7 field goals made per game is third in the SEC and is tied for 12th in the country, while his 26 attempts is tied for second in the nation. He is tied for eighth in the SEC in scoring among kickers at 7.2 points per game. Fry, a 2015 Groza candidate, was nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, was a second-team preseason All-SEC selection by the media and a third-team choice by the league’s 14 coaches. Last season, he was a Groza Award semifinalist, connected on 18-of-25 field goals, ranked third in the SEC with 105 points, the third-highest single-season mark in school history, and was fifth in the SEC in points per game at 8.1. He was a member of the 2014 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

YOU WANT A FRY WITH THAT?: Elliott Fry has hit on 52-of-69 career field goal attempts (75.4 percent), and that percentage increases to 81.3 when he attempts from under 54-yards out (52-of-64). He has connected on 127-of-128 extra points, including a school record 121 in a row.

BOOMING ARD: Kickoff specialist Landon Ard is second in the SEC in percent of kickoffs resulting in touchbacks. Only Auburn (73 pct.) has a higher percentage than Ard’s 68.5 percent (37-of-54).

KELLY’S A HERO: Sean Kelly, a former FAU Owl and Ray Guy Award nominee ranks fifth in the SEC in punting with a 43.7-yard average, and the Gamecocks are third in the league in net punting average at 40.5. He has placed 22 inside the 20, the league’s third-highest total, with only four touchbacks. He had a 60-yard boot against North Carolina, the Gamecocks’ first punt of 60 yards or more since 2011 when Joey Scribner-Howard launched a 60-yarder at Mississippi State, then boomed a career-long 69-yarder against Florida, the second-longest punt in the SEC this season. He averaged 49.7 yards on five punts at Tennessee. The 5-10, 189-pounder from Oakland, Fla., who punted for FAU for two seasons, has punted 50 times with 13 over 50 yards.

GET HIM THE BALL: True freshman Rashad Fenton touched the ball for the first time in a college game at LSU and made it memorable. The Miami. Fla. native returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown against the Tigers. It was the first kickoff return for a score by the Gamecocks since Matthew Thomas went 95 yards against Virginia on Sept. 7, 2002. The Gamecocks rank third in the SEC in kick returns, averaging 24.1 yards.