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Gamecock Gameday: Football Hosts East Carolina On Saturday
Football  . 

Gamecock Gameday: Football Hosts East Carolina On Saturday

Sept. 16, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Gamecocks (1-1, 1-1 SEC) open the home portion of the 2016 season with a non-conference matchup with the East Carolina Pirates (2-0, 0-0 AAC) out of the American Athletic Conference. The 4 p.m. ET game at a sold-out Williams-Brice Stadium will be televised by SEC Network. Dave Neal has the play-by-play with Matt Stinchcomb handling the color commentary and Olivia Harlan working the sidelines.


2016 marks the 123rd season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 110th-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 24 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 587-563-44.


The 2016 season marks South Carolina’s 25th year in the SEC. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned the SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. The Gamecocks are 83-110-1 (.430) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 28-22 (.560) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.


This is the 19th gridiron matchup between South Carolina and East Carolina, with the Gamecocks holding a 13-5 advantage in the all-time series, including a 10-4 record when the games have been played Columbia. The schools met for the first time in 1977, then played in 11-straight seasons from 1984-94 and three more times in the `90s (`96, `97 and ’99), before renewing the rivalry three times in the current decade (`11, `12 and `14). The Gamecocks came out victorious in each of the first eight meetings before ECU won five of the next seven. South Carolina has won each of the last three contests.


The Gamecocks have come out on the winning side in each of the last three meetings between the two schools, with East Carolina’s last win coming in the 1999 season, a 21-3 win in Columbia. Carolina has tallied at least 33 points in each of their last three wins.


No. 21 South Carolina defeated East Carolina, 33-23, on September 6, 2014, at Williams-Brice Stadium, giving Head Coach Steve Spurrier his 200th win as a coach in the Southeastern Conference. Junior running back Mike Davis led the way with his eighth-career 100-yard rushing game, as he totaled 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Shane Carden led a high-octane Pirate offense, completing 32-of-46 passes for 321 yards, but was picked off twice. Dylan Thompson, the Gamecock signal-caller, had a big game of his own, hitting on 25-of-38 passes for 266 yards and a score. South Carolina put the game away with a fourth quarter, 18-play, 86-yard drive, lasting 10:33, the second-longest drive during the Spurrier era, culminating with a 20-yard field goal by Elliott Fry, his fourth field goal of the game. The teams combined for 53 first downs in the contest.


It’s not uncommon for the scoreboard operator to stay busy when these two teams meet. In fact, two of the top-four highest scoring games in South Carolina history have transpired when the Gamecocks and Pirates do battle. The 1994 game saw 98 total points scored in a 56-42 ECU win, then South Carolina returned the favor with a 56-37 win in the 2011 contest, which was played in Charlotte. The winning team has scored 31 or more points in 11 of the 18 meetings between the two schools. Here are the top combined scoring games in South Carolina history:
1. 104 at Mississippi State (65-39), Oct. 14, 1995
2. 98 vs East Carolina (42-56), Oct. 8, 1994
3. 93 vs Troy (69-24), Nov. 20, 2010
93 vs East Carolina (56-37), Sept. 3, 2011
5. 91 vs NC State (35-56), Nov. 3, 1973
91 vs Kent State (77-14), Oct. 7, 1995


East Carolina defensive line coach Deke Adams returns to Williams-Brice Stadium for this week’s game. Adams served on Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina staff from 2013-15.


A 24-0 halftime deficit was too much for the Gamecocks to overcome as they dropped an SEC road contest at Mississippi State by a 27-14 count last Saturday night in Starkville. The Gamecocks had no answer for Bulldog quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, as he completed 19-of-29 passes for 178 yards and two scores and rushed 17 times for 195 yards. Brandon McIlwain gave Carolina a second-half spark, as the freshman completed 11-of-22 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns and carried 11 times for 17 yards. Tight end Hayden Hurst contributed a career-best performance with eight catches for 68 yards. Ulric Jones (9) and Jasper Sasser (8), a pair of reserves, each logged career highs in tackles. Punter Sean Kelly had a good night as well, averaging 49.1 yards per punt, including a long of 66 yards. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for South Carolina against Mississippi State.


The Gamecocks have proven to be a second-half team early in the 2016 season. They have outscored their opponents by a 27-3 margin in the second halves of games thus far. On the other hand, the Gamecocks have yet to dent the scoreboard in the first half of their games, being outscored 34-0 in the first 30 minutes.


The Gamecock coaching staff has made some solid halftime adjustments on both sides of the ball, as the first half/second half splits don’t only show up on the scoreboard, but in the game statistics as well. Here’s a look at how the Gamecocks have fared in each half this season:
First Half – 29 Att; 48 Yds – 15-30, 130 Yds -178
Second Half – 34 Att; 107 Yds – 21-37, 266 Yds — 373
TOTAL – 63 Att; 155 Yds – 36-69, 396 Yds — 551

First Half – 44 Att; 272 Yds – 20-28, 161 Yds — 433
Second Half – 43 Att; 187 Yds – 8-25, 107 Yds — 294
TOTAL – 87 Att; 459 Yds – 28-53, 268 Yds – 727


Freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain tossed his first career touchdown pass in the third quarter at Mississippi State with an 18-yard completion to A.J. Turner. The reception was also Turner’s first career touchdown in a Gamecock uniform. McIlwain later added a second TD pass, this one to K.C. Crosby, which was Crosby’s first career score.


The Gamecocks rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to post a 13-10 victory at Vanderbilt in the season opener for both squads. Deebo Samuel scored on an eight-yard run to tie the score midway through the fourth quarter, then Elliott Fry booted a career-long 55-yard field in the game’s final minute to lift the Gamecocks to victory. Fry was named the SEC’s Special Teams Player of the Week for his heroics. The Gamecock defense forced seven three-and-outs and limited the Commodores to just 242 yards of offense, including 73 through the air.


South Carolina is 21-3 in its last 24 non-conference games. The Gamecocks had their 18-game non-conference winning streak snapped in the 2014 regular season finale at Clemson, then lost the final two games of the 2015 regular season to non-conference in-state foes The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to the Clemson loss at the end of the 2014 campaign, Carolina’s last non-conference loss came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.


The Gamecocks are 24-7 in their last 31 home games (.774) and 40-10 (.800) in their last 50 home games, including a school-record 18-game game home winning streak during that span. The school’s previous longest home winning streak was 15 games, set from 1978-80.


South Carolina had won 22-straight home games against non-conference opponents before dropping the final two games of the 2015 regular season to non-conference in-state foes in The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to that, the last home loss to a non-SEC team was to Clemson in the 2007 regular-season finale.


The Gamecocks had seven players make their first career start in the season opener against Vanderbilt. Those who earned a starting assignment for the first time included Bryan Edwards, Rashad Fenton, Kelsey Griffin, D.J. Park, Jamari Smith, Donell Stanley and A.J. Turner.


The Gamecocks have split time at the quarterback position through two games. Senior Perry Orth came into the season as the only experienced signal-caller, while Brandon McIlwain is a true freshmen who enrolled in January and went through spring drills. Orth has made the start in each contest and has made 10 career starts, owning a 2-8 mark.


Senior signal-caller Perry Orth got the starting nod at Vanderbilt and came up with his second career win. After a shaky start, the veteran got things going in the second half, rallying the Gamecocks with 13 points after being blanked through the first 30 minutes. He finished the night 11-for-19 for 152 yards, hitting 6-of-7 passes in the fourth quarter. That performance earned him the start at Mississippi State. He played the entire first half and completed 9-of-17 passes for 83 yards with a pick.


True freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain made his much-anticipated debut in the opener at Vanderbilt. He responded by completing 5-of-11 passes for 35 yards, and rushed seven times for 29 yards. He played the entire second half at Mississippi State and completed 11-of-22 passes for 126 yards and two scores.


Carolina’s returning wide receivers had combined for just 28 catches and 356 yards. The man counted on to be next in a line of outstanding Carolina wide receivers that includes Sidney Rice, Kenny McKinley, Alshon Jeffery and Bruce Ellington is redshirt sophomore Deebo Samuel. Samuel, a 6-0, 205-pounder from Inman, S.C., was hampered by a hamstring injury for much of the 2015 season, but showed his talent by hauling in five passes for 104 yards in the season finale against Clemson. He has four receptions in the first two games for 66 yards and scored on an 8-yard run. The only other wideouts who came into the 2016 season having caught a pass in a game are walk-on senior Matrick Belton and redshirt sophomore Terry Googer. Belton, a 6-3, 215-pounder who began his career at Hampton University, started five games last season, catching 11 passes, while Googer, a 6-4, 220-pounder from Atlanta, caught five passes while making a pair of starts.


Tight end Hayden Hurst, a 6-5, 250-pound former professional baseball player, looks to be a playmaker on offense. In limited duty last season, his first on the gridiron since 2011, he hauled in eight passes for 106 yards. The 23-year-old sophomore caught two passes for 17 yards in the season opener at Vanderbilt, then grabbed a career-high eight passes for 68 yards at Mississippi State. He is tied for eighth in the SEC with 5.0 receptions per game.


Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner had an impressive debut at Vanderbilt after earning the start with a strong fall camp. The 5-10, 195-pounder rushed 13 times for 70 yards against a solid Commodore defense. After two games, he is the Gamecocks’ top rusher with 29 carries for 102 yards, and has added five catches for 52 yards and a score.


Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner has done the bulk of the work from the running back position, as he garnered 29 of the 34 carries by the running backs. Here’s how the Carolina stable of running backs has performed this season and in their careers.


The Gamecocks list just four seniors on the offensive side of the ball in Matrick Belton, Perry Orth, Darius Paulk and Mason Zandi. All four are redshirt seniors. Zandi is the only one of the four to begin his collegiate career at South Carolina and the only one who came to Columbia as a scholarship player. Only Minnesota (3), Old Dominion (4), Florida (4) and Troy (4) have as few seniors on offense as do the Gamecocks.


Redshirt senior Mason Zandi is the only senior on the offensive side of the ball on the 2016 roster that came to South Carolina as a scholarship player. Zandi, a 6-9, 315-pound local product from Chapin, S.C. was named preseason third-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches. He is also just one of six players in Gamecock history with the last name starting with “Z” to earn a football letter. The most recent prior to Zandi was Zip Zanders, who lettered in 1986. Mason’s father, Ali, is a native of Iran who fled his home country during its 1970s revolution.


Cory Helms, a 6-4, 310-pound junior from Alpharetta, Ga., is a welcome addition to the offensive line. Helms, who earned Freshman All-America honors in 2013 at Wake Forest, spent two seasons with the Demon Deacons before sitting out 2015 as a transfer. Listed as the starter at center, he could also play guard.


Zack Bailey was the only Gamecock named to the 2015 SEC All-Freshman team, as selected by the league’s 14 coaches. The 6-6, 315-pound true freshman from Summerville, S.C., played in all 12 games, making five starts, with three at center and two at left guard.


Defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis has started all 14 games since his arrival on the Columbia campus. He owns the longest current consecutive streak of starts on the squad.


The Gamecocks recorded 20 sacks a year ago, up from just 14 from the previous season. They logged one sack in the season opener at Vanderbilt, but were shut out at Mississippi State.


T.J. Holloman notched the Gamecocks’ first interception of 2016 against Mississippi State. It was his sixth career pick. South Carolina had 12 picks in 2015, one more than they recorded in 2014.


Skai Moore will take a redshirt and miss the 2016 season following offseason surgery to address a herniated disk in his neck. The 6-2, 220-pounder from Cooper City, Fla., was the Gamecocks’ leading tackler in 2015 with 111 stops, tying for third in the SEC with 9.2 tackles per game. He also led the team with 6.5 tackles for loss and with four pass interceptions, tying for fourth in the SEC. Moore became the first Gamecock to reach the century mark in tackles since 2006, while his 111 tackles was the second-highest total recorded by a Carolina player in the last 25 years. He led the team in tackles for a third-consecutive season, becoming the first player to do so since 1992-94. In addition, Moore has 11 career picks, tying for third on the all-time list.


Senior Elliott Fry was the star in the season opening win, hitting both of his field goal attempts from 48 and 55 yards and adding an extra point. He hit on 20-of-28 field goal attempts and all 25 extra point efforts to lead the Gamecocks in scoring with 85 points in 2015. The six-foot, 170-pounder from Frisco, Texas has connected on a school record 127 consecutive extra points and has hit 74.3 percent (55-of-74) of his career field goal attempts. That average jumps to 81 percent (52-of-64) when attempting from under 50 yards out. He holds the school’s career records for extra points made and attempted and is second in points scored with 298, behind only Collin Mackie (330).


Senior placekicker Elliott Fry connected on a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter, then hit on a career-long 55-yard field goal in the final minute to provide the margin of victory in the season opener. It tied for the second-longest field goal in Gamecock history, matching Ryan Succop’s 55-yarder against Vandy in the 2006 season. Only Mark Fleetwood’s 58-yarder against Georgia in 1982 is longer.

GIVING IT THE BOOT: Here are the top-10 longest field goals in South Carolina history:
1. 58 Mark Fleetwood Georgia 09/25/82
2. 55 Ryan Succop Vanderbilt 10/21/06
55 Elliott Fry Vanderbilt 09/01/16
4. 54 Scott Hagler Clemson 11/23/85
54 Ryan Succop Arkansas 11/08/08
6. 53 Mark Fleetwood NC State 10/29/83
7. 52 Tommy Bell NC State 09/25/71
52 Scott Hagler NC State 11/02/85
52 Collin Mackie East Carolina 09/17/88
52 Elliott Fry UCF 09/26/15


Senior punter Sean Kelly was, in some people’s eyes, the MVP of the Gamecock squad in 2015. The 5-10, 190-pounder from Oakland, Fla. has been busy this season, already punting a league-high 14 times in the first two games. He is averaging 44.5 yards per punt with five inside the 20 and a long of 66 yards. Last season he averaged 44.3 yards per punt, third in the SEC, while the Gamecocks ranked second in the SEC and seventh in the nation in net punting with a 41.3 yard average. He booted 55 punts with just a 1.5-yard average return. Fourteen of his punts sailed over 50 yards, with a long of 69.


Bryan Edwards became the sixth true freshman to start in the season opener for the Garnet & Black since the start of the 2009 season. He joined Stephon Gilmore (2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), Bryson Allen-Williams (2014) and Al Harris Jr. (2014).


True freshman Bryan Edwards showed why he earned the starting nod in his first collegiate game. The 6-3, 210-pounder from Conway, S.C., hauled in eight passes for 101 yards in the win over Vanderbilt, including a long reception of 33 yards. He was the only freshman receiver in the country to log a 100-yard game last week. It was just the eighth 100-yard receiving game in a season opener in Gamecock history and Edwards is the only true freshman on the list:
100-yard Receiving Games In Season Openers
1. 146 Ira Hillary, The Citadel (1984)
2. 140 Jackie Brown, Virginia (1972)
3. 134 Stanley Pritchett, Georgia (1995)
4. 120 Zola Davis, UCF (1997)
5. 113 Nick Jones, Texas A&M (2014)
6. 110 Mike Haggard, Virginia (1972)
7. 106 Alshon Jeffery, Southern Miss (2010)
8. 101 Bryan Edwards, Vanderbilt (2016)


A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: Will Muschamp was introduced as the 34th head football coach at the South Carolina on December 7, 2015. A 21-year coaching veteran, Muschamp, a 1994 graduate of Georgia, has spent 13 years in the SEC, including four as the head coach at Florida, where he posted a 28-21 record from 2011-14. He was recognized as the SEC Coach of the Year in 2012 after an 11-win campaign. Last season, he served as the defensive coordinator at Auburn. Muschamp has coached in the SEC Championship Game twice and once in the Big 12 Championship Game, winning all three. He has also coached in two national championship games, helping LSU win the national title in 2003.


With the exception of holdover offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, Coach Muschamp brought an entirely new coaching staff to Columbia. Bobby Bentley (Running Backs), Coleman Hutzler (Special Teams Coordinator/Linebackers), Bryan McClendon (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers), Mike Peterson (Outside Linebackers), Travaris Robinson (Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs), Kurt Roper (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks), Lance Thompson (Assistant Head Coach – Defense/Defensive Line), and Pat Washington (Tight Ends) are the newcomers. Coach Muschamp has also beefed up the off-the-field support staff with a number of football analysts and others focused on recruiting to go along with the usual number of graduate assistants.


The SEC did Will Muschamp no favors when they put together the 2016 schedule. The Gamecocks will play three conference road games in 2016 before entertaining an SEC opponent at home. Carolina will play at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Kentucky before finally seeing an SEC opponent in Williams-Brice Stadium when Texas A&M comes to Columbia on October 1. Only Texas A&M (at Auburn, vs. Arkansas in Arlington, at South Carolina) comes close to matching the Gamecocks’ conference start. It marks the first time in Carolina history that the team has opened with three conference road games before playing a conference home game.


The Gamecocks will play five-straight home games during the 2016 season. Between October 1 and November 5, Texas A&M, Georgia, UMass, Tennessee and Missouri will venture to Williams-Brice Stadium, with a bye week scheduled for October 15. Auburn is the only other school in the country with five-consecutive home games on its slate this season. The last time South Carolina had five-straight home games on its schedule was in 1988 when the Gamecocks opened the season against North Carolina, Western Carolina, East Carolina, Georgia and Appalachian State.


The Gamecocks have five players on their roster who have already earned their undergraduate degree. Included in the list are Jordan Diggs, Chaz Elder, Abu Lamin, Chris Moody and Mason Zandi.


The 117-man roster consists of 19 seniors, 20 juniors, 25 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen and 37 true freshmen.


The Gamecocks welcome 44 returning letterwinners to begin the 2016 fall camp. The 44 lettermen consist of 19 offensive players, 21 defensive players and four special teams players.


The Gamecocks return 45 percent of their rushing yards, 93 percent of their passing yards and 27 percent of their receiving yards from a year ago. The top returning rushers are Lorenzo Nuñez (375 yards) and David Williams (299). Perry Orth (1,929 yards) and Lorenzo Nuñez (376) are the top returning passers, while Deebo Samuel (12 catches, 161 yards) and Matrick Belton (11 for 121) are the top two returning receivers. Seven of the squad’s top 11 tacklers return for the 2016 season, including Skai Moore (111 tackles) and T.J. Holloman (63), although Moore will sit out the season as a redshirt following offseason neck surgery.


The Gamecocks placed 28 players on the 2015 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. Among those who made the SEC Honor Roll include returnees Rivers Bedenbaugh, Jordan Diggs, Jalen Dread, Elliott Fry, Kelsey Griffin, Terry Googer, Shannon James, Chris Lammons, Nick McGriff, Perry Orth, Jasper Sasser, Michael Scarnecchia, Demetrius Smalls, D.J. Smith, Donell Stanley and Rod Talley.


The Gamecocks are 24-7 in their last 31 home games (.774) and 40-10 (.800) in their last 50 home games, including a school-record 18-game game home winning streak during that span. The school’s previous longest home winning streak was 15 games, set from 1978-80.


South Carolina has won 21 of its last 24 non-conference games. The Gamecocks had their 18-game non-conference winning streak snapped in the 2014 regular season finale at Clemson, then lost the final two games of the 2015 regular season to non-conference in-state foes in The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to the Clemson loss at the end of the 2014 campaign, Carolina’s last non-conference loss came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.


South Carolina had won 22-straight home games against non-conference opponents before dropping the final two games of the 2015 regular season to non-conference in-state foes in The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to that, the last home loss to a non-conference team was to Clemson in the 2007 regular-season finale.


South Carolina ranked 16th in the nation in home attendance during the 2015 season, as an average crowd of 78,822 filed in to Williams-Brice Stadium on six occasions, just shy of the 80,250 capacity. That total came in spite of losing one scheduled home game, as the LSU contest was moved to Baton Rouge due to extensive flooding in Columbia and throughout the Midlands.


The Gamecocks brought in a record number six high school recruits who graduated a semester early and enrolled in time for spring drills in 2016. Here is the list of the Gamecocks who have enrolled early since 2006: 2006: Clark Gaston
2007: Stephen Garcia, Travian Robertson
2008: Jay Spearman, C.C. Whitlock, Shaq Wilson
2009: Jarvis Giles, Stephon Gilmore, DeVonte Holloman
2010: Connor Shaw
2011: Martay Mattox
2012: Kelvin Rainey, Brock Stadnik, Clayton Stadnik
2013: Connor Mitch, D.J. Park
2014: None
2015: Jalen Henry, Christian Owens, Sherrod Pittman, Jerad Washington
2016: Bryan Edwards, C.J. Freeman, Brandon McIlwain, Chris Smith, Kobe Smith, Keir Thomas


The Gamecocks had another successful February signing day, just missing out on another top-25 ranked class despite a coaching change. Here are the recent recruiting class rankings according to Rivals and Scout respectively:

Year Rivals/Scout
2002: 11/18
2003: 8/15
2004: 35/28
2005: 23/20
2006: 24/33
2007: 6/7
2008: 22/34
2009: 12/13
2010: 24/34
2011: 18/11
2012: 19/13
2013: 16/24
2014: 16/24
2015: 19/20
2016: 28/26


The Gamecocks are 2-3 all-time in games decided in overtime. They won their first overtime game in school history when they defeated Missouri, 27-24, in two overtimes on October 26, 2013 in Columbia, Mo., and won in “The Swamp” over Florida by a 23-20 count in 2014. All three overtime losses have come against Tennessee by a field goal: a 23-20 setback on September 27, 2003 in Knoxville, and a 27-24 loss in Knoxville on October 27, 2007 and a 45-42 loss in Columbia on November 1, 2014.


The Gamecocks are back on the road and back in SEC action when they travel to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, September 24. Kentucky has won each of the last two meetings between the two schools, but the Gamecocks still hold a commanding 17-9-1 advantage in the all-time series.


The Gamecocks will select game captains each week before naming permanent team captains for the season.
VANDY: Cory Helms, T.J. Holloman, Perry Orth, Taylor Stallworth
MISS STATE: Hayden Hurst, Marquavius Lewis, Jonathan Walton, Mason Zandi


The Gamecocks have not taken a lead into intermission since the 2014 Independence Bowl win over Miami (Fla.), when they held a 17-6 advantage at intermission.

When Elliott Fry booted the game-winner at Vanderbilt in the season opener, he became the first SEC kicker to make a field goal of 55+ yds with less than one minute to play in 4th quarter (or in OT) in the last 10 years.

Elliott Fry’s 55-yard field goal matched Hawaii’s Rigoberto Sanchez for the longest field goal made in the country in Week 1.

South Carolina Football has three endowed scholarships. Recipients for endowed scholarships are selected each year by the head coach. The 2016 scholarships and recipients are:

Marcus Lattimore Endowed Football Scholarship — T.J. Holloman

Tommy Suggs Endowed Quarterback Scholarship — Perry Orth

Wraellen and Larry Winn Endowed Tight End Scholarship — Hayden Hurst

Gamecock radio analyst Tommy Suggs is one of the longest tenured radio voices in college football. The former standout quarterback who led the Gamecocks to the 1969 ACC Championship, is in his 44th season as part of the radio crew.