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Gamecock Gameday: Football Travels To Kentucky
Football  . 

Gamecock Gameday: Football Travels To Kentucky

Sept. 23, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1 SEC) head back on the road this week as they travel to Lexington, Ky. to face the Kentucky Wildcats (1-2, 0-1 SEC) in another SEC Eastern Division showdown. Game time is set for 7:30 pm ET at Commonwealth Stadium (61,000) with the SEC Network handling the broadcast. Brent Musburger has the play-by-play with Jesse Palmer handling the color commentary and Kaylee Hartung 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 25 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 588-563-44.


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.


– Snap the Wildcats’ two-game winning streak in the series. Kentucky has never defeated South Carolina in three-straight meetings.

– Give the Gamecock’s their 18th win in 28 games in the all-time series with the Wildcats, and their 17th victory in 25 tries since the two schools became SEC Eastern Division rivals.

– Give the Gamecocks’ their second conference win of the season, surpassing their SEC win total from 2015, and matching their overall win total of last season at three. South Carolina went just 1-7 in SEC play last season and 3-9 overall during the 2015 campaign.


This is the 28th meeting between the Gamecocks and Wildcats in a series that dates back to 1937. Carolina leads the all-time series 17-9-1, including an 8-4-1 mark in Columbia and a 9-5 advantage in Lexington. The teams played just three times (1937, 1978 and 1981) before Carolina joined the SEC for the 1992 season. Since then, they have met every year. Since joining the league, the Gamecocks own a 16-8 record against UK, including wins in 13 of the 16 meetings in this century.


Kentucky opened up a 24-7 halftime lead in Columbia on September 12, 2015, then held off a late Carolina comeback in a 26-22 Wildcat win. The Gamecocks outgained Kentucky, 417-399 on the day, but three times had to settle for an Elliott Fry field goal from under 30 yards. Brandon Wilds rushed 16 times for 106 yards, while Perry Orth completed 13-of-20 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception.


Kentucky scored 21 points in the final 8:06 of the game to pull out a 45-38 come-from-behind victory over South Carolina in Lexington on October 4, 2014. In a seesaw battle, the Gamecocks opened up a 17-7 lead, fell behind 24-17, then rallied to take a 38-24 lead midway through the fourth period, but could not contain Jojo Kemp, who rushed 17 times for 131 yards and three scores. UK defensive end Alvin Dupree intercepted a pass and returned it six yards for the game-winning score with just 2:29 on the clock. Mike Davis had a big game for the Gamecocks, rushing 23 times for a game-high 183 yards and three scores. Dylan Thompson completed 23-of-37 passes for 218 yards as Carolina rolled up 500 yards of offense, but was picked off three times.


The 13th-ranked Gamecocks opened up a 27-7 lead over Kentucky heading into the final stanza, but the Wildcats made it interesting with 21 fourth-quarter points before falling by a 35-28 count in Columbia on Oct. 5, 2013. Mike Davis rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Connor Shaw added 312 yards of total offense, including 262 through the air on 17-of-20 passing. Damiere Byrd had one of the top days of his career, catching five passes for 94 yards, including a 62-yard TD catch on the first drive of the game.


Freshman Brandon McIlwain threw for 195 yards and rushed for two touchdowns in his first career start to lead the Gamecocks to a 20-15 win over East Carolina last Saturday night in Columbia. After not scoring in the first half in the season’s first two games, Carolina put 17 points on the board in the first seven minutes of the contest and made it stand up. The Pirates outgained the Gamecocks, 519-312 while running 91 plays to Carolina’s 53, but the Gamecocks won the turnover battle, 4-0, including three in the redzone, to preserve the win.


A.J. Turner returned the opening kick 80 yards against ECU and on the first snap from scrimmage, Brandon McIlwain scored from 9-yards out, giving the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead just 17 seconds into the contest. It was the fastest points in a game for Carolina since Marcus Lattimore scored from 17-yards out at the 14:47 mark of the first quarter following a fumble on the opening kickoff in a 69-24 win over Troy on November 20, 2010. Carolina went on to put 17 points on the board in the first seven minutes against the Pirates. It was a far cry from the season’s first two games, in which the Gamecocks were blanked for the first 30 minutes against both Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.


After returning the opening kick against ECU 80 yards, A.J. Turner has moved atop the SEC rankings and is fourth in the country, averaging 35.5 yards per return (142 yards on 4 returns).


After forcing just one turnover in the season’s first two games, Carolina came up with four turnovers in the win over ECU. Three of the turnovers were inside the Carolina five-yard line, as the Gamecocks limited the Pirates to just two scores in six red zone chances. Chris Lammons had an interception and forced a fumble, while Jamarcus King had his first career pick. Antoine Wilder also forced a fumble near the goal line.


The Gamecock defense ranks first in the SEC and seventh in the nation in red zone defense. The Gamecocks allowed ECU to score on just two of six chances in the red zone. In 16 opportunities this season, the Carolina defense has allowed just five touchdowns and four field goals, while forcing four turnovers in the red zone.


The Gamecocks had seven players make their first career start in the win over East Carolina. Those who had their number called to start the game for the first time included Brandon McIlwain, K.C. Crosby and Randrecous Davis on offense and Ulric Jones, Jamarcus King, Steven Montac and Antoine Wilder on defense.


In addition to the seven who started for the first time against ECU, Carolina had seven players make their first career start in the season opener against Vanderbilt. They included Bryan Edwards, Rashad Fenton, Kelsey Griffin, D.J. Park, Jamari Smith, Donell Stanley and A.J. Turner. Of the 14 first-time starters, three are true freshmen.


When he got the call against East Carolina last week, Brandon McIlwain became just the fourth true freshman to start at quarterback for the Gamecocks since they joined the SEC. Steve Taneyhill (1992), Mikal Goodman (1999) and Lorenzo Nuñez (2015) were the others.


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. He earned the start and went the distance against ECU, completing 16-of-28 passes for 195 yards and rushing nine times for 34 yards and two touchdowns.


The Gamecocks 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, a true freshman, enrolled in January and went through spring drills. Orth made the start in each of the first two contests 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.


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)


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 is second on the team with 12 catches for 128 yards, including an eight-catch, 68-yard effort at Mississippi State. Tight end K.C. Crosby caught four passes against ECU and is third on the team with eight receptions.


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 three games, he is the Gamecocks’ top rusher with 35 carries for 115 yards, and has added five catches for 52 yards and a score. Turner, who is also the Gamecocks’ kick returner, ranks third in the nation among freshmen with 103.0 all-purpose yards per game.


After not getting a snap at Mississippi State and logging just five carries through the first two games, David Williams carried seven times for a team-high 67 yards against East Carolina, including a 25-yard burst on a 4th-and-1 in the final drive to seal the victory.


Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner has done the bulk of the work from the running back position, as he has garnered 35 of the 48 carries by the running backs. Here’s how the Carolina running backs have 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. He started the season opener at center, but moved to right guard at Mississippi State.


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 in 2015, making five starts, with three at center and two at left guard. He has started each game this season at left guard.


Defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis has started all 15 games since his arrival on the Columbia campus. He owns the longest current consecutive streak of starts on the squad.


The Gamecocks produced four sacks against East Carolina after notching just one in the first two games. Chris Lammons, Keir Thomas and D.J. Wonnum each recorded his first career sack. Darius English is the team’s current career leader with 7.0.


The Gamecocks had two interceptions against East Carolina after notching just one in the season’s first two games.


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 at Vanderbilt, hitting both of his field goal attempts from 48 and a career-long 55 yards. He added a pair of field goals in the win over ECU and is 4-for-5 on the season. The six-foot, 170-pounder from Frisco, Texas has connected on a school record 129 consecutive extra points and has hit 75.0 percent (57-of-76) of his career field goal attempts. That average jumps to 81.8 percent (54-of-66) 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 306, 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


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 against Vanderbilt matches Hawaii’s Rigoberto Sanchez for the longest field goal made this season.


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 19 times. He is averaging 42.7 yards per punt with seven 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.


The Gamecocks’ 13-10 season opening win at Vanderbilt snapped the squad’s six-game road losing streak. Carolina is 15-14 in its last 29 true road games, with eight of the 14 losses coming to teams ranked in the top-25 in the country, including seven in the top-11.


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 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 are 25-7 in their last 32 home games (.781) and 41-10 (.804) in their last 51 home games, including a school-record 18-game game home winning streak. The school’s previous longest home winning streak was 15 games, set from 1978-80.


South Carolina has won 23 of its last 25 home games against non-conference opponents. The only two home non-conference setbacks since a 2007 regular-season finale loss to Clemson came to The Citadel and Clemson in the final two games of the 2015 season.


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 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 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.


After three conference road games, the Gamecocks finally will play an SEC home contest when they host the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday, October 1. The Aggies have won both of the previous two meetings between these two schools that have been dubbed “permanent” cross-division rivals. A&M won in Columbia in 2014 by a 52-28 margin, and held on for a 35-28 win last season in College Station.


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
ECU: Darius English, T.J. Holloman, Hayden Hurst, Sean Kelly