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Gamecock Gameday: Football Hosts Texas A&M On Saturday
Football  . 

Gamecock Gameday: Football Hosts Texas A&M On Saturday

Sept. 30, 2016

After playing three of their first four games on the road, including three SEC road contests, the South Carolina Gamecocks (2-2, 1-2 SEC) begin a five-game homestand over the next six weeks when the No. 9/10 Texas A&M Aggies (4-0, 2-0 SEC) visit Columbia on Saturday, October 1. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium with the SEC Network televising the contest. Dave Neal, Matt Stinchcomb and Olivia Harlan have the call.


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 588-564-44.


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 84-110-1 (.433) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 29-23 (.558) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.


This is just the third meeting on the gridiron between South Carolina and Texas A&M. The Gamecocks are still looking for their first win over their “permanent” SEC Western Division rivals from College Station. The two schools met for the first time in 2014 in Columbia, with A&M rolling up a 52-28 win in the season opener for both teams. The teams met again last season in College Station with the Aggies winning again, this time by a 35-28 count.


South Carolina made its first trip ever to College Station on October 31, 2015 and dropped a 35-28 decision to the Aggies. Freshman signal-caller Kyler Murray threw for 223 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 156 yards and a score to lead A&M. Brandon Wilds led the Gamecocks with a season-high 128 yards rushing on 17 carries. Quarterback Perry Orth completed 15-of-24 passes for 192 yards and added 64 yards on the ground. The key play in the game was a Donovan Wilson 60-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, giving the Aggies a two-score advantage. The teams combined for 989 yards of offense in the contest, but just 97 of those yards came in a scoreless fourth quarter.


South Carolina and Texas A&M met for the first time ever when the teams opened the 2014 season at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia on August 28. The No. 21 Aggies were too much for No. 9 Carolina that night, rolling to a 52-28 victory. A&M held a 17-14 lead midway through the second quarter, then tallied the next 21 points to put the game away. The Aggies rolled up 680 yards of total offense, including 511 through the air, and held the ball for over 37 minutes. The Gamecocks countered with 433 yards including 366 passing from senior quarterback Dylan Thompson. The loss snapped South Carolina’s school-record 18-game home winning streak.


Last year’s trip to College Station was South Carolina’s first venture into the state of Texas since dropping an 18-17 decision to Baylor in Waco on October 2, 1976. Carolina is 3-6 all-time against teams from the Lone Star State, going 1-2 against Baylor and Houston, 1-0 against Texas and 0-2 against Texas A&M.


The South Carolina roster features two players from the state of Texas, senior placekicker Elliott Fry, and true freshman walk-on defensive back Morgan Vest. One of the nation’s top placekickers, Fry hails from Frisco, Texas, located north of Dallas, about 200 miles from College Station. Vest is from Leander, Texas and Rouse High School, about 110 miles straight west of College Station.


Will Muschamp is 1-0 against Texas A&M as a head coach. He led the Florida Gators to a 20-17 win in College Station on September 8, 2012.


The Gamecocks won the turnover battle, 2-0, and held Kentucky to 17 points, but the offense could not get untracked in a 17-10 setback in Lexington last Saturday night. Brandon McIlwain, making his first road start, completed 15-of-30 passes for 177 yards. Tight end Hayden Hurst grabbed seven passes for a career-high 84 yards. Chris Moody led the defense with nine tackles, while Darius English had his best game, logging eight stops, including 3.0 sacks.


Senior defensive end Darius English had the best game of his Gamecock career at Kentucky, registering a career-high eight tackles, seven solo, with 3.0 sacks and a forced fumble. It was the most sacks by a Gamecock player since Jadeveon Clowney finished with 4.5 at Clemson on Nov. 24, 2012. English entered the Kentucky game with 7.0 career sacks.


The Gamecock defense ranks tied for second in the SEC and 10th in the nation in red zone defense, allowing points just 61 percent of the time (11-of-18). In 18 opportunities this season, the Carolina defense has allowed just six touchdowns and five field goals, while forcing four turnovers in the red zone.


The Gamecock defense has held all four of its opponents to fewer points than that team has averaged this season. The Gamecocks rank fifth in the SEC and 24th in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 17.3 points per game. Texas A&M comes into this week’s game averaging 43.0 points per game.


After forcing just one turnover in the season’s first two games, the Carolina defense has forced six turnovers in the last two contests, including four in the win over ECU. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have not turned the ball over in their last two games after turning it over twice in each of the first two contests. Carolina is tied for second in the SEC in turnover margin at +0.75.


This week’s game will be the first for the Gamecocks against a ranked opponent this season. The Gamecocks have dropped their last six contests against teams ranked in the Associated Press’s Top-25, with their last victory over a ranked team coming on September 13, 2014, when the No. 24 Gamecocks topped No. 6 Georgia, 38-35. The last time an unranked Carolina team beat a ranked team was a 34-17 win over No. 15 Clemson on November 28, 2009.


Texas A&M comes into this week’s contest ranked as the No. 9 team in the nation. Five of Carolina’s top seven wins, based on the AP ranking at the time of the game, have come since 2009. Here are the top wins:

No. — Date — Opponent — Score
1. 10/09/10 vs. #1 Alabama — 35-21
2. 10/24/81 at #3 North Carolina — 31-13
3. 09/24/09 vs. #4 Ole Miss — 16-10
4. 10/06/12 vs. #5 Georgia — 35-7
10/26/13 at #5 Missouri — 27-24
6. 09/24/88 vs. #6 Georgia — 23-10
09/13/14 vs. #6 Georgia — 38-35
8. 10/04/07 vs. #8 Kentucky — 38-23
11/21/87 vs. #8 Clemson — 20-7
11/14/53 at #8 West Virginia — 20-14
11. 09/09/00 vs. #9 Georgia — 21-10
12. 10/23/58 vs. #10 Clemson — 26-6


This is Will Muschamp’s 20th game as a head coach against a team ranked in the Associated Press’s Top-25 and his first as the head coach of the Gamecocks. He is 5-14 in those contests, with his last win coming over ninth-ranked Georgia on November 1, 2014.


The Gamecocks opened the season with three road games in their first four contests, including three SEC road contests, all at night. 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.


When he got the call against East Carolina in week 3, 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 his first 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. Last week at Kentucky in his first road start, he completed 15-of-30 passes for 177 yards. For the season, he is 47-for-91 (51.6 pct.) for 533 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He is 1-1 in two career starts, completing 31-of-58 (53.4 pct.) for 372 yards and two scores.


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. McIlwain is now 1-1 in his career as a starter.


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.


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 had four receptions in the first two games for 66 yards and scored on an 8-yard run, but has not played in each of the last two contests due to a hamstring injury. 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 in 2015.


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, has been a consistent go-to guy this season. The 23-year-old sophomore leads the team with 19 catches for 212 yards, including an eight-catch, 68-yard effort at Mississippi State and a seven-catch, 84-yard performance at Kentucky. He ranks ninth in the league with 4.8 receptions per game.


With injuries and inexperience hampering the Gamecock wideouts early in the season, the tight end trio of Hayden Hurst, K.C. Crosby and Jacob August has become a big part of the offense. In addition to Hurst’s team-leading 19 catches for 212 yards, Crosby is third on the team with eight receptions and August has added four catches. Of the 67 pass receptions this season, the tight ends have 31 catches (46 pct.), the wide receivers have 27 (40 pct.) and the running backs have 9 (13 pct.).


Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner earned the starting nod at running back during fall camp. The 5-10, 195-pounder got off to a strong start, carrying 13 times for 70 yards at Vanderbilt in the season opener. After four games, he is the Gamecocks’ top rusher with 47 carries for 157 yards and one touchdown, and has added seven catches for 65 yards and a score. Turner, who is tied for 15th in the country averaging 30.0 yards per kickoff return, ranks fourth in the nation among freshmen with 100.5 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. He added 33 yards on nine carries at Kentucky and is now averaging 5.1 yards per carry.


Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner has done the bulk of the work from the running back position, as he has garnered 47 of the 69 carries by the running backs. Here’s how the Carolina running backs have performed this season and in their careers.

Player — Rush — Yards — TD
David Williams — 21-107-0
A.J. Turner — 47-157-0
Rod Talley — 1-2-0
Darius Paulk — 0-0-0


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 16 games since his arrival on the Columbia campus. He owns the longest current consecutive streak of starts on the squad.


T.J. Holloman and Alan Knott are tied with 20 career starts, most among the active players on the squad. Skai Moore actually has the most starts (24), but is taking a redshirt this year while rehabbing an injury.


The Gamecocks have produced four sacks in each of the last two games after notching just one in the first two games. Darius English logged a career-high 3.0 sacks at Kentucky and is the team’s current career leader with 10.0. He is tied for second in the SEC, averaging 1.0 sacks per game.


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, and is 5-for-6 on the season with his only miss coming from 55 yards out. He has connected on a school record 130 consecutive extra points and has hit 75.3 percent (58-of-77) of his career field goal attempts. That average jumps to 82.1 percent (55-of-67) 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 310, 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 27 times. He is averaging 41.1 yards per punt with 12 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 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.


The Gamecocks have had 10 players start the first four games of the season, five on offense and five on defense: Zack Bailey, Bryan Edwards, Darius English, Cory Helms, T.J. Holloman, Hayden Hurst, Chris Lammons, Marquavius Lewis, Taylor Stallworth and Mason Zandi.


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 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 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 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 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
KENTUCKY: Zack Bailey, Cory Helms, Chris Lammons, Jamari Smith


The Gamecocks reach the halfway point of the season when they host the Georgia Bulldogs in an SEC Eastern Division matchup on Saturday, October 8. Georgia leads the all-time series by a 48-18-2 count, including a 19-10-2 advantage in Columbia. However, Carolina has won four of the last six meetings, including a 38-35 win in 2014, the last time they met at Williams-Brice Stadium.