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Gamecock Gameday: Football Hosts UMass On Saturday
Football  . 

Gamecock Gameday: Football Hosts UMass On Saturday

Oct. 21, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Gamecocks (2-4, 1-4 SEC) play game three of a five-game homestand when they host the Massachusetts Minutemen (1-6) on Saturday, October 22 at Williams-Brice Stadium. Game time is set for Noon ET with the SEC Network televising the contest. Tom Hart and Andre Ware will be in the booth with Cole Cubelic 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 22 games over the .500 mark with an all-time record of 588-566-44.


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 84-112-1 (.429) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 29-25 (.537) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.


This is the first gridiron meeting between the Gamecocks of South Carolina and the Minutemen of Massachusetts.


UMass became an FBS program in 2012 and spent four seasons in the Mid-American Conference before becoming an Independent this year. They logged 1-11 campaigns in each of their first two seasons at the FBS level in 2012 and `13, before putting together back-to-back 3-9 seasons in 2014 and `15.


The Gamecocks feature one player, walk-on long snapper Logan Crane, who hails from Massachusetts. Crane, a redshirt freshman, graduated from Dartmouth High in 2015.


Former Gamecock football strength & conditioning coach Joe Connolly serves as the Minutemen’s director of sports performance/head football strength and conditioning coach. Connolly worked on Steve Spurrier’s staff in Columbia for seven seasons.


UMass makes its first-ever trip to Columbia in 2016, but they’ll be back in the Palmetto State next year, as the Minutemen open the 2017 season at Coastal Carolina on September 2. They have played in South Carolina once previously, defeating Furman in the first round of the 1999 I-AA playoffs in Greenville by a 30-23 score in overtime.


South Carolina rarely faces a team from the northeast corner of the United States. The last time the Gamecocks faced a team from the New England states was a 20-7 loss to UConn in the 2010 Bowl in Birmingham.


Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen could provide the most insight into this week’s game, as his Bulldogs have faced both the Gamecocks and Minutemen this season. Mississippi State defeated the Gamecocks in Starkville on September 10 by a 27-14 score, then traveled to Foxboro on September 24, and came away with a 47-35 win over UMass.


South Carolina is 22-3 in its last 25 non-conference games, including a 1-0 mark this season after a 20-15 win over East Carolina on September 17. 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 have two more non-conference games scheduled this season, a home game versus Western Carolina on November 19, followed by the annual Palmetto State showdown with the Clemson Tigers on November 26 in Clemson.


South Carolina has won 23 of its last 25 home games against non-conference foes. The Gamecocks had won 22-straight home games against non-conference opponents before dropping the final two games of the 2015 regular season to in-state rivals 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.


Due to the annual South Carolina State Fair that is in progress across George Rogers Blvd. from Williams-Brice Stadium, Gamecock Club reserved parking in the State Fairgrounds will not be honored for this game. The State Fair will open at 10 am. Fans with a ticket to the football game will be allowed into the Fair for free until noon. There is no Fair re-entry unless your hand is stamped prior to exiting. No football tickets will be honored after the game at the State Fair. Fans are encouraged to arrive as early as possible to help alleviate the heavy traffic congestion that will occur closer to game time.


Hurricane Matthew forced a scheduling change, as the Gamecocks hosted the Georgia Bulldogs in a rare Sunday afternoon game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 9. The Bulldogs churned out 326 rushing yards on 50 carries in a 28-14 win over the Gamecocks. Quarterback Perry Orth went the distance for South Carolina, completing 26-of-36 passes for 288 yards with an interception, but was sacked five times. Deebo Samuel (4 catches for 90 yards) and Hayden Hurst (six catches for 86 yards) proved to be a solid one-two receiving punch. Sean Kelly had another productive day, averaging 49.4 yards on five punts.


Seventy-eight of the Gamecocks’ 115-man roster, or 67.8 percent, are either freshmen or sophomores. Twelve true freshmen have seen game action this season.


Carolina had seven players make their first career start in the season opener against Vanderbilt, seven more who started for the first time against ECU, three more get the call against Texas A&M and one who made his first start against Georgia. Of the 18 first-time starters, six are true freshmen: Randrecous Davis, Chavis Dawkins, Rico Dowdle, Bryan Edwards, Brandon McIlwain, and Keir Thomas.


South Carolina’s defense held Georgia to 29 passing yards, the fewest of any Gamecock opponent this season. In fact, it was the fewest passing yards allowed by the Gamecock defense since The Citadel recorded eight yards passing against Carolina in 2011. The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC and 14th in the country in pass defense, allowing just 173.0 yards per game through the air.


Elliott Fry has scored 319 career points, 11 shy of the school record of 330, held by Collin Mackie (1987-90). Fry is in 18th place on the SEC list of career points scored, seven behind Tennessee’s James Wilhoit. Fry needs four more field goals to move into the SEC’s career top-10 for field goals made. He has 60 career field goals. Tenth is Georgia’s Marshall Morgan with 64.


The Gamecocks have had eight players start each of the first six games of the season, four on offense – Zack Bailey, Cory Helms, Hayden Hurst, and Mason Zandi. and four on defense – Darius English, Chris Lammons, Marquavius Lewis and Taylor Stallworth.


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 25-9 in their last 34 home games (.735) and 41-12 (.774) in their last 53 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.


The following regular contributors began their Carolina careeers as walk-ons: Jacob August, Matrick Belton, Javon Charleston, Elliott Fry, Hayden Hurst, Sean Kelly, Steven Montac, Perry Orth, Darius Paulk, Rod Talley and Drew Williams.


The Gamecocks have split time at the quarterback position this year. 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 before giving way to McIlwain for the next three. Orth returned to the starting role in the last game vs. Georgia.


Senior signal-caller Perry Orth was the Carolina starting QB when the season began and came up with his second career win in the season-opener at Vanderbilt. 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. After sitting out the next 13 quarters, Orth returned in the fourth quarter against Texas A&M and provided a spark, hitting 11-of-18 passes for 138 yards, earning the start against Georgia. He was 26-for-36 for 288 yards, all season highs, against the Bulldogs, He is 2-9 in his 11 career starts.


True freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain has appeared in five games, starting three contests. For the season, he is 56-for-106 (52.8 pct.) for 567 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He is 1-2 as a starter, completing 40-of-73 (54.8 pct.) for 406 yards and two scores with one pick. He is also Carolina’s third-leading rusher with 98 yards and a pair of scores.


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.


Carolina’s wide receivers had limited experience entering the season, combining for just 28 catches and 356 yards, and has been plagued by injuries in 2016. The squad’s top three wideouts, Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Randrecous Davis, have all missed time with hamstring injuries. Samuel, who finally was healthy against Georgia, caught four passes for 90 yards in that contest, doubling his season reception total. Against Texas A&M, Chavis Dawkins made his first start and caught five passes, while Javon Charleston moved back to receiver after having spent the previous six weeks at safety, and caught his first pass. 78 of the 115 pass receptions have been by freshmen (68 percent).


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 30 catches for 388 yards, with at least five receptions in four games and at least 80 yards in three contests. His best marks are an eight-catch performance at Mississippi State and a 90-yard effort against Texas A&M. He ranks sixth in the league with 5.0 receptions per game and eighth with 64.7 receiving yards per game. Hurst also served as the Gamecocks’ punt returner against Georgia, becoming the biggest punt returner in Division I football this season


With injuries and inexperience hampering the Gamecock wideouts, 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 30 catches for 388 yards, Crosby is tied for third on the team with 15 receptions for 119 yards, and August has added five catches for 52 yards. Of the 115 pass receptions, the tight ends have 51 catches (44 pct.), the wide receivers have 44 (38 pct.) and the running backs have 20 (17 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. He had his best game against Texas A&M, rushing 10 times for 113 yards, including a 75-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage. He is the Gamecocks’ top rusher with 68 carries for 300 yards and two touchdowns, and has added 15 catches for 104 yards and a score. Turner, who is 22nd in the country averaging 26.8 yards per kickoff return, ranks tied for fourth in the nation among freshmen with 112.0 all-purpose yards per game.


Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner carried 10 times for 113 yards against Texas A&M, the first 100-yard rushing game of his career. His previous high was 70 yards at Vanderbilt and he entered the A&M contest with just 157 rushing yards through the season’s first four games. It was the Gamecocks’ first 100-yard rushing game since Brandon Wilds went for 128 yards against A&M in 2015.


After undergoing surgery for a sports hernia in the offseason, then suffering a groin injury early in fall camp, true freshman Rico Dowdle made his first appearance for the Garnet & Black against Texas A&M. The 5-11, 211-pounder from Asheville, N.C. who now dons No. 23, has been impressive in limited duty, carrying 16 times for 77 yards, a 4.8 yard average.


Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner has taken the bulk of the carries from the running back position, but David Williams has more than twice as many career rushes. 482 of the Gamecocks’ 554 rushing yards have been by freshmen (87 percent). Here’s the South Carolina running back numbers:

Player — Rush — Yards — TD David Williams — 23-110-0
A.J. Turner — 68-300-2
Rico Dowdle — 16-77-1
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 and has started every game at that position since.


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 and consistently grades out as the offensive line’s top performer.


Junior Alan Knott, a preseason Rimington Award candidate, has made 22 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 Gamecock defense ranks third in the SEC and seventh in the nation in red zone defense, allowing points just 68.0 percent of the time. In 25 opportunities, the Carolina defense has allowed just 11 touchdowns and six field goals, while forcing a league-high five turnovers in the red zone.


Defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis has started all 18 games since his arrival on the Columbia campus. He owns the longest current consecutive streak of starts on the squad.


Senior defensive end Darius English is putting together his finest campaign. The 6-6, 245-pounder from Powder Springs, Ga., leads the Gamecocks with 6.0 of the squad’s 11 sacks, including a career-best 3.0 sacks against Kentucky. That was the most sacks by a Gamecock player since Jadeveon Clowney finished with 4.5 at Clemson on Nov. 24, 2012. English is tied for second in the SEC and ninth in the country in sacks. He needs three more sacks to move into a six-way tie for fifth in school history with 9.0 sacks in a season and into a tie for ninth with 15.0 sacks in a career.


The Gamecocks have 11 sacks this season, producing a season-high four sacks against both East Carolina and Kentucky. Darius English is the top sack-master on the squad with 6.0 this season and 12.0 in his career.


The Gamecocks have picked off six passes this season. Chris Lammons is tied for ninth in the SEC with two.


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 is 7-for-10 in the field goal department this season. He has connected on a school record 133 consecutive extra points and has hit 74.1 percent (60-of-81) of his career field goal attempts. That average jumps to 80.3 percent (57-of-71) when attempting from under 50 yards out. He holds the school’s career records for extra points made (139) and attempted (140) and is second in points scored with 319, 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 37 times, most in the SEC. He is averaging 42.2 yards with 16 inside the 20 and a long of 66 yards. Last season he averaged 44.3 yards, 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 needed just 13 seconds to get on the board against Texas A&M when A.J. Turner dashed 75 yards to paydirt on the first play from scrimmage. Turner’s carry was the fastest score for Carolina since Nov. 20, 2010, when Marcus Lattimore ran 17 yards for a TD 13 seconds into the contest against Troy. It was the second time in five games this season that the Gamecocks tallied in the game’s first minute, as Brandon McIlwain scooted 11 yards for a score just 17 seconds into the ECU game. Turner’s burst was the longest run from scrimmage by a Gamecock since 2013 when Mike Davis had a pair of 75-yard carries (vs. UNC and vs. Georgia).


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 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
TEXAS A&M: Bryson Allen-Williams, Zack Bailey, Darius English, Marquavius Lewis
GEORGIA: Bryson Allen-Williams, Darius English, Cory Helms, D.J. Smith


The Gamecocks will return to SEC action next week when they host the Tennessee Volunteers. Tennessee leads the all-time series by a 25-7-2 margin including a 9-5-2 advantage in Columbia, but four of Carolina’s seven wins have come since 2008. Will Muschamp is a perfect 4-0 as a head coach against the Vols.