Gamecocks Ready for Wolfpack in Charlotte
Sept. 1, 2017
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The 2017 regular season gets underway on Saturday, Sept. 2, when the South Carolina Gamecocks (0-0) travel to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte for a 3 pm kick against the NC State Wolfpack (0-0) out of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
TV COVERAGE: The 2017 regular season will begin the same way for Carolina as the 2016 regular season ended, with the Gamecocks appearing on ESPN with Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy in the booth and Tom Luginbill on the sidelines.
A HISTORY LESSON: It’s been 125 years since the University of South Carolina laced it up for a December 24, 1892 meeting in Charleston against Furman, a 44-0 setback. 2017 marks the 124th season of intercollegiate football at South Carolina. It is the 111th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina owns an all-time record of 592-569-44.
SEC HISTORY: The South Carolina Gamecocks are in their 26th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their lone SEC Eastern Division title in 2010. The Gamecocks are 85-114-1 (.428) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 30-26 (.536) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
CHAMP – THE SEQUEL: It’s the second year of the Will Muschamp Era at South Carolina. Coach Muschamp was introduced as the 34th head football coach at South Carolina on December 7, 2015. In his first season with the Garnet & Black, Coach Muschamp led the squad to a 6-7 record and a berth in the Birmingham Bowl.
2016 IN REVIEW: South Carolina football concluded its 123rd season of intercollegiate football in 2016 with a record of 6-7, including a 3-5 mark in the SEC. The six wins doubled the win total from 2015 and the three SEC wins was a two-game improvement over 2015.
BOWL WORTHY: The Gamecocks played in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl, falling to No. 25/22 South Florida in overtime by a 46-39 score. It marked the 12th time in the last 13 years that the Gamecocks were bowl-eligible. The Gamecocks are 5-5 in the 10 bowl games played in that stretch, including wins in four of their last five appearances. Carolina is 8-13 all time in 21 bowl appearances.
MUSCHAMP CRIES WOLF: When offensive line coach Shawn Elliott was tabbed as the new head coach at Georgia State, Will Muschamp called out to Eric Wolford to return to South Carolina in 2017 as the Gamecocks’ offensive line coach. Wolford previously worked in the same capacity under head coach Steve Spurrier during the 2009 campaign before taking a head coaching position at Youngstown State. Wolford spent the past two seasons on the San Francisco 49ers staff as an assistant offensive line coach. Wolford is the only newcomer on the coaching staff this season.
CAROLINA VS. NC STATE: South Carolina has won each of the last two games against NC State to take a slim 27-26-4 lead in the all-time series that dates back to 1900 (a Carolina 12-0 shutout win). This is the 58th time the Gamecocks have played NC State, which breaks a tie with North Carolina, giving the Wolfpack the third-most games played against South Carolina, trailing only Clemson (114) and Georgia (69). However, this is just the third meeting between the two schools in this century. The teams met every year from 1968-1991 and, with the exception of 1967, met every year from 1956-1991, but just three times since then (1999, 2008 and 2009).
HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE: Despite this being the 58th renewal of this series, this is the first time the teams will meet on a neutral field. South Carolina owns a 19-9-1 advantage in the games played in Columbia, while the Wolfpack own a 17-8-3 lead when the teams have met in Raleigh.
ONE MORE AND IT’S A STREAK: The Gamecocks have won each of the last two meetings between these two rivals, a 34-0 whitewash in Columbia in 2008, and a 7-3 dogfight in Raleigh in 2009. South Carolina has put together a trio of three-game winning streaks in the series, winning three in a row from 1924-26, 1929-31, and again from 1979-81. The back-to-back wins in 2008 and `09 snapped a four-game drought to the Wolfpack.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Gamecocks won a defensive battle in front of 57,583 at Carter-Finley Stadium to open the 2009 season, posting a 7-3 victory. It was Carolina’s first win in Raleigh since the 1988 campaign, although they had met just twice in between (1990 and 1999). Brian Maddox had a short touchdown run while Stephen Garcia completed a key third-down pass in the final minutes to lead the Gamecocks to the win. Garcia threw for just 148 yards on a frustrating night for both offenses, but the sophomore came through with a 33-yard completion to Moe Brown that allowed the Gamecocks to run out the final 2 1/2 minutes of the game. Maddox scored from a yard out in the first quarter and finished with 66 yards rushing. NC State managed just 133 yards, with Russell Wilson completing just 12 of 23 passes for 74 yards while facing steady pressure from the speedy South Carolina pass rush.
FIRST TIMERS: This contest will mark the first time that either head coach, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp or NC State’s Dave Doeren, have faced the opponent.
NOT ON OUR WATCH: The Carolina defense has been stellar in recent outings against State. The Wolfpack have not scored an offensive touchdown in the last 12 quarters against the Gamecocks, with their only touchdown in the last three meetings coming on the return of a blocked punt. The Gamecocks have limited NC State to just 13 points combined in those three games, dating back to the Hurricane Dennis game of 1999. State has scored 10 or fewer points in five of the last eight meetings between the two schools.
WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?: The 109-man fall roster (as of August 25) consists of 13 seniors, 21 juniors, 30 sophomores, 14 redshirt freshmen and 31 true freshmen.
THEY’RE BACK: The Gamecocks welcomed 41 returning letterwinners to begin the 2017 fall camp. The 41 lettermen consist of 22 offensive players, 18 defensive players and one special teams player.
PUT ME IN COACH: The Gamecocks had eight players start every game in 2016, 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. Bailey, Helms, Hurst, Lammons and Stallworth all return in 2017.
IT’S A NUMBERS GAME: The Gamecocks return 63 percent of their total offense from a year ago, including 77 percent of their rushing yards, 53 percent of their passing yards and 97 percent of their receiving yards. The top returning rushers are Rico Dowdle (764 yards) and A.J. Turner (497). Jake Bentley (1,420 yards) is the top returning passer, while Deebo Samuel (59 catches, 783 yards), Hayden Hurst (48 for 616) and Bryan Edwards (44 for 590) are the top three returning receivers. Eight of the squad’s top 13 tacklers return for the 2017 season, including the team’s top two tacklers from 2016, D.J. Smith (80 tackles) and Bryson Allen-Williams (75). The Gamecocks will also get a lift from the return of senior linebacker Skai Moore, who sat out all of last season with a neck injury. Moore was the squad’s leading tackler in each of the previous three seasons.
RETURNING STARTERS: The Gamecocks list 16 returning starters from the 2016 squad, 10 on offense and six on defense. The returning offensive starters are LG Zack Bailey, QB Jake Bentley, TE K.C. Crosby, RB Rico Dowdle, WR Bryan Edwards, RG Cory Helms, OC Alan Knott, WR Deebo Samuel and RT Malik Young. The returning defensive starters include LB Bryson Allen-Williams, DT Ulric Jones, CB JaMarcus King, CB Chris Lammons, DT Taylor Stallworth and S D.J. Smith.
MISSING YOU: The Gamecocks lost 27 lettermen from the 2016 team, including 10 on offense, 13 on defense and four special teams players.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: The Gamecocks said goodbye to 27 lettermen from last year’s roster including eight starters, one on offense, five on defense and two special teams performers. The departing starters include LT Mason Zandi on offense; DE Darius English, LB T.J. Holloman, DE Marquavius Lewis, S Chris Moody, and LB Jonathan Walton on defense; and PK Elliott Fry and P Sean Kelly on special teams.
TOUGH SLATE: The Gamecocks have one of the nation’s toughest schedules to navigate in 2017. One national pundit considers Carolina’s four non-conference opponents – NC State, Louisiana Tech, Wofford and Clemson – as the eighth-toughest non-conference slate in the country. The ESPN Football Power Index rates the Gamecocks’ schedule as the fifth-toughest in the country, behind only Cal, Georgia, LSU and Florida. Ten of the 12 teams on the docket posted winning records in 2016, with only Missouri and Vanderbilt falling below that mark. Additionally, 10 of the 12 opponents on the 2017 schedule appeared in bowl games last season. Only Syracuse and Notre Dame, with 11 each, will face more teams that are coming off bowl appearances.
WINNER, WINNER: The Gamecocks will face a dozen opponents that combined to win 61.6 percent of its games last season, going 98-61 overall. That ranks as the fourth-highest opponent winning percentage among FBS teams.
FOR OPENERS: South Carolina is 82-37-4 (.683) in 123 season openers. The Gamecocks have won 16 of their last 17 season openers dating back to 2000, with the only loss in that stretch coming to Texas A&M in 2014. The record for consecutive season-opening wins at South Carolina remains at 19, set from 1920-1938.
WE’RE NOT SCARED: The Gamecocks have played seven season openers either on the road or at a neutral site in this century and own a perfect 7-0 mark in those contests. Since 2000, the Gamecocks have won three season openers at Vanderbilt (2004, 2012, 2016); two in Charlotte against East Carolina (2011) and North Carolina (2015), at Mississippi State (2006) and at NC State (2009).
BEEN HERE, DONE THAT: The Gamecocks are 2-0 when opening the season in Charlotte. They opened the 2011 season with a 56-37 win over East Carolina and the 2015 season with a 17-13 win over North Carolina, with both games played at Bank of America Stadium.
WHO DOES THAT? The Gamecocks are one of only three Power Five schools to have two games away from their campus before their 2017 home opener. Carolina opens with a neutral site game against NC State in Charlotte before traveling to Missouri next week. Louisville opens with a neutral site game against Purdue in Indianapolis, then travels to North Carolina. Stanford has the toughest go of it. They open in Sydney, Australia against Rice, then are on the road for their next two games, at Southern California and at San Diego State.
CAROLINA ON MY MIND: The Gamecocks feature eight players from the state of North Carolina on their roster, including a pair from Raleigh and one from Charlotte. Those who call North Carolina home include Rico Dowdle (Asheville), Eric Douglas (Charlotte), C.J. Freeman (Greensboro), Will Putnam (Harrisburg), Spencer Eason-Riddle (Raleigh), Harrison Freeman (Raleigh), Sherrod Greene (Rocky Mount) and Jaylin Dickerson (Southern Pines).
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks will travel to Columbia, Mo., for their SEC opener next week at Faurot Field against the Missouri Tigers. Game time is set for 7 pm ET (6 pm local) and will be televised nationally on ESPN2. South Carolina currently is in possession of the Mayor’s Cup following a 31-21 win last season in Columbia. Mizzou leads the all-time series by a 4-3 count, but the Gamecocks have won three of the five meetings since the Tigers joined the SEC Eastern Division.