Gamecocks Open SEC Slate Saturday at Mizzou
Sept. 8, 2017
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The 2017 SEC slate gets underway for South Carolina on Saturday, September 9, when the Gamecocks (1-0, 0-0 SEC) travel to Faurot Field and Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. for a 7 pm ET (6 pm local) kick against the Missouri Tigers (1-0, 0-0 SEC).
TV COVERAGE: The 2017 SEC opener will be televised on ESPN2 with Anish Shroff and Mike Golic Jr. in the booth and Roddy Jones 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 593-569-44, a .510 winning percentage.
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.
GETTING TO 2-0: The Gamecocks are looking to go 2-0 for the first time since the 2012 season. They have been 1-1 after two games in each of the last four campaigns. That 2012 team went on to win its first six games and finished with an 11-2 mark.
CAROLINA VS. MIZZOU: The Missouri Tigers hold a slim 4-3 advantage over the South Carolina Gamecocks in the all-time series between these two schools that claim Columbia as its hometown. The first two contests were held at bowl sites, with Missouri posting a 24-14 win in the 1979 Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, and a 38-31 come-from-behind win in the 2005 Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Since Mizzou joined the SEC, the Gamecocks hold a 3-2 series advantage. South Carolina won the first two SEC Eastern Division battles between the two schools, posting a 31-10 win in the Palmetto State in 2012, then pulling out an improbable 27-24 double-overtime victory in Missouri in 2013. In 2014, the Tigers overcame a 13-point deficit in the final seven minutes to squeeze out a 21-20 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium, then won by a 24-10 count in the last meeting at Memorial Stadium. The Gamecocks were 31-21 winners last season in South Carolina.
THE LAST TIME THE MET: Rico Dowdle carried 27 times for 149 yards and scored two touchdowns while Jake Bentley completed 22-of-28 passes for 254 yards and two scores in the Gamecocks’ 31-21 win over Mizzou at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 5, 2016. The Gamecock defense forced three turnovers, including a pair of interceptions by Rashad Fenton and Chris Moody. Mizzou outgained the Gamecocks, 465-428, but the three turnovers were the difference.
THE LAST TIME IN THE SHOW ME-STATE: Missouri broke open a close contest midway through the third quarter and shut out the Gamecocks in the second half en route to a 24-10 win at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on October 3, 2015. Both teams started true freshmen quarterbacks in the contest, Lorenzo NuÃƒÂ±ez for the Gamecocks and Drew Lock for the Tigers, the first SEC game that featured two true freshmen starting signal-callers. NuÃƒÂ±ez went 15-for-24 for 172 yards but threw three picks, while Lock was 21-of-28 for 136 yards. Neither team’s offense reached the 300-yard plateau for the game.
CAROLINA’S LAST WIN HERE: In one of the more memorable games in recent South Carolina football history, the No. 20/20 Gamecocks rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to shock No. 5/7 Missouri, 27-24 in double-overtime on Oct. 26, 2013 in Columbia, Mo. Mizzou opened up a 17-0 lead before senior quarterback Connor Shaw came off the bench in the third quarter to lead the comeback. Shaw connected on 20-of-29 passes for 201 yards. He hit Nick Jones with a 2-yard scoring pass with 42 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, then found Bruce Ellington in the endzone on 4th-and-15 to force the game into a second OT. Elliott Fry hit from 40-yards out to put Carolina on top before Andrew Baggett’s attempt from 24-yards away caromed off the left upright, ending the contest.
MUSCHAMP VS. THE TIGERS: Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is 2-2 in his career against Missouri. Coach Muschamp led Florida to a 14-7 win over Mizzou in Gainesville in 2012, then dropped back-to-back decisions to the Tigers, first by a 36-17 margin in Missouri in 2013, then by a 42-13 count in Florida in 2014, before winning by a 31-21 score last season in his first year with the Gamecocks.
RECRUITING THE SHOW-ME STATE: The lone Gamecock from the Show-Me State is redshirt sophomore tight end Kyle Markway, a 6-4, 254-pounder who graduated from St. John Vianney in St. Louis. Markway saw limited action as a true freshman in 2015, but did not play last season while rehabbing a foot injury.
MIZZOU TIES: Tight ends coach Pat Washington served on Gary Pinkel’s staff at Mizzou from 2013-15. Emma Lock, who plays on the Carolina volleyball team, is a cousin to Mizzou QB Drew Lock.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The Gamecocks got three touchdowns from Deebo Samuel and just enough defense in the second half to hold on for a 35-28 non-conference win over NC State out of the ACC last Saturday afternoon in Charlotte. Samuel took the opening kick 97 yards to paydirt, then scored on touchdown passes of 6 and 39 yards. Rico Dowdle added a pair of scores and Jake Bentley tossed three TD passes in the win. NC State ran nearly twice as many plays (99-50) and rolled up twice as many yards (504-246), but the Gamecock defense got two stops on downs on the Wolfpack’s final two possessions to secure the upset win. The Gamecocks improved to 3-0 in season-opening games played in Charlotte.
FOR OPENERS: South Carolina improved to 83-37-4 (.685) in 124 season openers. The Gamecocks have won 17 of their last 18 season openers dating back to 2000, with the only loss in that stretch coming to Texas A&M in 2014.
OWNING THE TAR HEEL STATE: With the victory on Saturday, the Gamecocks have won 10-straight games against teams from North Carolina. They have defeated East Carolina four times (2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016), NC State three times (2008, 2009 and 2017) and North Carolina three times (2007, 2013, 2015) in this century.
GOING THE DISTANCE: Deebo Samuel wasted little time getting the Gamecocks on the board when he took the season-opening kickoff 97 yards to paydirt against NC State. It was the first time in school history that the Gamecocks opened the season with a kickoff return for a score and earned Samuel SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. It was Samuel’s second-career kickoff return for a score, as he took one to the house from 100-yards out last year against Western Carolina. The Gamecocks have had thee kickoff returns for scores in their last 21 games after not having a kickoff return for a TD between 2002 to 2015.
SWEET 16: Sophomore T.J. Brunson made his first start as a Gamecock memorable. The 6-1, 230-pound linebacker from Columbia, S.C. posted a game- and career-high 16 tackles in the win over NC State. Brunson logged just 12 tackles during the entire 2016 season. It was the most tackles in a game for a Gamecock since Antonio Allen logged 16 stops against ECU on Sept. 3, 2011, a game that was also played in Charlotte.
SAWYER STRIPS IT: Senior Dante Sawyer totaled seven stops, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a pair of quarterback hurries in the Gamecocks’ 35-28 win over NC State, and made two of the game’s most critical defensive plays. Early in the second quarter with the game tied at 14, Sawyer forced a fumble at the NC State 28-yard line, setting up a short field, which the Gamecocks converted into a touchdown and a 21-14 lead. With the Gamecocks on top 28-21 in the third quarter, the 6-3, 275-pounder from Suwanee, Ga., got to NC State quarterback Ryan Finley for an 18-yard strip sack, which the Gamecocks recovered, setting up another touchdown two plays later and a two-score lead. Sawyer was one of only four players in the country to log two forced fumbles in the season’s first week.
99 PROBLEMS BUT WINNING WASN’T ONE OF THEM: NC State ran 99 plays in the opener, the most against South Carolina since Texas A&M ran 99 plays in the 2014 season opener. After giving up three touchdowns on five possessions in the first half, the Gamecock defense stepped up in the second half, allowing NC State just one score on eight possessions to post the win.
SECOND CHANCE: After surrendering 343 yards of offense, including 296 through the air, 19 first downs and 21 points in the first half, the Gamecock defense settled down in the second half in the win over NC State. During the final 30 minutes, the Carolina D allowed 161 yards, including 119 through the air, 10 first downs, and most importantly, just 7 points. All four of the Gamecock sacks came in the second half.
OPENING DAY BESTS: Jake Bentley threw for 215 yards and three scores in the season-opener against NC State. It was the 10th-best opening game performance in passing yards by a quarterback in school history.
FIRST TIME OUT: South Carolina played six true freshmen and two junior college transfers in its season opener against NC State. Those newcomers who saw action for the first time in Division I football were freshmen Sherrod Greene, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith, Aaron Sterling, Chad Terrell and Jamyest Williams. Junior college transfers Javon Kinlaw and Eldridge Thompson also saw their first D-I action.
FOR STARTERS: Sophomore linebacker T.J. Brunson and sophomore defensive end D.J. Wonnum each made his first career start for the Gamecocks in the win over NC State. Brunson responded with a game-high 16 tackles, while Wonnum logged a game-high 3.0 tackles for loss.
MY QUARTERBACK IS A BENTLEY: Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley starts the Gamecock offense. The 6-3, 220-pounder completed 17-of-29 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in last week’s win over NC State. Bentley, who is 5-3 in eight career starts, has tossed a career-best three TD passes in each of his last two games. He set the school record for bowl games and Birmingham Bowl records for passes completed (32), yards passing (390) and total offense (381) while throwing three TD passes in the final game of the 2016 season against UCF.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Quarterback Jake Bentley comes from a football family. His father, Bobby, is the Gamecocks’ running backs coach and previously was a highly-successful high school coach at Byrnes (S.C.) High and at Presbyterian College. Jake’s step-brother, Chas Dodd (Rutgers), and brother, Shuler Bentley (Old Dominion/Murray State), both have started at quarterback in college.
LIMITED EXPERIENCE: Despite getting seven starts last season from Jake Bentley, the Gamecocks entered the 2017 season as having one of the country’s least experienced unit of signal-callers. The Carolina quarterbacks combined to appear in just eight career games entering the season, seven by Bentley and one by Michael Scarnecchia. The eight appearances ranked in a tie for ninth with Minnesota for fewest quarterback appearances at the start of the season. Only Texas State (0), Georgia Southern (2), Southern Miss (4), UAB (5), Navy (5), Rice (5), Louisiana Tech (7) and Tulsa (7) enter the season with fewer. Despite his limited play, Bentley was named Co-MVP of the team as selected by his teammates, sharing honors with Deebo Samuel
THREE-HEADED MONSTER: The Gamecocks figure to have three running backs take the bulk of the snaps this season, all of whom are underclassmen. Sophomore Rico Dowdle (5-11, 220) is the top returning ground-gainer with 764 yards and six touchdowns scored as a true freshman last fall. Dowdle owns three 100-yard rushing games, including a career-best 226-yard performance against Western Carolina. He became the first true freshman to lead the Gamecocks in rushing since Marcus Lattimore in 2010. Redshirt sophomore A.J. Turner (5-10, 184) logged 497 yards and three scores on 116 carries last season. Included was a career-best 113-yard effort against Texas A&M. Redshirt sophomore Ty’Son Williams (6-0, 215) is eligible this fall after transferring from North Carolina.
THE PRODIGAL (TY’)SON: After spending the 2015 season at North Carolina, then sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules, redshirt sophomore running back Ty’Son Williams , from Sumter, S.C., made his Gamecock debut against NC State, catching one pass for 5 yards, but did not get a carry in the contest.
SAMUEL IS KING: Despite playing in just 10 of the 13 games in 2016, Deebo Samuel proved to be the playmaker the Gamecock offense needs on the field. Samuel led the team with 59 receptions and 783 receiving yards. He ranked third in the SEC in receptions per game (5.9), fourth in receiving yards per game (78.3), third in kickoff return average (26.9) and second in all-purpose yardage per game (132.0). He shined most brightly in the Birmingham Bowl when he tied the school record with 14 catches against USF and set Birmingham Bowl records with 14 receptions and 190 receiving yards. Samuel topped the team with eight touchdowns in 2016, six on the ground, one receiving and one on a kick return.
MORE OF THE SAME: Deebo Samuel picked up right where he left off in last week’s opener against NC State. He returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score, his second career kick return for a touchdown, and caught five passes for 83 yards including a pair of scores. He finished the day with 185 all-purpose yards.
EDWARDS IS YOUR OPENING ACT: After hauling in eight passes for 101 yards, both career bests, in the season opener last season against Vanderbilt last year, sophomore wide receiver Bryan Edwards opened the 2017 campaign with five receptions for 55 yards against NC State. Edwards had the second-best true freshman season for a Gamecock wide receiver behind only Alshon Jeffery (46 catches, 763 yards) in 2009. The 6-3, 215-pounder from Conway, S.C., has 49 career receptions for 645 yards in his first 13 collegiate games. With 44 receptions for 590 yards,
DIAMONDS AREN’T FOREVER: Hayden Hurst played professional baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization after being selected in the 17th round of the 2012 draft. Now a 6-5, 253-pound junior, the 24-year-old Hurst turned in the school’s best single-season receiving numbers for a tight end in 2016. His 48 receptions and 616 receiving yards topped the previous marks of 38 catches, set by Doug Hamrick in 1970, and 576 yards, set by Danny Smith in 1987. The former walk-on also served as the Gamecocks’ punt returner against Georgia, becoming the biggest punt returner in Division I football in recent memory. He also was selected a permanent team captain in 2016, becoming the first sophomore to earn that distinction.
O-LINE EXPERIENCE: The Gamecocks feature an offensive line that boasts a wealth of experience. Cory Helms (37 starts) and Alan Knott (30 starts) have logged the most starting assignments on the squad. Zack Bailey (19), Malik Young (10), D.J. Park (3) and Donell Stanley (2) also have gained starting experience.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Junior offensive lineman Zack Bailey should be considered for All-SEC accolades this season. Bailey, the most consistent performer on the offensive line, was named to the 2015 SEC All-Freshman team. The 6-6, 311-pounder from Summerville, S.C., has played in all 26 games over the past three seasons with 19 starts, including the last 16 in a row. He was moved to right tackle in the spring after spending the 2016 campaign at left guard.
GETTING IN THE SACK: The Gamecocks logged four sacks, all in the second half, in the season opener against NC State. The squad recorded 21 sacks a year ago, with Darius English recording nine of those. Here are the individual sack numbers:
SKAI RETURNS: Skai Moore is back after missing the entire 2016 season following surgery to address a herniated disk in his neck. The 6-2, 221-pound linebacker 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. Moore also has 11 career picks, tying for third on the all-time list. He got off to a solid start with eight tackles in the season opener against NC State.
CHARLESTON REWARDED: Redshirt sophomore Javon Charleston was rewarded with a scholarship just before the start of fall classes. Charleston, a 6-0, 189-pounder from Gurnee, Ill., is a cousin to former Gamecock great Marcus Lattimore. He came to Carolina as a wide receiver but was moved to safety in the spring. He played in every game in 2016, primarily on special teams.
JUST FOR KICKS: The Gamecocks look to replace the school’s all-time leading scorer in placekicker Elliott Fry. Fry tallied 359 points over the past four seasons to move past Collin Mackie (1987-90) on the school’s all-time scoring list. Two candidates battled it out in fall camp. Redshirt freshman Alexander Woznick came out of the spring as the odds on favorite to win the job, but has been pressed by freshman Parker White. Both are walk-ons. Woznick handled all five of the PATs against NC State flawlessly. Neither was asked to attempt a field goal. Most likely Woznick would try from inside the 30, with White getting the call on longer attempts. White will also handle the kickoff duties.
I’M NOT MISSING YOU: Elliott Fry was automatic when it came to extra point attempts. Fry connected on 161-of-162 extra points during his career, with his only miss coming at Georgia in the second game of the 2013 season. Since then, he was accurate on 155 consecutive PATs.
THEY’RE ALL NEW: Whether Alexander Woznick or Parker White handles the placekicking job, he will be working with an entirely new unit, as Ben Asbury is the new deep snapper, replacing four-year starter Drew Williams, and backup quarterback Danny Gordon is the holder, replacing Sean Kelly.
KICKING IT WITH THE `COCKS: Redshirt sophomore Joseph Charlton, who came to Carolina on a scholarship from A.C. Flora High School in Columbia, won the starting punting duties over redshirt sophomore Michael Almond. Almond got the nod in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl when regular punter Sean Kelly was out with an injury, and punted twice for a 44.0-yard average. Charlton was solid in his debut, punting six times for a 46.7-yard average, with a long of 64. He averaged a net of 40.0-yards per punt.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks look forward to their 2017 home opener, which is set for next Saturday, September 16, when Carolina hosts Kentucky. Game time is set for 7:30 pm and the contest will be televised on SEC Network. The Wildcats have won three-straight in the series, but the Gamecocks still hold a 17-10-1 overall advantage, including an 8-4-1 mark at home.