Gamecocks Host Louisiana Tech Saturday
Sept. 22, 2017
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 1-0 SEC) look to get back on the winning track as they step out of conference this week with a 3:30 pm tilt against Louisiana Tech (2-1, 1-0 Conference USA). The contest will be televised on SEC Network.
TV COVERAGE: This week’s contest will be televised on SEC Network with Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb in the booth and Dawn Davenport 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 594-570-44, 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 86-115-1 (.428) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 31-27 (.534) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
HALL OF FAME WEEKEND: It’s Hall of Fame Weekend at South Carolina. This year’s class includes Bill Currier, Jamar Nesbit and Eric Norwood from football; Larry Davis from men’s basketball, Randy Martz from baseball, Tricia Popowski from softball and Jennifer (Van Assen) Brunelli from swimming. In addition, former football player and current member of the South Carolina Board of Trustees, Chuck Allen, has been elected for his significant contributions to Carolina Athletics on and off the field.
CAROLINA VS. LOUISIANA TECH: This is the sixth gridiron meeting between South Carolina and Louisiana Tech, but the first meeting between the two schools since the 1995 season. The teams met for five-consecutive seasons from 1991-95, with the Gamecocks posting a 4-0-1 record against the Bulldogs during that stretch.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: After opening the season with back-to-back road losses at Georgia and Arkansas, the Gamecocks began the home portion of the 1995 slate on September 16 with a convincing 68-21 win over Louisiana Tech. Quarterback Steve Taneyhill had a big day, tying a South Carolina record with five touchdown passes while throwing for 389 yards. The Gamecocks accumulated a school-record 679 yards of total offense on the night, including 409 through the air. Carolina scored 30 points in the second quarter and added 28 points in the fourth quarter in the win. The 68 points ranks in a tie for the seventh-highest point total in school history, while the 89 combined points scored also ranks in a tie for seventh on Carolina’s all-time list.
THE FIRST TWO WERE CLOSE: The first two meetings between these two schools were separated by a total of just one point. The teams battled to a 12-12 tie in the 1991 season, when LA Tech kicker Chris Boniol connected on a 38-yard field goal with two seconds left in the game. The Gamecocks missed their first extra point in the contest, then after taking a 12-7 lead with just 3:10 left the game, their two-point conversion was intercepted and returned 100 yards to cut the Bulldog deficit to three, setting up Boniol’s heroics as time expired. In 1992, Louisiana Tech forged a 10-0 lead before Carolina rallied, highlighted by Frank Adams’s 91-yard kickoff return, in a 14-13 win.
THE LAST THREE…NOT SO MUCH: The Gamecocks defeated the Bulldogs in each of the last three meetings between the two schools by a combined score of 133-30, posting wins of 34-3, 31-6 and 68-21 from 1993-95, respectively.
MUSCHAMP VS. THE BULLDOGS: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has not faced Louisiana Tech as a head coach.
CAROLINA VS. C-USA: The Gamecocks own an 11-1-1 record against teams that currently make up Conference USA. In addition to its 4-0-1 mark against Louisiana Tech, Carolina is 3-0 against UAB, 2-0 versus Florida Atlantic and 1-0 against both Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss. The lone loss to a current member of C-USA came against Marshall, a team on the Gamecocks’ 2018 schedule, in 1998.
LAST SEASON: Louisiana Tech posted a 9-5 record during the 2016 campaign, including a 6-2 mark in Conference USA. They capped their season with a 48-45 win over Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl.
SKIP TO MY LOU: Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz spent six seasons at South Carolina. He wore several hats during his tenure with the Gamecocks, coaching the quarterbacks his first four seasons, before handling the tight ends in 2003 and then returning to guide the signal-callers in `04, working as assistant head coach under his father, the legendary Lou Holtz. While at South Carolina, Holtz was recognized as an Assistant Coach of the Year in 2001 by the All-American Football Foundation. That year, the Gamecocks ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in rushing offense, and under Holtz’s tutelage, senior Phil Petty went on to lead South Carolina to 17 victories in his last 23 starts, including back-to-back Outback Bowl wins over Ohio State in 2001 (24-7) and `02 (31-28). This contest will mark Holtz’s first as a head coach against the Gamecocks.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: After being one of just three Power 5 schools to open with two contests away from home, the South Carolina Gamecocks opened the home portion of their slate last Saturday night in front of a sold out crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks electrified the fans by scoring on a Jake Bentley to Deebo Samuel 68-yard pass on the game’s first play from scrimmage, but it was all Kentucky after that, as the Wildcats grounded out a 23-13 victory in a matchup of SEC Eastern Division rivals. South Carolina actually outgained Kentucky, 358-353, but missed three field goals and also came up short on the one-yard line to stop another drive.
LUCKY 13: The Gamecocks needed just 13 seconds to get on the board against Kentucky, as Jake Bentley and Deebo Samuel connected on a 68-yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage. It was the second time that Samuel has needed just 13 seconds to get in the end zone this year, as the speedster went 97 yards on the opening kick in the season-opening win over NC State.
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES: Despite the loss to Kentucky, Deebo Samuel continued to show why he is one of the most electric players in the country. He caught five passes for 122 yards, including the 68-yard TD strike. It marked the fifth 100-yard receiving game of his career. He is the 11th player in school history to reach that milestone. Samuel has scored six touchdowns in three games this season, three receiving, two kickoff returns and one rushing.
IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES: Deebo Samuel suffered a fractured leg late in the Kentucky contest and will be sidelined indefinitely.
JAKE WARMS UP: With the running game struggling to get untracked, Jake Bentley had to get the Gamecocks’ offense moving through the air. The sophomore quarterback completed 16-straight passes during a stretch from the second to third quarters against Kentucky, a career-best and just four completions shy of the school record of 20, set by Connor Shaw. Bentley finished the game 24-for-36 for 304 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. It marked the second 300-yard passing game of his career.
AT LEAST WE HAD OUR HEALTH: Prior to the key injury to Deebo Samuel in the loss to Kentucky, the Gamecocks front line had been relatively healthy through the first three contests of the season. Nineteen players have made the start in each of the first three games for Carolina.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Sophomore linebacker T.J. Brunson and sophomore defensive end D.J. Wonnum each made his first career start 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. Wide receiver Shi Smith and defensive back Jamyest Williams became the first true freshmen to get a start this season when they both got the nod at Missouri. Smith responded with four catches for 22 yards, while Williams logged six tackles, one pass break up and a key interception. Left tackle Dennis Daley made his first start against Kentucky.
SENIOR CITIZENS: The Gamecocks list just 13 seniors on their 112-man roster, or 11.6 percent of the roster. Ten are listed as starters: Alan Knott and Cory Helms on offense, and Dante Sawyer, Taylor Stallworth, Ulric Jones, Bryson Allen-Williams, Skai Moore, JaMarcus King, D.J. Smith and Chris Lammons on defense. D.J. Park is on the second team, while Brent Shore and Demetrius Smalls provide depth.
FRESH FISH: South Carolina has played seven true freshmen this season. Those newcomers who have seen action for the first time in Division I football are Sherrod Greene, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith, Damani Staley, Aaron Sterling, Chad Terrell and Jamyest Williams. Smith and Williams have each made a start.
MY QUARTERBACK IS A BENTLEY: Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley is the key to the Gamecock attack. The 6-3, 220-pounder is hitting on 63.4 percent of his passes this season (59-for-93) with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He ranks third in the SEC in passing yards per game (235.3) and fifth in total offense (243.7). Bentley, who is 6-4 in 10 career starts, has thrown for over 300 yards in two of his last four 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 USF.
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 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 played quarterback in college. Chas is on the Carolina staff as a GA in the weight room.
EXPERIENCE NOT NECESSARY: 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. Despite his limited play, Bentley was named Co-MVP of the team as selected by his teammates, sharing honors with Deebo Samuel.
DA DO RUN RUN: The Gamecocks have a trio of sophomore running backs who will take the bulk of the snaps this season. 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. He has been the top ground gainer this season with 98 yards on 34 carries while making all three starts. 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. Ty’Son Williams (6-0, 215) is eligible this fall after transferring from North Carolina. He turned in the best performance from a running back so far in 2017 when he carried 14 times for 78 yards, including a 32-yard burst, in the win at Missouri, but did not have a carry against either NC State or Kentucky.
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 presence felt when he came off the bench at Mizzou to lead the team with 14 carries and 78 yards in the win.
MISSING DEEBO: Deebo Samuel has done it all for the Gamecocks through the season’s first three games and will be greatly missed after suffering a broken bone in his leg against Kentucky. In the opener against NC State, he returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score, and caught five passes for 83 yards including a pair of scores, finishing the day with 185 all-purpose yards. At Missouri, he returned another kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, scored on a 25-yard rush and caught five passes for 45 yards, accumulating 167 all-purpose yards. He hauled in five passes for 122 yards, including a 68-yard scoring strike on the game’s first play from scrimmage against Kentucky.
FINDING DEEBO AMONG THE BEST: Deebo Samuel leads the SEC in scoring with 36 points (12.0 ppg), is tied for fifth in receptions per game (5.0), is fourth in receiving yards per game (83.3) and second in all-purpose yards (158.0).
GOING THE DISTANCE TIMES TWO: Deebo Samuel took a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in each of the season’s first two games. Against NC State, he became the first player in school history to open the season with a kickoff return for a score, earning SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Against Missouri, his 97-yard return changed the momentum of the game after the Tigers had taken a 10-0 lead, and earned him SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for a second-straight week. Samuel has tied the school record for kickoff returns for a touchdown in a season with two, matching King Dixon (1957) and Boo Williams (1997). Samuel and Dixon are the only players to have kickoff returns for scores in back-to-back games. Samuel now owns the school record for career kickoff returns for touchdowns with three, as he also took one to the house from 100-yards out last year against Western Carolina. The Gamecocks have had four kickoff returns for scores in their last 23 games after not having a kickoff return for a TD between 2002 to 2015. He is one of only four players in the country to have two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, joining Keion Davis from Marshall (6 returns), Raymond Calais from Louisiana (8 returns) and Darius Phillips from Western Michigan (8 returns).
REPLACING NUMBER ONE: Bryan Edwards has played an excellent second fiddle to Deebo Samuel this season, but now moves into the first chair. Edwards had the second-best true freshman season for a Gamecock wide receiver in 2016 behind only Alshon Jeffery’s 2009 campaign. Edwards has caught five passes in each of the first three games this season, totaling 15 catches, tying for fifth in the SEC, for 147 yards. The 6-3, 215-pounder from Conway, S.C., has 59 career receptions for 737 yards in his first 15 games.
NEXT MAN UP: With Deebo Samuel sidelined indefinitely, several players will be looked upon to fill the gap opposite Bryan Edwards. Among the candidates are Shi Smith, a true freshman who owns eight catches for 70 yards and possesses excellent quickness; OrTre Smith, a big-bodied true freshman who caught his first career pass against Kentucky, a nine-yard scoring strike; redshirt freshman Randrecous Davis, who caught his first pass of the year against Kentucky after being hampered by a soft tissue injury but has a big upside; and true freshman Chad Terrell, who also owns one catch and was impressive in fall camp scrimmages.
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 in school history to earn that distinction.
FROM HURST TO FIRST?: Hayden Hurst is third on the squad with eight catches for 106 yards this season. He has moved into fifth place on Carolina’s all-time list in both career receptions by a tight end (64) and yards receiving by a tight end (828).
EXPERIENCED UP FRONT: The Gamecocks feature an offensive line that boasts a wealth of experience. Cory Helms (39 starts) and Alan Knott (32) have logged the most starting assignments on the squad. Zack Bailey (21), Malik Young (11), Donell Stanley (4), D.J. Park (3) and Dennis Daley (1) also have gained starting experience.
GETTING IN THE SACK: The Gamecocks have recorded six sacks this season, with four coming in the season opening win over NC State. Carolina recorded 21 sacks a year ago, with Darius English logging nine of those.
TACKLING MACHINE: Sophomore T.J. Brunson is the Gamecocks’ top tackler and ranks tied for first in the SEC through three games with 34 stops, or 11.3 tackles per game. 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. 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. He followed that up with a six-tackle performance at Missouri and added a game-high 12 tackles vs. Kentucky. Brunson logged just 12 tackles during the entire 2016 season.
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. He got off to a solid start with eight tackles in the season opener against NC State and followed that up with a team-leading seven stops at Missouri and added seven more vs. Kentucky. With 164 unassisted tackles, he ranks in a tie for ninth in Carolina history.
NOSE FOR THE BAW(L): Bryson Allen-Williams recorded his third interception in four games with his pick in the fourth quarter at Missouri. Allen-Williams had interceptions at Clemson (Nov. 26) and against USF in the Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 29), in the final two games of the 2016 season.
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 have had to replace the school’s all-time leading scorer in placekicker Elliott Fry. Fry tallied 359 points over the past four seasons. Redshirt freshman Alexander Woznick came out of the spring as the oddson favorite to win the job, but was pressed by freshman Parker White in the fall. Both are walk-ons. Woznick is 9-of-10 on extra point attempts and 1-of-3 on field goals, while White is 1-for-1 on PATs and 0-for-2 in the field goal department with both attempts coming from beyond 50 yards.
FIRST MISS: When Alexander Woznick missed the extra point in the first quarter against Kentucky, it snapped a string of 164-consecutive extra points made for South Carolina, the nation’s sixth-longest streak.
THEY’RE ALL NEW: Whether Alexander Woznick or Parker White handles the placekicking job, he is 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.
THIS IS CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: 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 has averaged 43.9 yards over his 14 punts with four measuring over 50 yards, including a career-long 73-yarder at Missouri, the longest punt by a Gamecock since Marty Simpson had a 79-yard punt in the 1992 season.
BREAKDOWN DEAD AHEAD: The breakdown of the Gamecocks’ 112-man roster features 13 seniors, 21 juniors, 30 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen and 32 true freshmen.
BY THE NUMBERS: The Gamecocks returned 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 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 also get a lift from the return of 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.
THEY’RE NOT SEC WORTHY: South Carolina is 25-5 in its last 30 non-conference games, including a 1-0 mark this season. 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, and the final two games of the 2016 season against Clemson and USF. 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.
TOUGH SLATE: The Gamecocks have one of the nation’s toughest schedules 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. That tough schedule has proven to be true, as the Carolina opponents have opened the 2017 campaign with a 25-8 record after two weeks, a .758 winning percentage, which improves to 24-6 and an .800 mark when you remove the one win and two losses to the Gamecocks.
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 opened with a neutral site game against NC State in Charlotte before traveling to Missouri. Louisville opened with a neutral site game against Purdue in Indianapolis, then traveled to North Carolina. Stanford has the toughest go of it. They opened in Sydney, Australia against Rice, then are on the road for their next two games, at Southern Cal and San Diego State.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: The Gamecocks have four student-athletes who have earned their undergraduate degree. The quartet includes Ulric Jones (interdisciplinary studies), Skai Moore (interdisciplinary studies), D.J. Park (criminal justice) and Dante Sawyer (interdisciplinary studies).
WORKING OVERTIME: The Gamecocks are 2-3 all-time in games decided in overtime. They won their first overtime game at Missouri, 27-24, in two overtimes on Oct. 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 Sept. 27, 2003 in Knoxville, and a 27-24 loss in Knoxville on Oct. 27, 2007 and a 45-42 loss in Columbia on Nov. 1, 2014.
THEY PAY TO SEE THEM PLAY: South Carolina ranked 17th in the nation in home attendance in 2016, with an average home crowd of 76,920, just shy of the 80,250 capacity. Williams-Brice Stadium boasted a sell-out crowd of 82,493 in last week’s home opener vs. Kentucky.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks return to SEC action next Saturday when they travel to College Station to face the Texas A&M Aggies. The Gamecocks are winless in three tries against A&M, all coming since the Aggies joined the SEC.