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Gamecocks Set to Host Vanderbilt Saturday
Football  . 

Gamecocks Set to Host Vanderbilt Saturday

Oct. 27, 2017

YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: It’s Homecoming Week on the University of South Carolina campus in Columbia as the Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2 SEC) host the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-4, 0-4 SEC) in an SEC Eastern Division match up on Saturday, October 28. Game time is set for 4 pm ET at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia. The game will be televised by SEC Network.

FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE: Taylor Zarzour and Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware will be in the booth for SEC Network with Olivia Harlan reporting from the sidelines.

THREE SHY OF 600: 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 597-571-44, a .511 winning percentage.

SEC, SEC: The 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 88-116-1 (.432) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 33-28 (.541) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.

CAROLINA VS. VANDY: This is the 27th all-time meeting between South Carolina and Vanderbilt, with the Gamecocks holding a 22-4 advantage, including a 10-2 mark when the teams have met in Columbia and a 12-2 record when the games have been played in Nashville. The teams met just once (1961) before they became SEC Eastern Division rivals beginning in 1992, and have met every year since.

IN DOMINATING FASHION: The Gamecocks have won each of the last eight games, their longest winning streak in the series, and 15 of the last 17 meetings between these two SEC Eastern Division rivals. Of the Division I FBS opponents against whom the Gamecocks have at least 10 all-time meetings, Carolina has its best winning percentage against Vanderbilt at .846. In the previous 26 outings, Vanderbilt has tallied more than 17 points just five times (24 in 2003, 28 in 2005, 24 in 2008, 25 in 2013 and a record-high 34 in 2014).

THE OUTLIERS: Vanderbilt’s four wins in the series have come in back-to-back fashion on two occasions – first in 1998 and `99, then again in 2007 and `08. Those four wins have been by a combined total of 22 points (17-14, 11-10, 17-6 and 24-17).

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Gamecocks rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit on September 1, 2016, to post a 13-10 victory at Vanderbilt in the season opener for both squads. Deebo Samuel scored on an eight-yard run to tie the score midway through the fourth quarter, then Elliott Fry booted a career-long 55-yard field in the game’s final minute to lift the Gamecocks to victory. The Gamecock defense forced seven three-and-outs and limited the Commodores to just 242 yards of offense, including 73 through the air.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: The Gamecocks made a coaching change during the game week, with interim Shawn Elliott taking over for Steve Spurrier, who stepped down from his post. The squad responded with a 19-10 victory over Vanderbilt in Columbia on October 17, 2015. Elliott Fry booted four field goals to account for most of the scoring. Brandon Wilds carried 24 times for 120 yards and Pharoh Cooper logged 160 yards on seven catches, including a 78-yard scoring strike from Perry Orth in the third quarter that gave the Gamecocks a lead they would not relinquish. The Carolina defense picked off three passes in the contest.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL: Will Muschamp is 4-1 in five games as a head coach against the Commodores. He was a 26-21 winner in 2011 in “The Swamp,” posted a 31-17 win in Nashville in 2012, dropped a 34-17 decision at Gainesville in 2013, then won by a 34-10 count in Nashville in 2014 as the head coach at Florida. He ran his record in Nashville to 3-0 when he took the Gamecocks to the Music City and survived a 13-10 decision to open the 2016 campaign in his Carolina debut.

BECOMING BOWL ELIGIBLE: A win would give Carolina six victories on the season, matching their win total of last year, and make them bowl-eligible. South Carolina has been bowl-eligible in 12 of the last 13 years, and has appeared in 10 bowl games in the last 12 seasons.

POST-BYE WEEK SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are coming off a bye week. They have won 10 of their last 12 contests after a bye week dating back to the 2008 season.

GOOD OLE ROCKY TOP: The Gamecocks recorded a season-high seven sacks and pitched a second half shutout to rally for a 15-9 win at Tennessee in their last outing on October 14. The Carolina defense surrendered just 253 yards (only 120 after the first quarter) and did not allow a touchdown despite four redzone penetrations by the Vols, including three shots from the 2-yard line in the final seconds to preserve the victory. Parker White converted all three of his field goal attempts, including two in the final six minutes to provide the margin of victory. The win was Will Muschamp’s sixth in as many tries against Tennessee, and was the Gamecocks’ second true road win of the season after totaling just one true road win in the previous two seasons combined.

WONNUM RECOGNIZED AGAIN: Sophomore Dennis “D.J.” Wonnum, has been selected as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week in each of the Gamecocks’ last two games. In the win over Arkansas, he was credited with four solo tackles, including a tackle for loss, broke up two passes and had a quarterback hurry. He led a Carolina defensive line that limited the Razorbacks to just 106 yards rushing on 32 carries. At Tennessee, he logged six tackles, all solo stops, including a pair of sacks for a dozen yards. The Carolina defense held the Vols to just 253 yards of total offense, including just 120 yards after the first quarter.

SEEING RED: The Gamecock defense has really buckled down in the red zone this season. In the last game at Tennessee, Carolina surrendered just three field goals in four Vol penetrations into the red zone. For the season, the Gamecocks have allowed just 12 touchdowns on 26 red zone opportunities, or just 46 percent of the time. Overall, Carolina is tied for second in the SEC in red zone defense with Georgia, behind only Alabama.

SAWYER STRIPS TOPS THE NATION: Senior defensive lineman Dante Sawyer leads the nation with four forced fumbles this season. The school record for a season is six, set by Bill Currier in 1976 and matched by Emanuel Weaver in 1981.

NO SCORING ZONE: The Gamecocks are allowing just 19.3 points per game this season, fifth in the SEC. If that number holds up, it would be their best mark since the 2012 squad allowed just 18.2 points per contest, and would mark the fourth-straight year in which the Gamecocks have shown improvement, going from 30.4 ppg in 2014, to 27.5 in 2015 to 26.5 last season.

BETTER THAN AVERAGE: The Gamecock defense has been better than advertised this season, holding all seven opponents to fewer points than their season average, with three of the seven being held at least 10 points below their season mark. Vanderbilt enters this week’s contest averaging 22.4 points per game.

SEASON-HIGH SEVEN SACKS: The Gamecocks recorded a season-high seven sacks in the win at Tennessee. It marked the most sacks for the squad since logging eight sacks in the 2012 game at Kentucky. Carolina is fifth in the SEC in sacks.

THREE-AND-OUT: The Gamecock defense has logged 11 three-and-outs in their last two wins over Arkansas and Tennessee. They had recorded just nine three-and-outs in the first five games combined.

ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES A TD: The Gamecocks set a school record with three defensive touchdowns in the win over Arkansas. Skai Moore returned an interception 34 yards, T.J. Brunson returned a fumble 73 yards, then Keisean Nixon returned an interception 45 yards for a score. It was the Gamecocks first game with multiple defensive scores since September 10, 2011 at Georgia, when Antonio Allen had a pick-six and Melvin Ingram scored on a fumble recovery. The three defensive scores were one shy of the NCAA Division I record of four, accomplished four times. The Gamecocks have scored five defensive or special teams touchdowns this season.

POINTS FROM ELSEWHERE: The Gamecocks have scored five non-offensive touchdowns this season, two on kickoff returns, two interception returns and one fumble return. That is one shy of the school record of six non-offensive touchdowns, accomplished four times since 1970: 1971, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

MAKESHIFT LINE: The Gamecocks have had just two of their five Opening Day offensive linemen make the start in their last two games against Arkansas and Tennessee. Junior right tackle Zack Bailey has missed the last four contests after suffering a right ankle injury against Kentucky. Senior right guard Cory Helms injured his right ankle against Louisiana Tech and has not played in the last three contests. Junior tackle Malik Young went out early in the A&M game a right ankle injury and has missed the last two contests. Redshirt freshman Sadarius Hutcherson has made his first three career starts, while senior D.J. Park and junior Blake Camper have both made their first starts of the season at right tackle. The Gamecocks have used six different offensive line combinations in their first seven games, including four different starters at right tackle. The lone constant has been senior Alan Knott at center.

MISSING IN ACTION: After having 19 of the 22 starters answer the bell in each of the first three games, the injury bug struck Carolina. In addition to the issues on the offensive line, wide receiver/kick returner Deebo Samuel is out indefinitely with a fractured leg, while starting Buck Bryson Allen-Williams (shoulder), starting running back Rico Dowdle (fractured leg) and tight ends K.C. Crosby (fractured leg) and Kyle Markway (ribs) will miss the remainder of the regular season after undergoing surgery.

HEY TURN ME OVER: Carolina is tied for third in the SEC with 13 turnovers forced (7 fumbles and 6 interceptions). The Gamecocks are plus-7 in turnover margin, tied for second in the SEC and tied for 15th in the country.

RAISE THE FLAG: The Gamecocks are one of the least penalized teams in college football. Carolina has been flagged for just 31 penalties this season, an average of 4.4 per game, which ranks scond in the SEC and tied for 15th in the country. Carolina’s penalties have totaled 228 yards or just 32.6 yards per contest, the fewest in the SEC and the fourth-fewest in the nation behind only Georgia Tech, Minnesota and Arizona State.

MY QUARTERBACK IS A BENTLEY: Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley is the key to the Gamecock attack. The 6-3, 220-pounder is hitting on 60.8 percent of his passes this season (129-for-212) for 1,585 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. He completed a career-best 16-consecutive passes earlier this season against Kentucky, four shy of the school record of 20, set by Connor Shaw. He ranks third in the SEC in passing yards per game (226.4) and fourth in total offense (228.4), while his 12 TD passes ranks fourth. Bentley, who is 9-5 in 14 career starts, has thrown for over 300 yards twice in his career. 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 against USF in 2016.

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.

BORN TO RUN: The Gamecocks are without the services of Rico Dowdle, who suffered a broken leg in the win over Tennessee. While Dowdle’s absence will be felt, the running game will be in the capable hands of A.J. Turner and Ty’Son Williams. Despite not having a carry in two of the first three games, Williams (6-0, 215) leads the team with 328 yards on 60 rushes, a 5.5-yard average, with two starts. He turned in the best performance in 2017 when he carried 13 times for 95 yards, including a 35-yard burst, in the win over Louisiana Tech. Turner (5-10, 184) logged 497 yards and three scores on 116 carries last season, including a career-best 113-yard effort against Texas A&M. After rushing just 20 times for 60 yards through the first six games, he carried 14 times for 86 yards and a touchdown at Tennessee after Dowdle was sidelined. Mon Denson, a 5-10, 209-pound sophomore, becomes the third back in the rotation.

THE PRODIGAL (TY’)SON: After spending the 2015 season at North Carolina, then sitting out 2016 as a transfer, redshirt sophomore running back Ty’Son Williams, from Sumter, S.C., has led the Gamecocks in rushing three times this season. He came off the bench at Mizzou to lead the team with 14 rushes for 78 yards in the win. He made his first collegiate start against Louisiana Tech and responded with 95 yards on 13 carries, a 7.3-yard average, including a 35-yard touchdown burst in the fourth quarter, the longest by a Gamecock this season. He logged 14 carries for 73 yards, including a 34-yard burst, at Texas A&M. After seven games, he is the team’s leading rusher with 328 yards on 60 carries, a 5.5-yard average.

MISSING DEEBO: Deebo Samuel did it all for the Gamecocks through the season’s first three games before 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 was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after both the NC State and Missouri contests. Samuel hauled in five passes for 122 yards, including a 68-yard scoring strike on the game’s first play from scrimmage against Kentucky, before suffering the injury.

MOVIN’ ON UP: Bryan Edwards played an excellent second fiddle to Deebo Samuel, but has now moved into the first chair in Samuel’s absence. Edwards has caught at least four passes in six of seven games this season, totaling 33 catches for 420 yards and one score. He ranks fourth in the SEC in receptions per game (4.7) and is eighth in receiving yards per game (60.0). His best effort is a six-catch, 122-yard performance against Louisiana Tech. The 6-3, 215-pounder from Conway, S.C., has 77 career receptions for 1,010 yards.

ORTRE FINDS THE END ZONE: True freshman wide receiver OrTre Smith has three touchdowns among his dozen receptions this season. His first career reception was a 9-yard TD pass late in the game against Kentucky, then he caught a 28-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against Louisiana Tech before hauling in a 13-yard scoring strike at A&M in the third quarter.

HE MAY BE SHI, BUT HE’S NOT AFRAID: Shi Smith has also stepped up in the absence of Deebo Samuel. The true freshman had his best game as a Gamecock at Texas A&M, catching three passes for a team-high 86 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown pass for his first career score. For the season, Shi has hauled in 15 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown.

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. He also was selected a permanent team captain in 2016, becoming the first sophomore in school history to earn that distinction. He was a 2017 first-team mid-season All-SEC selection by The Athletic.

FROM HURST TO FIRST?: Hayden Hurst had back-to-back 76-yard receiving games, catching a career-high six passes at Texas A&M and a career-long 62-yard touchdown reception versus Arkansas, to move up on the all-time Carolina charts for a tight end. He ranks second on Carolina’s all-time list in career receptions by a tight end (75) and ranks third in career yards receiving by a tight end (1,019). He needs just four catches to become the school’s all-time leader in career receptions by a tight end. GETTING IN THE SACK: The Gamecocks have recorded 17 sacks this season, with four coming in the season opening win over NC State and seven coming at Tennessee, the most in a game since 2012. The 17 sacks rank fifth in the SEC. Carolina recorded a total of 21 sacks in 13 games a year ago.

TACKLING MACHINE: Sophomore T.J. Brunson is the Gamecocks’ top tackler and ranks ninth in the SEC with 56 stops, or 8.0 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 also has logged double-digits in tackles against Kentucky with a dozen. Brunson logged just 12 tackles during the 2016 season.

SKAI SOARS: 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 were 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 currently ranks second on the squad and tied for 14th in the SEC with an average of 7.3 tackles per game.

A BAKER’S DOZEN: Skai Moore has a pair of interceptions this season, getting one against Kentucky, then returning another 34 yards for a score in the win over Arkansas. He has logged 13 career picks, which ranks second on the school’s all-time list, one behind Bo Davies’ school record of 14.

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.

ALL THE WHITE STUFF: The Gamecocks have been challenged to replace the school’s all-time leading scorer in placekicker Elliott Fry. The duo of true freshman Parker White and redshirt freshman Alexander Woznick have combined to connect on just 8-of-17 field goal attempts. White, who also handles the kickoffs, is 10-for-10 on PATs and 7-for-14 in the field goal department, but has hit his last four in a row. His first made field goal was a 31-yard game-winner in the final seconds against Louisiana Tech. Woznick, who was the Opening Day starter, is 10-of-11 on extra point attempts and 1-of-3 on field goals.

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?: Whether Parker White or Alexander Woznick 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, is the Gamecocks’ punter. Charlton has averaged 43.6 yards, seventh in the SEC and 32nd in the country, over his 29 punts with 10 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 1992. More importantly, the Gamecocks are averaging 41.1 net yards per punt, sixth in the SEC and 20th in the country. Charlton is threatening the school’s single-season punting average record.

BREAKDOWN DEAD AHEAD: The breakdown of the Gamecocks’ 109-man roster features 12 seniors, 21 juniors, 30 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen and 30 true freshmen.

FRESH FISH: South Carolina has played eight true freshmen this season. Those newcomers who have seen action for the first time in Division I football are Sherrod Greene, Brad Johnson, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith, Damani Staley, Aaron Sterling, Chad Terrell and Jamyest Williams. Four freshmen – Greene, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith and Williams – have each made a start.

FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Ten Gamecocks have made their first career start this season. Linebacker T.J. Brunson and 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. Left tackle Dennis Daley made his first start against Kentucky. True freshman wide receiver OrTre Smith, sophomore running back transfer Ty’Son Williams and JUCO defensive tackle transfer Javon Kinlaw, all made their first starts against Louisiana Tech. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Sadarius Hutcherson got the nod at left guard at Texas A&M. True freshman linebacker Sherrod Greene made his first start against Arkansas.

WINNER, WINNER: The Gamecocks face a dozen opponents that combined to win 61.6 percent of its games last season, going 98-61 overall. That ranked as the fourth-highest opponent winning percentage among FBS teams, behind UMass, LSU and East Carolina. The opponents have not disappointed this season, logging a .614 winning percentage (51-32) thus far.

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 is averaging 77,910 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) through three home games, 16th in the nation.

BIG ROAD CROWDS: South Carolina plays in three of the nation’s 10-largest college football stadiums this fall, traveling to Texas A&M’s Kyle Field in College Station (3rd-102,733), Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium in Knoxville (4th-102,455) and Georgia’s Sanford Stadium in Athens (9th-92,746).

UP NEXT: The Gamecocks will play their final road game of the season when they travel to Athens to take on the SEC Eastern Division-leading Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia leads the all-time series by a 49-18-2 margin, including a 28-8 record when the games have been played in Athens, but the Gamecocks have won four of the last seven meetings between the two long-time rivals. Next week’s game will be only the third time since 1980 that the Gamecocks and Bulldogs have met after September (they played on Oct. 6 in 2012 and Oct. 9, 2016), and is the second-latest date in the history of the series that extends back to 1894, exceeded only by the Nov. 18 game in 1939.