Gamecocks and Gators Set for Noon Kick Saturday
Nov. 10, 2017
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (6-3, 4-3 SEC) return home for the final SEC matchup of the season when they host the Florida Gators (3-5, 3-4 SEC) on Saturday, November 11. Game time is set for high noon for this SEC Eastern Division showdown, which will be televised nationally from Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) in Columbia by CBS.
IN THE BOOTH: Carter Blackburn will serve as the play-by-play voice for CBS, with Rick Neuheisel and Aaron Taylor providing the analysis. John Schriffen will be the sideline reporter.
THIS IS A FIRST: For the first time in history, the South Carolina Gamecocks will have back-to-back football games televised nationally by CBS, as this same broadcast crew was in Athens for last Saturday’s game against Georgia. The two appearances match the total broadcasts for the Gamecocks on CBS over the previous four seasons (2013-16) combined. This week’s game marks CBS’s first trip to Columbia since September 13, 2014. The Gamecocks have won their last four home games televised by CBS.
TWO 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 598-572-44, 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 89-117-1 (.432) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 34-29 (.540) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season.
CAROLINA VS. FLORIDA: This is the 38th meeting in a series that dates back to 1911. The Gators lead the all-time series, 26-8-3, including an 11-6-1 lead when playing in Columbia and a 14-2 advantage in Gainesville. The teams have also met three times at a neutral site with Florida winning once and the other two games ending in a tie. The Gamecocks have won four of the last seven contests between the two squads after losing 18 of the previous 19 meetings.
JUST GETTING WARMED UP: The Gamecocks have won four of the last seven gridiron tilts with the Gators after winning just four of the first 30 meetings between the two schools.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Florida outgained South Carolina 372-256 in cruising to a 20-7 win in The Swamp on November 12, 2016. Gator quarterback Austin Appleby completed 17-of-21 passes for 201 yards, while Carolina QB Jake Bentley was 18-of-33 for 213 yards. The Gamecocks could muster just 43 rushing yards on 30 attempts, while Florida logged 171 yards on the ground.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: The No. 11/10 Florida Gators withstood a late South Carolina surge in a 24-14 win in Columbia on Nov. 14, 2015. The Gators took a 17-0 lead into the final stanza, but Perry Orth and Pharoh Cooper combined for a pair of touchdown passes – one each on the throwing and receiving end – to pull the Gamecocks within three with just under five minutes to play, but the rally fell short.
WHERE THERE’S A WILL: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has been part of this rivalry as a head coach five times. His lone win came in the 2012 game at Florida where the Gators posted a 44-11 win. He is 0-1 against the Gators as South Carolina’s head coach. Coach Muschamp compiled a 28-21 record in four seasons as the Florida head coach.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The Gamecocks boast 13 players from the state of Florida including Jordon Carty (Lauderdale Lakes), Cole Davis (St. Johns), Rashad Fenton (Miami), Evan Hinson (Deltona), Hayden Hurst (Jacksonville), Tavyn Jackson (Tallahassee), Chris Lammons (Lauderhill), Skai Moore (Cooper City), Christian Pellage (Brooksville), Michael Scarnecchia (Fleming Island), Keir Thomas (Miami), Aaron Thompson (Fort Lauderdale) and Jerad Washington (Jacksonville).
ONCE A GATOR: Several members of the Carolina coaching staff were once part of Gator Nation. Head coach Will Muschamp (2011-14); assistants Coleman Hutzler (2010-11, 2014), Mike Peterson (1995-98, 2014-15), Travaris Robinson (2011-14) and Kurt Roper (2014); strength & conditioning coach Jeff Dillman (2012-14); analyst Kyle Krantz (2013-14) and coordinator of defensive operations Carina Hargreaves (2010-15) have all been Florida Gators.
GEORGIA ON MY MIND: The Gamecocks turned in a valiant effort against the top-ranked team in the CFP poll, but fell short at No. 2/2 Georgia, 24-10, last Saturday in Athens. Carolina could not stop the Bulldogs’ ground attack, surrendering 242 rushing yards. Jake Bentley completed 21-of-35 passes, including a 12-yard TD pass to Bryan Edwards. Hayden Hurst turned in his finest effort, catching seven passes for 93 yards.
THE DRIVE FOR FIVE: With four SEC wins under its belt, South Carolina is poised to win five or more conference games for just the eighth time in 26 seasons. South Carolina tallied a school-record six SEC wins for three-consecutive years from 2011-13, and won five conference games in 2000, 2001, 2005, and 2010.
GUILTY OF POSSESSION: The Gamecocks have turned the ball over just eight times all season. That ranks fourth in the SEC and tied for 13th in the country.
HEY TURN ME OVER: South Carolina is third in the SEC with 15 turnovers forced (8 fumbles and 7 interceptions). The Gamecocks are plus-7 in turnover margin, second in the SEC and tied for 15th in the country.
TURNOVERS LEAD TO POINTS: The Gamecocks are not only winning the turnover battle, but converting those turnovers into points. Carolina has tallied 62 points off their 15 turnovers, while allowing just three points following their eight turnovers.
BEND BUT DON’T BREAK: The Gamecock defense has buckled down in the red zone. For the season, the Gamecocks have allowed just 18 touchdowns on 34 red zone opportunities, or just 53 percent of the time. Overall, Carolina is fourth in the SEC in red zone defense.
IF YOU’RE SCORING AT HOME: The Gamecocks are allowing just 20.7 points per game this season, sixth in the SEC and 33rd in the country. 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 points per game 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 eight of nine opponents to fewer points than their season average, with four teams being held at least 10 points below their season mark. Florida enters this week’s contest averaging 20.6 points per game.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: South Carolina is one of just seven Division I-A schools that has not allowed a 30-point game this season. The others: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Troy, Washington and Wisconsin.
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 non-offensive touchdowns this season, three on defense and two on special teams.
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.
RALLY ROUND THE FLAG: The Gamecocks are one of the least penalized teams in college football. Carolina has been flagged for just 40 penalties this season, an average of 4.4 per game, which ranks second in the SEC and 15th in the country. Carolina’s penalties have totaled 293 yards or just 32.6 yards per contest, the fewest in the SEC and the fourth-fewest in the nation behind only Boston College, Georgia Tech and Minnesota.
MAKESHIFT LINE: Due to right ankle injuries to Zack Bailey, Cory Helms and Malik Young, offensive line coach Eric Wolford has had to piece together several different starting units. Nine players have started on the offensive line this season. The Gamecocks have used six different offensive line combinations in nine games, including four different starters at right tackle. The lone constant has been senior Alan Knott at center, who earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week accolades against Vanderbilt, although Donell Stanley has started every game, six at left guard and three at right guard.
MISSING IN ACTION: After having 19 of the 22 starters answer the bell in each of the first three games, injuries struck Carolina. In addition to the issues on the offensive line, starting wide receiver/kick returner Deebo Samuel (fractured leg vs. Kentucky), starting Buck Bryson Allen-Williams (shoulder vs. Kentucky), starting running back Rico Dowdle (fractured leg vs. Tennessee) and tight ends K.C. Crosby (fractured leg vs. Arkansas) and Kyle Markway (ribs vs. Missouri) will miss the remainder of the regular season after undergoing surgery.
MY QUARTERBACK IS A BENTLEY: Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley is the key to the Gamecock attack. The 6-3, 220-pounder is hitting on 61.2 percent of his passes this season (169-for-276) for 1,986 yards with 14 touchdowns and six 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 fourth in the SEC in passing yards per game (220.7) and fifth in total offense (226.4), while his 14 TD passes ranks fifth. Bentley, who is 10-6 in 16 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.
ON TARGET: Quarterback Jake Bentley has completed 63.1 percent of his career passes (294-of-466). That has him ranked second on the Gamecocks’ career completion percentage list. He had his streak of passes without an interception snapped at 152 against Georgia.
MORE ON JAKE: Quarterback Jake Bentley shared 2016 MVP honors with Deebo Samuel, despite playing in just seven contests. Bentley has thrown for 3,406 career yards, becoming the 14th player in school history to throw for 3,000 yards.
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. With Dowdle’s sidelined, the running game falls into the capable hands of A.J. Turner and Ty’Son Williams. Mon Denson, a 5-10, 209-pound sophomore, becomes the third back in the rotation, and has proven to be effective in limited duty this year.
A.J. TURNS UP: After rushing just 20 times for 60 yards through the first six games, redshirt sophomore A.J. Turner (5-10, 184) picked up the load in Rico Dowdle‘s absence, carrying a combined 29 times for 207 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, including a career-best 121-yard effort on just 15 carries against the Commodores, the first 100-yard rushing game for a Gamecock this season. He also caught four passes for 24 yards against the ‘Dores. Turner logged 497 yards and three scores on 116 carries last season, including a 113-yard effort against Texas A&M.
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 nine games, he is the team’s leading rusher with 349 yards on 71 carries, a 4.9-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 seven of nine games this season, totaling 42 catches for 497 yards and two scores. He ranks tied for fifth in the SEC in receptions per game (4.7) and is 10th in receiving yards per game (55.2). His best effort is a six-catch, 122-yard performance against Louisiana Tech. The 6-3, 215-pounder from Conway, S.C., has 86 career receptions for 1,087 yards.
ORTRE FINDS THE END ZONE: True freshman wide receiver OrTre Smith has three touchdowns among his 18 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. OrTre has caught exactly three passes in each of the last five games.
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. He had a season-high five receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt. For the season, Shi has hauled in 22 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns.
GET SMART: Would you believe the Gamecocks have three players, Deebo Samuel, Hayden Hurst and Bryan Edwards, who have exactly 86 career receptions, causing KAOS on the school’s all-time receptions list. The trio is currently tied for 24th place on that list. Ace Sanders is 16th on the list with… 99.
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. Hurst was a 2017 first-team mid-season All-SEC selection by The Athletic and is one of 10 semifinalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation’s top walk-on.
FROM HURST TO FIRST: Hayden Hurst had his best game at Georgia, catching seven passes for a career-high 93 yards. He also logged back-to-back 76-yard receiving games earlier this season, catching 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 became the school’s all-time leader in career receptions by a tight end in the win over Vanderbilt, passing Danny Smith’s mark of 78, which stood for 30 years. He ranks second in career yards receiving by a tight end with 1,143.
GETTING IN THE SACK: The Gamecocks have recorded 18 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. Carolina recorded a total of 21 sacks in 13 games in 2016.
WONNUM RECOGNIZED TWICE: Sophomore Dennis “D.J.” Wonnum, has been selected as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week twice this season. 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. Wonnum is tied for fourth in the SEC with 10.0 tackles for loss and leads the Gamecocks with 5.0 sacks (11th in the SEC).
SAWYER STRIPS TOPS THE NATION: Senior defensive end Dante Sawyer is tied for second the nation with four forced fumbles. The school record for a season is six, set by Bill Currier in 1976 and matched by Emanuel Weaver in 1981.
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 leads the team and tied for 12th in the SEC with 67 tackles, an average of 7.4 tackles per game.
MOORE FROM SKAI: Skai Moore can become the first player in school history to lead the team in tackles in four seasons. That accomplishment is rare across the country, having been done just 14 times previously. He currently leads T.J. Brunson by one tackles (67-66) for the 2017 team lead.
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.
TACKLING MACHINE: Sophomore T.J. Brunson is the Gamecocks’ second-leading tackler and ranks 14th in the SEC with 66 stops, or 7.3 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 also has logged double-digits in tackles against Kentucky with a dozen. Brunson logged just 12 tackles during the 2016 season.
ALL THE WHITE STUFF: True freshman Parker White, who also handles the kickoffs, is trying to fill the big shoes of Elliott Fry, the school’s all-time leading scorer. White is 15-for-15 on PATs and 10-for-19 in the field goal department, but has hit seven of his last nine attempts. Is a solid 8-for-9 inside 40 yards. His first career made field goal was a 31-yard game-winner in the final seconds against Louisiana Tech.
THIS IS CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Redshirt sophomore Joseph Charlton, has averaged 43.7 yards, sixth in the SEC and 29th in the country, over his 35 punts, with 11 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. He also has eight punts inside the 20 with just one touchback. More importantly, the Gamecocks are averaging 41.1 net yards per punt, sixth in the SEC and 18th in the country. Charlton is threatening the school’s single-season punting average record.
THE RETURNS ARE IN: Rashad Fenton has enough kick returns to qualify as the school’s all-time record-holder for kick return average at 25.7 yards, surpassing Kent Hagood (24.7 from 1981-85). Fenton has 567 yards on 22 returns while Hagood logged 519 yards on 21 returns.
WHEN WE WERE YOUNG: The breakdown of the Gamecocks’ 109-man roster features 12 seniors, 21 juniors, 30 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen and 30 true freshmen. 70 percent (76 of 109) of the Carolina roster is composed of freshmen and sophomores.
FRESH FISH: South Carolina has played eight true freshmen. Those newcomers include Sherrod Greene, Brad Johnson, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith, Damani Staley, Aaron Sterling, Chad Terrell and Jamyest Williams. Greene, OrTre Smith, Shi Smith and Williams have started.
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. The opponents have not disappointed, logging a .607 winning percentage (65-42) thus far in 2017.
THEY PAY TO SEE THEM PLAY: South Carolina is averaging 78,181 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) through four home games, 15th in the nation. The Gamecocks’ final three games of the 2017 regular season will be played in Columbia.
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.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks continue their three-game regular-season-ending homestand by hosting the Wofford Terriers out the FCS Southern Conference, on Saturday, November 18. South Carolina leads the all-time series by a 19-4 count, including a 17-2 advantage when the games have been played in Columbia. The Gamecocks have won each of the last 16 meetings between these two Palmetto State schools, with Wofford’s last win coming in the 1917 season. Carolina was a 24-7 winner in 2012, the last time they met.