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Palmetto State Showdown Set For Saturday
Football  . 

Palmetto State Showdown Set For Saturday

Nov. 24, 2017

YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The 2017 regular season wraps up when the South Carolina Gamecocks (8-3, 5-3 SEC) host the No. 4/3 Clemson Tigers (10-1, 7-1 ACC) on Saturday, Nov. 25. Game time is set for 7:30 pm ET. The Palmetto State showdown will be televised nationally from Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) on ESPN.

NATIONAL COVERAGE: Joe Tessitore will serve as the play-by-play voice for ESPN with Todd Blackledge providing the color commentary and Holly Rowe reporting from the sidelines. Westwood One will provide the national radio broadcast with Brandon Gaudin and Derek Rackley in the booth.

NUMBER 600: The University of South Carolina posted win number 600 in school history last week against Wofford. Carolina laced it up for the first time on Dec. 24, 1892 in Charleston against Furman. After dropping its first three games, Carolina got into the win column for the first time on Nov. 8, 1895 with a 14-10 victory over Columbia AA. Now, 125 years later, the Gamecocks owns an all-time record of 600-572-44, a .512 winning percentage. This is the 124th season of intercollegiate football at South Carolina and the 111th-consecutive year in which it has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906.

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 are 90-117-1 (.435) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 35-29 (.547) in conference action in this decade.

GIVE ME FIVE: South Carolina has won five or more conference games for just the eighth time in 26 seasons since joining the SEC. South Carolina tallied a school-record six SEC wins for three-consecutive years from 2011-13, and also won five conference games in 2000, 2001, 2005, and 2010.

SO LONG SENIORS: Twelve players went through Senior Day ceremonies last week: Cory Helms, Hayden Hurst, Ulric Jones, JaMarcus King, Alan Knott, Chris Lammons, Skai Moore, D.J. Park, Dante Sawyer, Demetrius Smalls, D.J. Smith and Taylor Stallworth.

EIGHT IS NOT ENOUGH: The Gamecocks posted their eighth win of the season last Saturday against Wofford. It marked the 14th time in school history that Carolina has won eight or more games in a season, eight of which have come in this century.

CAROLINA VS. CLEMSON: This is the 115th meeting between these two Palmetto State schools in a series that dates back to 1896. The teams have met every year since 1909, making the Carolina-Clemson series the second-longest running consecutively played series in college football at 109-straight meetings, behind only Minnesota — Wisconsin. The Tigers hold a 68-42-4 lead in the all-time series, including a 50-32-3 advantage in Columbia and an 18-10-1 mark in Clemson. However, the Gamecocks have won five of the last eight and seven of the last 11 meetings. Carolina has won three of the last four meetings in Columbia, posting a 34-17 win 2009, a 34-13 victory in 2011, and a 31-17 win in 2013, before falling in 2015 by a 37-32 margin.

THE PALMETTO SERIES: The winner of this week’s game will earn that school another point in the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series between South Carolina and Clemson. Additionally, another point will be awarded today to the winner of the month-long Food Drive. The Gamecocks are 2-0 in the Palmetto Series, winning the trophy in 2015-16 by a 10-5 margin and scoring an 8-7 victory in 2016-17. Carolina currently holds a 5-2 advantage in this year’s competition.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Behind the passing of Deshaun Watson, No. 4/3 Clemson claimed a 56-7 victory over South Carolina on November 26, 2016, in Clemson. The Tigers bolted out to a 21-0 lead in the first period and cruised to the victory. The Gamecocks were held to just 218 yards of offense, while the Tigers rolled up 622 yards in the win.

THE LAST TIME IN COLUMBIA: Under interim head coach Shawn Elliott, the Gamecocks challenged the No. 1-ranked Tigers before succumbing by a 37-32 score on November 28, 2015 in Columbia. Perry Orth passed for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, with Deebo Samuel on the receiving end of five passes for 104 yards. Carolina’s defense forced three turnovers in the contest.

THE LAST GAMECOCK WIN: No. 10/9 South Carolina forced a half-dozen Clemson turnovers, turning three of them into touchdowns, as the Gamecocks won for the fifth-straight time over the #6/4 Tigers, 31-17 in Columbia on Nov. 30, 2013. The game was deadlocked at 17 heading into the final period, but Mike Davis scored on a two-yard run to cap a drive that took over six minutes off the clock, then Brandon Wilds scored on a 26-yard pass from Pharoh Cooper to seal the win. Connor Shaw posted 246 yards of total offense, including 94 on the ground, while All-American Kelcy Quarles led the defense with 2.5 sacks. Skai Moore had a fumble recovery and an interception in the contest.

ABOUT LAST WEEK: The Gamecocks’ defense held Wofford to just 227 total yards, the fewest yards allowed in the Will Muschamp Era at South Carolina, and forced three turnovers which led to 14 points in a 31-10 victory last Saturday in Columbia. Jake Bentley led the Gamecock offense by completing 22-of-28 passes for 194 yards and a score and also tallied a pair of rushing touchdowns. A.J. Turner rushed 11 times for 69 yards and a TD, and went over the 1,000-yard mark for his career. Bryan Edwards logged a career-high eight receptions. Skai Moore tied the school record with his 14th career interception. Dante Sawyer logged his fifth forced fumble of the season, tops in the SEC and one shy of the school record.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp (14-10) has notched 14 victories in his two seasons at the helm. Only Joe Morrison (15-8 in 1983-84), Steve Spurrier (15-10 in 2005-06) and C.R. Williams (14-3 in 1902-03) have won that many games in their first two seasons at Carolina.

THESE TEAMS ARE GOOD…AGAIN: Clemson (10-1) and Carolina (8-3) enter this year’s contest with a combined 18 victories. The record for most combined wins in the series at the time the game was played is 19, set in 2012 and matched in 2013. The teams also combined for 18 wins in 2011. Prior to this decade, the high was 16 combined wins. The Gamecocks have come out on top in all three of the previous meetings when they teams entered the contest with 18 or more combined wins.

THEY’RE NOT SEC WORTHY: South Carolina is 27-5 in its last 32 non-conference games, including a 3-0 mark this season, with wins over NC State, Louisiana Tech and Wofford. The Gamecocks had their 18-game non-conference winning streak snapped in the 2014 regular season finale at Clemson, then lost their final two games in both 2015 and 2016.

PROTECT THIS HOUSE: South Carolina has won 27 of its last 29 home games against non-conference foes. The Gamecocks had won 22-straight home games against non-conference opponents before dropping the final two games of the 2015 regular season to in-state rivals The Citadel and Clemson. Prior to that, the last home loss to a non-SEC team was to Clemson in 2007.

CAROLINA VS. THE ACC: South Carolina is 10-4 in its last 14 games against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference since the start of the 2009 season. Since that time they have faced Clemson (5-3), North Carolina (2-0), NC State (2-0), Miami (Fla.) (1-0), and Florida State (0-1). South Carolina was a member of the ACC from 1953-1970.

PLAYING A RANKED OPPONENT: The Gamecocks will be playing their second ranked opponent of the season when they take on No. 4/3 Clemson. The Gamecocks fell to No. 2/2 Georgia by a by a 24-10 count in Athens on November 4. Carolina was 1-4 against ranked opponents in 2016, with the lone win coming against No. 18 Tennessee. The Gamecocks are 2-12 versus ranked foes since the start of the 2014 season, with the other win coming against sixth-ranked Georgia in 2014.

BEATING THE BEST: Clemson enters the game as the nation’s fourth-ranked team, according to the Associated Press. A win over the Tigers would match the third-best victory in Carolina history, based on the AP rankings. Five of Carolina’s top seven wins based on the AP rankings have come since 2009, including a win over top-ranked Alabama in 2010.

DID YOU KNOW?: South Carolina has played a top-5 ranked team in 11 of the past 12 seasons.

FIVE UNDER 30: South Carolina is one of just five Division I-A schools that has not allowed a 30-point game this season. The others: Alabama, Auburn, Troy and Wisconsin.

HEY TURN ME OVER: South Carolina leads the SEC and is tied for 20th in the country with 21 turnovers forced (11 fumbles and 10 interceptions). The Gamecocks are plus-9 in turnover margin, second in the SEC and tied for 14th 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 76 points off their 21 turnovers forced, while allowing just six points following their 12 turnovers.

IF YOU’RE SCORING AT HOME: The Gamecocks are allowing just 19.6 points per game this season, 21st in the country. If that number holds up, it would be their best mark since the 2012 squad allowed just 18.2 points, and would mark the fourth-straight year in which Carolina has 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 10 of 11 opponents to fewer points than their season average, with five teams being held at least 10 points below their season mark. Clemson enters this week’s game averaging 35.3 points per game.

RALLY ROUND THE FLAG: The Gamecocks are one of the least penalized teams in college football. Carolina has been flagged for just 46 penalties, an average of 4.2 per game, which ranks first in the SEC and ninth in the nation. Carolina’s penalties have totaled 350 yards or 31.8 yards per contest, the fewest in the SEC and the third-fewest in the country behind only Boston College (29.1) and Minnesota (30.0).

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 Carolina’s 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. Carolina has scored five non-offensive TDs, 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.

LINE DANCE: 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, 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, eight at left guard and three at right guard. The good news is that the same quintet has started in each of the last four games.

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. All will be back next season.

MY QUARTERBACK IS A BENTLEY: Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley (6-3, 220) is hitting on 63.1 percent of his passes this season (210-for-333) for 2,235 yards with 15 touchdowns and nine 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, and had a stretch where he went 152 consecutive passes without an interception. He ranks fifth in the SEC in passing yards per game (220.8) and seventh in total offense (227.8). Bentley, who is 12-6 in 18 career starts, has thrown for over 300 yards twice in his career.

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.

MORE ON JAKE: Quarterback Jake Bentley shared 2016 MVP honors with Deebo Samuel, despite playing in just seven contests. 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. He has thrown for 3,655 career yards, becoming the 14th player in school history to throw for 3,000 yards.

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) has picked up the load in Rico Dowdle‘s absence. Over the last five games, Turner has carried 70 times for 447 yards, a 6.4-yard average. He had a career-best 121-yard effort on just 15 carries against Vanderbilt, the first 100-yard rushing game for a Gamecock this season, then topped that with a career-high 22-carry, 136-yard effort against Florida. Turner has taken over the team lead in rushing with 90 carries for 507 yards, a 5.6-yard average, and two touchdowns. He logged 497 yards and three scores on 116 carries last season, including a 113-yard effort against Texas A&M. With 1,004 career yards, he became the 43rd 1,000-yard rusher in school history and owns three 100-yard rushing games.

HE’S THE MON: Redshirt sophomore Mon Denson has taken advantage of his recent opportunities. After not seeing any game action in his first two years on campus and not getting a carry in the first five games this season, Denson, a 5-10, 209-pounder from LaGrange, Ga., has shown a burst of late. He turned in his best performance against Florida, rushing a career-high 13 times for a career-high 61 yards, with his first two TDs.

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. Samuel’s six touchdowns in the season’s first three games is still tied for the team lead after 11 games.

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 three passes in nine of 11 games this season, totaling 53 catches for 635 yards and threee scores. He ranks third in the SEC in receptions per game (4.8) and is ninth in receiving yards per game (57.7). His best effort is a six-catch, 122-yard performance against Louisiana Tech and he added a career-high eight receptions for 90 yards last week vs. Wofford. The 6-3, 215-pounder from Conway, S.C., has 97 career receptions for 1,225 yards. He has caught at least one pass in all 23 games in which he has appeared.

HE’S SHI, BUT EFFECTIVE: 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 26 passes for 350 yards and two TDs.

THE OTHER SMITH: True freshman wide receiver OrTre Smith continues to produce as well. The 6-4, 219-pounder has 27 catches for 314 yards and three touchdowns. He has caught at least three passes in each of the last seven games, including a career-best five-catch, 60-yard performance against Florida.

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, was one of 10 semifinalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation’s top walk-on and is one of eight finalists for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end.

FROM HURST TO FIRST: Hayden Hurst had his best game at Georgia, catching seven passes for a career-high 93 yards, earning John Mackey Tight End of the Week accolades, and has 15 receptions in the last three games. 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 versus Arkansas. 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 1,212.

GETTING IN THE SACK: The Gamecocks have recorded 23 sacks in 11 games this season, two more than they notched in 13 games during the 2016 campaign, with seven coming at Tennessee, the most in a game since 2012. D.J. Wonnum leads the way with 6.0, tying for ninth in the SEC. Here are the individual numbers:

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 leads the SEC with 13.0 tackles for loss and is tied for ninth in the SEC with 6.0 sacks.

SAWYER STRIPS TOPS THE NATION: Senior defensive end Dante Sawyer is tied with Ball State’s Anthony Winbush for the NCAA Division I lead in forced fumbles with five. 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 leads the team and tied for 16th in the SEC with 73 tackles, an average of 6.6 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 holds a three-tackle lead (73-70) over T.J. Brunson for the 2017 team lead.

THAT’S A RECORD: Skai Moore has a team-leading three interceptions this season, getting one against Kentucky, returning another 34 yards for a score in the win over Arkansas, then adding a third last week against Wofford. He is tied with Bo Davies (1969-71) for the school record with 14 career picks.

THE BRUNSON BURNER: Sophomore T.J. Brunson is second on the team and ranks in a tie for 21st in the SEC with 70 stops, or 6.4 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.

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 19-for-19 on PATs and 11-for-21 in the field goal department, but is a solid 9-for-10 inside 40 yards. His first career made field goal was a 31-yard game-winner in the final seconds against Louisiana Tech. 41 of his 56 kickoffs have been touchbacks.

THIS IS CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Redshirt sophomore Joseph Charlton, has averaged 42.8 yards over his 40 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 10 punts inside the 20 with just one touchback. The Gamecocks are averaging 40.6 net yards per punt, 21st in the country.

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 25.6 yards, surpassing Kent Hagood (24.7 from 1981-85). Fenton has 588 yards on 23 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 .588 winning percentage (77-54) thus far in 2017.

THEY PAY TO SEE THEM PLAY: South Carolina is averaging 77,865 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) through six home games, 16th in the nation. A sold out crowd is expected for the regular-season finale against Clemson.

TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: The Gamecocks have three student-athletes who have earned their undergraduate degree. The trio includes Ulric Jones (interdisciplinary studies), Skai Moore (interdisciplinary studies) and D.J. Park (criminal justice). Cory Helms (interdisciplinary studies), Alan Knott (criminal justice), Chris Lammons (sociology), Dante Sawyer (interdisciplinary studies), and Demetrius Smalls (criminal justice) are slated to graduate in December.


• The Gamecocks’ score of 98 ranked first in the SEC and tied for fourth in the country with Brown and Columbia, while trailing only Dartmouth, Harvard and Northwestern in the latest Graduation Success Rate released by the NCAA.

• The Gamecocks were one of six teams that competed in a bowl game following the 2016 season that owned a Graduation Success Rate of at least 90 percent.

• The football team recorded its second-highest in-season GPA on record (2.847) during the fall of 2016. The team’s spring 2017 GPA was 2.726.

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 will wait to find out their bowl destination and opponent, which will be announced on Sunday, December 3.