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Happy New Year - It's Gameday!
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Happy New Year - It's Gameday!

Jan. 1, 2018

YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (8-4, 5-3 SEC) will face the Michigan Wolverines (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) in the 2018 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. on Monday, January 1. Game time is set for noon ET and the contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

600 WINS: The University of South Carolina posted win number 600 in school history in its next-to-last home game 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 600-574-44, a .511 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 wrapped up 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.

GOING BOWLING: The 2018 Outback Bowl marks Carolina’s 22nd bowl appearance. The Gamecocks are 8-13 all-time in bowl games. They dropped their first eight bowl games, won three straight, lost four of the next five but now have won four of their last five bowl appearances.

BOWL ELIGIBILITY: The Gamecocks are bowl-eligible for the 13th time in the last 14 years. They elected not to participate in a bowl game following a 6-5 season in 2004, did not receive a bowl bid following a 6-6 campaign in 2007, and did not qualify for a bowl following a 3-9 season in 2015. The Gamecocks are 5-5 in the 10 bowl games played in that stretch, including wins in four of their last five bowl appearances.

BACK TO TAMPA: Carolina will be making its fifth trip to the Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks are 3-1 in the Outback Bowl with back-to-back wins over Ohio State in 2001 (24-7) and 2002 (31-28), and a 31-10 loss to Iowa in 2009, before posting a 33-28 win over Michigan in 2013.

GAMECOCKS AND WOLVERINES: This will mark the fourth meeting between Carolina and Michigan and the second between the two squads in the Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks were 33-28 winners on January 1, 2013 in one of the most memorable bowl games in recent history, one that gave us “The Hit,” by Carolina All-American Jadeveon Clowney. The teams also split two contests in the 1980s, with the Gamecocks posting a 17-14 win in Ann Arbor in 1980, and Michigan winning by a 34-3 count in Columbia in 1985.

CAROLINA VS. THE BIG TEN: The Gamecocks are 6-9 all-time against teams that currently comprise the Big Ten Conference. However, that number is somewhat skewed in that they were 0-5 combined against Nebraska (0-3) and Penn State (0-2) when neither of those schools was a member of the Big Ten at the time of the game. The Gamecocks are 7-4 against teams that had Big Ten affiliation when the game was played. Carolina is 2-0 against Ohio State, 1-0 against Nebraska and Chicago as members of the Big Ten, 1-0 vs. Wisconsin, 2-1 versus Michigan, and 0-1 against Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern.

THEY’RE NOT SEC WORTHY: South Carolina is 27-6 in its last 33 non-conference games, including a 3-1 mark this season, with wins over NC State, Louisiana Tech and Wofford and a loss to Clemson. 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.

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

SO LONG SENIORS: Twelve players went through Senior Day ceremonies: 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.

COACHING CAROUSEL: Head football coach Will Muschamp relieved co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper of his duties on December 6. Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon will coordinate the Gamecocks’ offense and call the plays for the 2018 Outback Bowl game versus Michigan.

EIGHT IS NOT ENOUGH: The Gamecocks have won eight games this season. It marks 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. The Gamecocks will be looking for their ninth victory of the season in the Outback Bowl, something that has been done just six times previously.

TOUGH COMPETITION: The Gamecocks have four losses this season, but two of those came to teams in No. 1 Clemson and No. 3 Georgia who will be competing in the FBS National Semifinal games. The other two losses also came to 2017 bowl teams, Kentucky and Texas A&M.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp (14-11) 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.

POST-SEASON ACCOLADES: The Gamecocks were represented on the Associated Press’s All-SEC team with tight end Hayden Hurst on the first team and linebacker Skai Moore and defensive lineman Dante Sawyer on the second team. The coaches named Hurst and Moore First-Team All-SEC. Defensive back Jamyest Williams was an All-Freshman selection by the coaches. Moore earned second-team All-America accolades from College Sports Madness.

TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: The Gamecocks have eight student-athletes who have earned their undergraduate degree. Ulric Jones (interdisciplinary studies), Skai Moore (interdisciplinary studies) and D.J. Park (criminal justice) all had their degrees in hand during the season. Cory Helms (interdisciplinary studies), Alan Knott (criminal justice), Chris Lammons (sociology), Dante Sawyer (interdisciplinary studies), and Demetrius Smalls (criminal justice) graduated in December.

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 this season. 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.

HEY TURN ME OVER: South Carolina leads the SEC and is tied for 21st in the country with 23 turnovers forced (11 fumbles and 12 interceptions). The Gamecocks are plus-9 in turnover margin, second in the SEC and 17th 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 86 points off its 23 turnovers forced, while allowing just 13 points following their 14 turnovers.

IF YOU’RE SCORING AT HOME: The Gamecocks are allowing just 20.8 points per game this season, 26th 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 11 of 12 opponents to fewer points than their season average, with five teams being held at least 10 points below their season mark. Clemson was the only team that was able to tally more than 30 points against South Carolina this season. Michigan enters the bowl game averaging 25.8 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 55 penalties, an average of 4.6 per game, which ranks second in the SEC and tied for 19th in the nation. Carolina’s penalties have totaled 426 yards or 35.5 yards per contest, the fewest in the SEC and the fifth-fewest in the country behind only Boston College, Minnesota, Washington and Army.

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, nine at left guard and three at right guard. The good news is that the same quintet has started in each of the last five 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) all missed the remainder of the regular season after undergoing surgery. Crosby and Markway should be cleared for the bowl game, while Samuel and Allen-Williams will return for their senior seasons in 2018.

MY QUARTERBACK IS A BENTLEY: Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley (6-3, 220) is hitting on 62.4 percent of his passes this season (226-for-362) for 2,555 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 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 sixth in the SEC in passing yards per game (212.9) and eighth in total offense (220.1). Bentley, who is 12-7 in 19 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 team 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 3,975 career yards, needing just 25 yards to become the 11th player in school history to pass for 4,000 yards.

BORN TO RUN: The Gamecocks running attack has been a committee effort this season. Carolina hopes to regain the services of Rico Dowdle, who suffered a broken leg in the win over Tennessee, for the bowl game. With Dowdle’s sidelined, the running game fell into the hands of A.J. Turner, Ty’Son Williams and Mon Denson, with Turner and Williams doing the bulk of the work.

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. Over the last six games, Turner has carried 72 times for 457 yards, a 6.3-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 92 carries for 517 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.

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. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 460 yards on 92 carries, a 5.0-yard average.

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 the regular season.

MOVIN’ ON UP: Sophomore wide receiver 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 10 of 12 games this season, totaling 59 catches for 705 yards and four scores. He ranks fourth in the SEC in receptions per game (4.9) and is ninth in receiving yards per game (58.8). His best effort was a six-catch, 122-yard performance against Louisiana Tech and he added a career-high eight receptions for 90 yards versus Wofford. The 6-3, 215-pounder from Conway, S.C., has 103 career receptions for 1,295 yards. He has caught at least one pass in all 24 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 scores.

THE OTHER SMITH: True freshman wide receiver OrTre Smith continues to produce as well. The 6-4, 219-pounder has 30 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns. He has caught at least three passes in each of the last eight 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 is a 2017 first-team All-SEC selection, was one of 10 semifinalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation’s top walk-on and was one of eight finalists for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end.

FROM HURST TO FIRST: Hayden Hurst is second on the squad with 41 receptions for 518 yards. He had his best game at Georgia, catching seven passes for a career-high 93 yards, earning John Mackey Tight End of the Week accolades. 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, surpassing Danny Smith’s mark of 78, which stood for 30 years. He ranks second in career yards receiving by a tight end with 1,240, and needs 97 yards to become the school’s all-time leader in that category. Danny Smith is the current leader with 1,336 yards.

GETTING IN THE SACK: The Gamecocks have recorded 24 sacks in 12 games this season, three more than they notched in 13 games during the 2016 campaign, with seven coming at Tennessee, the most in a game since 2012. Sophomore D.J. Wonnum leads the way with 6.0 sacks, tying for ninth in the SEC.

WONNUM RECOGNIZED TWICE: Sophomore Dennis “D.J.” Wonnum, was 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 ranks third in the SEC with 13.0 tackles for loss and is tied for 13th 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 and Charlotte’s Ben DeLuca for the NCAA Division I lead in forced fumbles with five. Sawyer and DeLuca have played 11 games, while Winbush has played 12. The school record for forced fumbles in a season is six, set by Bill Currier in 1976 and matched by Emanuel Weaver in 1981. Sawyer was named second-team All-SEC by the Associated Press.

SKAI SOARS: Skai Moore is back after missing the entire 2016 season following surgery to address a herniated disk in his neck. He leads the team and tied for 11th in the SEC with 88 tackles, an average of 7.3 tackles per game, and set a career-high with 15 tackles in the regular-season finale against Clemson. 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.

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 13-tackle lead (88-75) 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.

MOORE RECOGNITION: Senior linebacker Skai Moore was named to the first-team All-SEC squad by the league’s coaches, was a second-team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press, and was named second-team All-American by College Sports Madness.

THE BRUNSON BURNER: Sophomore T.J. Brunson is second on the team and ranks in a tie for 21st in the SEC with 75 stops, or 6.2 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.

KING FOR A SEASON: Senior cornerback JaMarcus King ranks fourth in the SEC in passes defended with 13 and finds himself in the Carolina record books for passes broken up in both a single season and for a career despite playing just two seasons for the Garnet & Black.

ALL THE WHITE STUFF: Freshman Parker White, who also handles the kickoffs, is trying to replace Elliott Fry, Carolina’s all-time leading scorer. White is 24-for-24 on PATs and 12-for-22 on field goals, 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 LA Tech. 42 of his 59 kickoffs have been touchbacks.

THIS IS CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Redshirt sophomore Joseph Charlton, has averaged 44.3 yards over his 47 punts, with 16 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 12 punts inside the 20 with just four touchbacks. The Gamecocks are averaging 41.1 net yards per punt, 14th in the country. Charlton currently owns the best single-season punting average in school history by percentage points over Daren Parker (1989) and Sean Kelly (2015).

THE RETURNS ARE IN: Rashad Fenton has taken over as the school’s all-time leader in kick return average at 24.8 yards, surpassing Kent Hagood (24.7 from 1981-85). Fenton has 646 yards on 26 career returns while Hagood logged 519 yards on 21 returns.

WINNER, WINNER: The Gamecocks faced a dozen opponents that combined to win 61.6 percent of its games in 2016, going 98-61 overall. That ranked as the fourth-highest opponent winning percentage among FBS teams. The opponents have not disappointed this season, logging a .589 winning percentage (86-60) through games of December 3. Seven of the Gamecocks’ 12 opponents will be playing in a bowl game this year, with two (Georgia and Clemson) in the CFP national semifinals. Additionally, Wofford earned a spot in the FCS playoffs.

AND YOU’LL GET A DEGREE, TOO: The Gamecocks’ Graduation Success Rate 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 GSR released by the NCAA.

THEY PAY TO SEE THEM PLAY: South Carolina averaged 78,586 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium (capacity 80,250) during the 2017 season, ranking 16th in the nation. The Gamecocks also played in three of the biggest stadiums in the nation this year, with attendances of over 90,000 at Tennessee (98,104), Texas A&M (96,430) and Georgia (92,746).

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.

LOOKING AHEAD: The annual Garnet & Black spring game is set for Saturday, March 31, 2018. The 2018 regular season will kick off on Saturday, September 1, vs. Coastal Carolina.