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Gamecocks Travel to East Carolina Saturday
Football  . 

Gamecocks Travel to East Carolina Saturday

Noon Kick Set for ESPN2

QUICKLY: First-year head coach Shane Beamer takes the South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0, 0-0 SEC) on the road for the first time in 2021, traveling to Greenville, N.C. and Dowdy-Ficklin Stadium (50,000) for a Sept. 11 showdown with the East Carolina Pirates (0-1, 0-0 AAC). Game time is set for noon ET and the contest will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: Brian Custer will call the action for the deuce. He will be joined in the booth by former Colorado State standout Kelly Stouffer. Lauren Sisler will patrol the sidelines. The familiar voices of Carolina Hall of Famers Todd Ellis and Tommy Suggs handle the call for the Gamecock Radio Network with Jamar Nesbit on the sidelines.
AND WE’RE OFF: 2021 marks the 128th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 115th-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 615-595-44, a .508 winning pct.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The 2021 season marks South Carolina’s 30th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned the SEC Eastern Division title in the 2010 season. The Gamecocks are 99-134-1 (.425) all-time in SEC regular-season play.
BATTLE OF CAROLINAS: This is the 20th gridiron matchup between South Carolina and East Carolina, with the Gamecocks holding a 14-5 advantage in the all-time series, including an 11-4 record when the games have been played Columbia, a 2-1 mark when the game has been played in Greenville and a 1-0 mark at a neutral site (Charlotte in 2011). The schools met for the first time in 1977, then played in 11-straight seasons from 1984-94 and three more times in the ’90s (’96, ’97 and ’99), before renewing the rivalry four times in the last decade (’11, ’12, ’14 and ’16). The Gamecocks came out victorious in each of the first eight meetings before ECU won five of the next seven. South Carolina has won each of the last four contests.
THEY CALL IT A STREAK: The Gamecocks have come out on the winning side in each of the last four meetings between the two schools, with East Carolina’s last win coming in the 1999 season, a 21-3 win in Columbia. Carolina has tallied at least 33 points in three of its last four wins.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Freshman Brandon McIlwain threw for 195 yards and rushed for two touchdowns in his first career start to lead the Gamecocks to a 20-15 win over East Carolina on Sept. 17, 2016 in Columbia. After not scoring in the first half in the season’s first two games, Carolina put 17 points on the board in the first seven minutes of the contest and made it stand up. The Pirates outgained the Gamecocks, 519-312 while running 91 plays to Carolina’s 53, but the Gamecocks won the turnover battle, 4-0, including three in the redzone, to preserve the win.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: It’s not uncommon for the scoreboard operator to stay busy when these two teams meet. In fact, two of the top five highest scoring games in South Carolina history have transpired when the Gamecocks and Pirates do battle. The 1994 game saw 98 total points scored in a 56-42 ECU win, then South Carolina returned the favor with a 56-37 win in the 2011 contest, which was played in Charlotte. The winning team has scored 31 or more points in 11 of the 19 meetings between the two schools. Here are the top combined scoring games in South Carolina history:
1.   104   at Mississippi State (65-39), Oct. 14, 1995
2.   101   at Ole Miss (42-59), Nov. 14, 2020
3.    98   vs East Carolina (42-56), Oct. 8, 1994
4.     93   vs Troy (69-24), Nov. 20, 2010
        93   vs East Carolina (56-37), Sept. 3, 2011
IT’S BEEN AWHILE: The Gamecocks are making their first trip to Greenville since the 1997 season, a 26-0 Carolina win, and just their second trip since the 1991 campaign, which is also the last time ECU defeated the Gamecocks in Greenville, a 31-20 decision.
OLD FRIEND ALERT: Matthew Symmes is now a senior defensive analyst for the Pirates. Symmes was a G.A. for the Gamecocks in 2016 and ’17.
FOR OPENERS: East Carolina opened its season in Charlotte on Thursday, Sept. 2, dropping a 33-19 decision to Appalachian State. Holton Ahlers completed 22-of-40 passes for 300 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Pirates.
CAROLINA VS. THE AAC: South Carolina owns a 32-17 record against the 11 teams that currently make up the American Athletic Conference. In addition to their 14-5 mark against ECU, the Gamecocks have also played Navy (5-3), UCF (5-0), Memphis (2-2), Houston (1-2), Tulane (0-3), Cincinnati (2-0), Temple (1-1), USF (1-1) and Tulsa (1-0). They have never faced SMU.
NON-CONFERENCE SUCCESS: The Gamecocks are 33-11 in their last 44 non-conference games, with six of the 11 losses coming against Clemson.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: The Gamecocks opened the Shane Beamer Era with a convincing 46-0 shutout of FCS Eastern Illinois in Columbia on Saturday, Sept. 4, in front of 64,868 fans. Former South Carolina graduate assistant Zeb Noland made the start at quarterback and threw four touchdown passes, all in the first half, in his Gamecock debut. ZaQuandre White led the rushing attack with 128 yards on just 12 carries, including a 63-yard scoring burst. Carolina rolled up 439 yards of offense to just 109 for the Panthers. Jordan Burch returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown and Debo Williams added a pair of blocked punts to lead the special teams.
FOR OPENERS: The Gamecocks improved to 85-39-4 all-time in season openers, including a 72-20-4 mark when opening the season at home.
THE STREAK IS OVER, LONG LIVE THE STREAK: The win over Eastern Illinois snapped South Carolina’s six-game losing streak. That was the school’s longest skid since dropping 21-consecutive games from 1998-99.
BIG SCORE: The Gamecocks lit up the scoreboard for 46 points against the outmanned Panthers. It was the most points scored by Carolina since they tallied 72 in a 72-10 rout of Charleston Southern on Sept. 7, 2019.
FAST START: After a 3-and-out on its first drive, Carolina scored on its next three possessions and never looked back. The Gamecocks tallied 15 first-quarter points, the most in a season opener since scoring 17 in the first period of the 2013 season opener against North Carolina.
PITCHING A SHUTOUT: The Gamecocks recorded their first shutout since August 28, 2008, a 34-0 win over NC State. That was also a season-opening contest. The Gamecocks were one of five FBS teams to pitch a shutout in its opener, joining Boston College, NC State, UAB and Virginia.
CASE FOR THE DEFENSE: The Gamecocks held EIU to just 109 yards of total offense. It was the fewest allowed by the Gamecocks since Kentucky logged just 96 yards on Oct. 8, 2011. Carolina ranks third in the country in total defense behind only Kentucky (87.0) and Buffalo (97.0).
NOT EVEN CLOSE: Eastern Illinois’s deepest penetration in the game was the South Carolina 33-yard line in the second quarter, but two Panther penalties and a sack forced a punt, thwarting EIU’s best scoring chance in the game.
BLOCK THAT KICK: “Beamer Ball” is alive and well in Columbia, as the Gamecocks blocked not one but two Eastern Illinois punts, both credited to Debo Williams, the SEC Co-Freshman of the Week. The Gamecocks had not blocked a punt since the 2014 season prior to Saturday. With two blocked punts, the Gamecocks are tied with Toledo for the NCAA lead in that category.
PICK SIX: Defensive end Jordan Burch picked off a pass and rumbled 61 yards to paydirt in the win. It was Carolina’s first pick-six since Israel Mukuamu went 53 yards for a score at Georgia in 2019 and the first for a Gamecock defensive lineman since Devin Taylor raced 48 yards at Arkansas in 2011.
NOT ON THIRD DOWN: Eastern Illinois did not convert a third down attempt in nine tries against the Carolina defense. The Gamecocks are tied with Boston College for the NCAA lead in that department, as the Eagles held Colgate without a first down on 10 tries.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Seven players made their first start in a Gamecock uniform in the win over Eastern Illinois, including Jaheim Bell, Zeb Noland and ZaQuandre White on offense and Marcellas Dial, Jaylin Dickerson, Darius Rush and David Spaulding on defense.
THE POWER OF FIVE: Since the turn of the century, the Gamecocks have a 47-4 mark against teams not currently in a Power-5 conference. The only four losses in that stretch came to UConn in the 2010 Bowl, to The Citadel in 2015, to South Florida in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl and to Appalachian State in 2019. It should be noted that UConn was in the Big East, which was a BCS automatic qualifier during the 2009 season.
2020 IN REVIEW: South Carolina concluded its 127th season of intercollegiate football in 2020 with a record of 2-8, in a scheduled that included only SEC contests due to COVID-19. The highlight of the season was a 30-22 win over No.15/14 Auburn on Oct. 17. Three of the Gamecocks’ eight losses were to teams that finished the season in the top-15 in the A.P.’s final poll, including No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 7 Georgia and No. 13 Florida. Carolina running back Kevin Harris led the SEC in rushing at 113.8 yards per game. Harris and defensive end Kingsley Enagbare earned first-team All-SEC honors, while cornerback Jaycee Horn was a second-team pick. Linebacker Mohamed Kaba and punter Kai Kroeger were named to the SEC Coaches’ All-Freshman Team.
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: On Dec. 6, 2020, Athletics Director Ray Tanner announced the hiring of Shane Beamer as the 36th head football coach in Carolina history. Beamer, who served on Steve Spurrier’s staff in Columbia from 2007-10, most recently was the assistant head coach for offense, tight ends and H-backs coach at the University of Oklahoma. This marks Coach Beamer’s first head coaching assignment. He has been an assistant coach at seven FBS schools for 21 seasons. During his career, he has coached in 17 bowl games, including a College Football Playoff National Championship Game, has posted 18 non-losing seasons, six of those with double-digit victories, and his teams have won 62.9 percent of its games. He is the son of Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer.
THEY’RE BACK: The Gamecocks had 49 returning letterwinners to open the 2021 fall season. The lettermen consist of 22 offensive players, 23 on defense and four special teams players.
RETURNING STARTERS: The Gamecocks list 14 returning starters from the 2020 squad, seven on offense, five on defense and both specialists. The returning offensive starters are OC Eric Douglas, RG Jovaughn Gwyn, RB  Kevin Harris, WR Xavier Legette, LT Jakai Moore, TE Nick Muse and RT Dylan Wonnum. The returning defensive starters are DT Jabari Ellis, DE Kingsley Enagbare, DT Zacch Pickens, S RJ. Roderick and LB Damani Staley. The specialists are P Kai Kroeger and PK Parker White.
IT’S A NUMBERS GAME: Carolina returned 86 percent of its rushing yards, 23 percent of its passing yards and 60 percent of its receiving yards from 2019. Kevin Harris (1,139 yards) and Rashad Amos (99 yards) are the top returning rushers, while Nick Muse (425 yards) and Kevin Harris (159 yards) are the top returning receivers. The Gamecocks top returning passer is Luke Doty (405 yards). Three of the squad’s top eight tacklers return for the 2021 season, including Damani Staley (51 tackles), Jaylan Foster (43) and Zacch Pickens (35 tackles). Kingsley Enagbare returns after leading the team in tackles for loss (7.0) and sacks (6.0), while Cam Smith was one of three Gamecocks to log two interceptions.
SUPER SENIORS: The Gamecocks list eight players whose eligibility would have expired had not the NCAA allowed the 2020 season to be a “free” year. Those “super” seniors are LB Spencer Eason-Riddle, DT Jabari Ellis, DB Jaylan Foster, TE Nick Muse, QB Zeb Noland, LB Damani Staley, EDGE Aaron Sterling and PK Parker White.
ONE FOR THE THUMB: With the NCAA rule allowing for an extra year, three Gamecocks – LB Damani Staley, EDGE Aaron Sterling and PK Parker White – can become the first players in school history to letter five times in their career.
UTILIZING THE PORTAL: The Gamecocks’ roster features 10 scholarship transfers, including seven who enrolled at Carolina in January. The list includes WR Ahmarean Brown (Georgia Tech), QB Jason Brown (St. Francis, Pa.), DT Keem Green (Nebraska), WR E.J. Jenkins (St. Francis, Pa.), DB David Spaulding (Georgia Southern), EDGE Jordan Strachan (Georgia State) and LB Debo Williams (Delaware). QB Zeb Noland (North Dakota State), DB Carlins Platel (Assumption) and DB Tyrese Ross (Washington State) joined the roster in the fall.
COACH SPEAK: The SEC Coaches tabbed EDGE Kingsley Enagbare to their preseason All-SEC first-team unit. RB Kevin Harris was a second-team selection, while TE Nick Muse and DL Zacch Pickens were selected to the preseason third-team unit by the league’s 14 coaches.
WEARING THE PATCH: Nineteen Gamecocks, have their undergraduate degrees in hand. The list includes: Wyatt Campbell, Devontae Davis, Eric Douglas, Jabari Ellis, Kingsley Enagbare, Jaylan Foster, Spencer Eason-Riddle, Sherrod Greene, Tyreek Johnson, Hank Manos, Sean McGonigal, Zeb, Noland, Carlins Platel, Darius Rush, Or’Tre Smith, Damani Staley, M.J. Webb, Parker White and Dylan Wonnum. Eason-Riddle has both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
NFL TIES: Dylan Wonnum is the younger brother of former Gamecock, D.J. Wonnum, who is with the Minnesota Vikings.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks travel to Athens, Ga. to open the SEC portion of the 2021 slate against the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia leads the all-time series by a 52-19-2 count, but Carolina upset the Bulldogs in double-overtime in their last visit to Sanford Stadium, a 20-17 decision in 2019.