Gamecocks Head to No. 2 Georgia Saturday for SEC Opener
7 pm Kick on ESPN
First-year head coach Shane Beamer takes the South Carolina Gamecocks (2-0, 0-0 SEC) on the road for the 2021 SEC opener, traveling to Athens, Ga. and Vince Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium (92,746) for a Sept. 18 Eastern Division matchup with the No. 2/2 Georgia Bulldogs (2-0, 0-0 SEC). Game time is set for 7 pm ET and the contest will be televised nationally on ESPN.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: Sean McDonough will call the action for ESPN. He will be joined in the booth by Todd Blackledge. Molly McGrath 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 616-595-44, 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.
RING THE BELL: Shane Beamer is off to a 2-0 start as the South Carolina head coach. He is the first coach to win his first two games since Richard Bell got off to a 2-0 start in 1982. The last head coach to win his first three games at South Carolina was Billy Laval in 1928.
CAROLINA VS. GEORGIA: This is the 74th meeting between these two bordering flagship state universities. Georgia leads the all-time series by a 52-19-2 margin, including a 29-9 mark in Athens and a 21-10-2 advantage in Columbia. Since becoming SEC Eastern Division rivals in 1992, the Bulldogs own a 19-10 lead in the series, including a 9-5 mark in Athens.
CLOSER IN THE MORE RECENT PAST: Georgia holds a slim 6-5 advantage in games played since 2010. Carolina won three-straight from 2010-12, its longest winning streak in the series, and won again in 2014 and 2019. Georgia countered with a win in 2013 and four-straight from 2015-18 before winning in Columbia last season.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The No. 13/10 Georgia Bulldogs put up 21 first-quarter points and never looked back in a 45-16 win over South Carolina on Nov. 28, 2020 in the Gamecocks’ season home finale. Georgia did most of the damage on the ground, rushing for 332 yards on 46 carries, a 7.2-yard average. True freshman Luke Doty made his first career start and responded by connecting on 18-of-22 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception. With Shi Smith sidelined, tight end Nick Muse stepped up with the best game of his career, an eight-catch, 131-yard, one-touchdown performance.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET IN ATHENS: In the high point of the 2019 season for Carolina, the Gamecocks went into Athens on Oct. 12 and knocked off the No. 3/3 Bulldogs by a 20-17 mark in double-overtime. Israel Mukuamu was the star of the game, intercepting three Jake Fromm passes, including a 53-yard pick-six in the upset win. Parker White connected on a 24-yard field in the second overtime, before Rodrigo Blankenship missed from 42, providing the winning score. Georgia outgained Carolina 468-297 on the afternoon, but four turnovers proved costly for the Dawgs. The win matched the best road win for Carolina in school history.
BEEN HERE, DONE THAT: Georgia enters this week’s game ranked second in the Associated Press poll. Four of South Carolina’s top eight wins in school history according to the A.P. have come against Georgia:
No. Date Opponent AP Rank Score
1. 10/09/10 vs Alabama 1 35-21
2. 10/24/81 at North Carolina 3 31-13
10/12/19 at Georgia 3 20-17
4. 09/24/09 vs Ole Miss 4 16-10
5. 10/06/12 vs Georgia 5 35-7
10/26/13 at Missouri 5 27-24
7. 09/24/88 vs Georgia 6 23-10
09/13/14 vs Georgia 6 38-35
9. 10/04/07 vs Kentucky 8 38-23
11/21/87 vs Clemson 8 20-7
11/14/53 at West Virginia 8 20-14
BEAMER SEES RED: First-year South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer returns to Athens where he served on Kirby Smart’s staff as the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator in 2016 and ’17. This is the seventh time Coach Beamer has been on the sidelines for Carolina-Georgia. He has been on the winning sideline in four of the prior six meetings.
GEORGIA ON MY MIND: Carolina offensive line coach Greg Adkins served on the Georgia coaching staff from 1996-2000. DFO George Wynn started for three years at Georgia and served as a team captain as a senior, graduating in 1992.
OLD FRIEND ALERT: Will Muschamp joined the Bulldogs as a defensive analyst during the 2021 preseason. He served as the Gamecocks’ head coach from 2016-20, posting a 28-30 record.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: Twenty players on Carolina’s active roster claim Georgia as their home state. That figures to 17 percent of the Gamecocks’ 118-man roster. The list includes: Rashad Amos (Fayetteville), Jordan Davis (Fairburn), Kingsley Enagbare (Atlanta), Hot Rod Fitten (Atlanta), Colten Gauthier (Bethlehem), B.J. Gibson (Marietta), Cole Hanna (Norcross), Kevin Harris (Hinesville), Joey Hunter (Atlanta), Juju McDowell (Leesburg), Zeb Noland (Watkinsville), Rico Powers (Atlanta), Will Rogers (Hampton), David Spaulding (Riceboro), Aaron Sterling (Atlanta), Jordan Strachan (Kingsland), Jazston Turnetine (Ellenwood), Josh Vann (Tucker), M.J. Webb (Rutledge) and Dylan Wonnum (Tucker).
ABOUT LAST WEEK: Parker White’s 36-yard field goal as time expired lifted Carolina to a 20-17 come-from-behind win at East Carolina (0-2) last Saturday afternoon in Greenville. The Gamecocks trailed 14-0 late in the first half when Damani Staley had a 63-yard pick-six, changing the momentum of the game.
STAUNCH DEFENSE: After being burned on a 75-yard trick play on the first play of the game at ECU, the Carolina defense was excellent the rest of the way, allowing just 188 yards on 62 plays, an average of 3.0 yards per play in the win. The Pirates averaged just 2.9 yards per rush and went 12-for-25 passing with a pair of interceptions and five sacks. ECU was just 2-for-15 on third-down attempts.
FINISH STRONG: The Gamecocks first 11 possessions against ECU resulted in eight punts and three turnovers. However, the final three possessions produced a touchdown and a pair of field goals, as the Gamecocks rallied from a 14-point deficit.
NEVER SAY NEVER: The Gamecocks overcame a 14-0 deficit to defeat East Carolina, 20-17. The 14-point deficit was the largest that resulted in victory for the Gamecocks since they trailed Michigan by 16 points, 19-3, in the third quarter of the 2018 Outback Bowl before storming back for a 26-19 win.
PICK-SIX DEJA VU: For the second-straight week, the Gamecock defense scored on a pick-six. Linebacker Damani Staley got the Gamecocks on the scoreboard with just a minute left in the first half on a 63-yard interception return against East Carolina. A week earlier, it was defensive end Jordan Burch who picked off a pass and rumbled 61 yards to paydirt in the Eastern Illinois win. That 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. The Gamecocks are one of eight FBS teams to log two or more defensive touchdowns this season. The two interception returns for touchdowns is the most for Carolina in a season since 2017.
WHITE FOR THE WIN: When Parker White connected on a 36-yard field goal as time expired at East Carolina, it was the sixth fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning field goal in his career.
JUJU TO THE RESCUE: When the game was in doubt, the Gamecocks turned to diminutive running back Juju McDowell. The freshman responded, leading all rushers in the game with 71 yards on 11 carries, including 46 yards on seven carries in the final period. McDowell had a 63-yard kickoff return midway through the 4th quarter that set up the game-tying field goal, then had runs of 15 and 16 yards in the game’s final possession, setting up the game-winning field goal. His 63-yard kick return was the longest for a Gamecock since Deebo Samuel raced 90 yards to paydirt on the opening kick against Ole Miss in 2018.
JUST THE SACKS, MA’AM: South Carolina sacked the East Carolina quarterback five times last Saturday, including two by Kingsley Enagbare, and one each by Brad Johnson, Aaron Sterling and Jordan Strachan. The Gamecocks have recorded seven sacks in two games after notching just 14 sacks in 10 contests a year ago. It was the most sacks in a game for the Gamecocks since they notched five against Akron on Dec. 1, 2018.