Gamecocks Travel to No. 13 Kentucky for Saturday Night Showdown
SETTING THE STAGE
After three-straight home games and back-to-back non-conference contests, the South Carolina Gamecocks (3-2, 0-2 SEC) are back on the road this week as they return to Southeastern Conference play against the No. 13/13 Kentucky Wildcats (4-1, 1-1 SEC). Game time from Kroger Field (61,000) in Lexington, Ky. is set for 7:30 pm ET with the SEC Network handling the broadcast.
The SEC Network has the television coverage for this week’s game with Tom Hart handling the play-by-play. Jordan Rodgers provides the analysis while Cole Cubelic works the sidelines for the network.
This is the Gamecocks’ third SEC game of the season and all three have come against ranked opponents, with two coming on the road. They previously dropped a 44-30 decision at No. 16 Arkansas on Sept. 10, then fell by a 48-7 score to top-ranked Georgia on Sept. 17.
This is the first game of a six-game stretch in which the Gamecocks will play only conference games. After this week’s contest at Kentucky, the Gamecocks will enjoy an off week next weekend before beginning a five-game stretch in which they host Texas A&M and Missouri, travel to Vanderbilt and Florida before closing out that stretch of SEC opponents at home versus Tennessee.
The Gamecocks are looking for their third-straight victory after posting back-to-back wins over Charlotte and South Carolina State. The last time South Carolina won three-consecutive games was in the middle of the 2017 season when they defeated Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in consecutive games.
Kentucky comes into this week’s contest ranked 13th in both the Associated Press and AFCA Coaches’ polls. South Carolina’s last win over a ranked opponent came in 2020 when the Gamecocks knocked off 15th-ranked Auburn, 30-22 at Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina’s last road win over a ranked opponent came on Oct. 12, 2019, when the Gamecocks outlasted third-ranked Georgia in Athens in double-overtime by a 20-17 score.
CAROLINA VS. KENTUCKY
This is the 34th meeting between the Gamecocks and Wildcats in a series that dates back to 1937. Carolina leads the all-time series 18-14-1, including a 9-8 advantage in Lexington. The teams played just three times (1937, 1978 and 1981) before Carolina joined the SEC in 1992. Since then they have met every year. Since joining the SEC, the Gamecocks own a 17-13 record against Kentucky, including wins in 14 of the 22 meetings in this century.
A SERIES OF RUNS: South Carolina won 10-straight games over Kentucky from 2000-2009, and 13-of-14 from 2000-2013. Since then, the Wildcats posted five-straight wins from 2014-18 and have won seven of the last eight overall.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Chris Rodriguez ran for 144 yards on 26 carries and Matt Ruffolo connected on three field goals to lift Kentucky to a 16-10 win over South Carolina in Columbia on Sept. 25, 2021. The Wildcats took a 10-0 lead into the intermission before South Carolina cut the margin to three early in the third period. Ruffolo countered with a pair of field goals, the last one with under five minutes remaining to put Kentucky ahead by nine. The Carolina defense forced three turnovers, but the offense could generate just 216 total yards in the loss. Luke Doty was 17-for-25 for 158 yards. For more on that game, please turn to page 8 of these game notes.
THE LAST TIME THEY IN LEXINGTON: Due to COVID altering the schedule, the Gamecocks and Wildcats did not meet until the final regular season game of the 2020 season, a Dec. 5 contest in Lexington. Kentucky posted a 41-18 win over Carolina that night, the largest margin of victory for the Cats in the series history. Both teams moved the ball effectively on the ground, with South Carolina rushing for 297 yards, behind Kevin Harris’s 210 yards on 21 carries. Kentucky countered with 291 rushing yards as Chris Rodriguez Jr. and A.J. Rose each went over the century mark. Luke Doty, making just his second career start at quarterback, completed 11-of-25 passes for 85 yards with a touchdown and an interception. For more on that game, please turn to page 9 of these game notes.
THE LAST GAMECOCK WIN: Tavien Feaster (107) and Rico Dowdle (102) combined for 209 rushing yards, nearly matching Kentucky’s entire offensive output of 212 yards, as the Gamecocks rolled to an easy 24-7 win in Columbia on Sept. 28, 2019. Feaster scored twice and Dowdle once as the Gamecocks rolled up 387 yards in the win. The Carolina defense pitched a shutout until Kentucky finally got on the board with just 2:32 left in the contest. The seven points was the fewest the Wildcats had scored against the Gamecocks since being held to three points in the 2011 contest. The Carolina win snapped a five-game losing streak in the all-time series.
HAVE TO SCORE TO WIN: When the Gamecocks won 13 of 14 games from 2000-2013, they scored 430 points, an average of 30.7 points per game, including a stretch in which they scored no fewer than 24 points from 2005-13. In the last eight games in which South Carolina has only won once, the Gamecocks have scored a total of 145 points, averaging just 18.1 points per game and have scored more than 24 points just once (the lone win in that stretch). They have been held under 20 points in five of the last six meetings.
KEYS TO THE GAME
ABOUT LAST WEEK: South Carolina posted its second-straight win over a non-conference opponent when they ran past South Carolina State by a 50-10 count on Thursday, Sept. 29. The game against its FCS in-state rivals from Orangeburg was originally scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1, but the threat of Hurricane Ian forced school officials to move the game up two days.
BULLYING THE DOGS: South Carolina got a solid performance from Spencer Rattler, who completed 21-of-27 passes for 212 yards with two touchdowns and ran for another score in the win over South Carolina State. MarShawn Lloyd rushed for 80 yards and a TD on just 11 carries. The Gamecock defense held the Bulldogs to 220 total yards and just 1-of-11 on third downs while intercepting three passes. S.C. State had just 13 first downs while committing 12 penalties for 117 yards.
HANGIN’ HALF A HUNDRED: For the second-straight week, South Carolina put 50 or more points on the scoreboard. After tallying 56 in a 56-20 win over Charlotte, the Gamecocks had an even 50 in a 50-10 win over South Carolina State. They were the first 50-point games since the Gamecocks scored 72 against Charleston Southern on Sept. 7, 2019. It was the first time the Gamecocks have scored 50 or more points twice in a season since 2013 when they had 52 at Arkansas and 70 against Coastal Carolina. The last time South Carolina posted back-to-back 50-point games came in the 1995 season when they scored 77 against Kent State, 65 at Mississippi State and 52 against Vanderbilt in consecutive games.
BETTER OFFENSE: The Gamecock offense has been efficient and productive over the last two games. In the win over Charlotte, the Gamecocks scored on each of their first eight possessions and nine of 11 overall. Against South Carolina State, the Gamecocks scored touchdowns on seven of 12 possessions. Going back to the final possession against Georgia, South Carolina has scored 17 times (15 touchdowns and two field goals) in its last 24 offensive possessions.
30 SOMETHING: The Gamecocks have tallied 30 or more points in four of five games this season. They scored 30 or more just three times in 13 games in 2021 and haven’t scored 30 or more points more than four times in a season since 2018 when they accomplished the feat seven times.
BLOCK THAT KICK: The Gamecocks blocked two punts against South Carolina State, with Debo Williams and King-Demenian Ford each getting credit for one. It’s the second time this season that South Carolina has blocked two punts in a game, as they also did so in the opener against Georgia State. The Gamecocks have blocked four punts this season and have eight blocked kicks in 18 games in the Shane Beamer and Pete Lembo Era.
DEFENSE TAKES A STAND: Since Charlotte scored on touchdown drives in its first two possessions, the Gamecock defense has tightened up. The 49ers final eight possessions resulted in four punts, three interceptions, and a touchdown. After allowing 171 yards on Charlotte’s first two drives, Carolina surrendered just 121 the rest of the way. The Carolina defense then held South Carolina State to 220 yards on 58 plays, 3.8 yards per play, including just 75 yards through the air on 7-of-18 passing with three interceptions.
GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES: The Gamecocks picked off three passes against Charlotte with Brad Johnson, DQ Smith and Cam Smith all recording picks. The trio of Sherrod Greene, Marcellas Dial and Bam Martin-Scott logged interceptions against South Carolina State. It marked the first time since 2013 that the Gamecocks have recorded three INTs in back-to-back games. Carolina had recorded just one interception in its first three games before notching six in the last two contests.
PLAYING SHORT-HANDED: The Gamecocks have been hit hard by the injury bug, especially on the defensive side of the ball. A pair of starters in edge rusher Jordan Strachan and linebacker Mohamed Kaba suffered season-ending ACL injuries in the loss at Arkansas. Safety R.J. Roderick was injured on the first series of the season and missed both conference games before returning against Charlotte. Starting defensive tackle Alex Huntley and starting defensive back Cam Smith were injured at Arkansas and missed the Georgia game. Key reserve nickel David Spaulding has been out since the season opener with a leg injury. Cornerback Darius Rush suffered a hamstring injury against Georgia and has missed the last two games. Edge rusher Terrell Dawkins underwent knee surgery after the Georgia game and will be out for an extended period of time. On offense, tight end Chad Terrell was lost for season after suffering an ACL injury in preseason camp. Left tackle Jaylen Nichols missed the Georgia game while right tackle Dylan Wonnum has sat out the last two contests with injuries. Wide receiver Corey Rucker missed the first three games with a foot injury.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: Six players made their first start in the season opener versus Georgia State, but only MarShawn Lloyd and Alex Huntley, were making their first collegiate start overall. Spencer Rattler, Devonni Reed, Austin Stogner and Jordan Strachan made their first starts for Carolina, but had made starts at their previous stops. Nick Emmanwori became the first true freshman to earn a start when he was in on the first snap at safety at Arkansas. East Tennessee State transfer tight end Nate Adkins made his first start for the Gamecocks against Georgia, as did defensive end Gilber Edmond and true freshman walk-on defensive back DQ Smith. Cornerback O’Donnell Fortune made his first career start against Charlotte.
A LITTLE HISTORY: 2022 marks the 129th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 116th-consecutive year in which 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 624-603-44, a .508 winning percentage.
UTILIZING THE PORTAL: The Gamecocks’ roster features nine scholarship transfers, six of whom enrolled at Carolina in January. The spring enrollees included RB Christian Beal-Smith (Wake Forest), RB Lovasea Carroll (Georgia), EDGE Terrell Dawkins (NC State), QB Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), DB Devonni Reed (Central Michigan), and WR Antwane Wells Jr. (James Madison). TE Nate Adkins (East Tennessee State), WR Corey Rucker (Arkansas State) and TE Austin Stogner (Oklahoma) were added to the roster in the summer.
SUPER SENIORS: The Gamecocks list 10 players (not including transfers) whose eligibility would have expired had not the NCAA allowed the 2020 season to be a “free” year. Those “super seniors” are WR Jalen Brooks, OL Eric Douglas, LB Sherrod Greene, LB Brad Johnson, DB R.J. Roderick, EDGE Jordan Strachan, WR Chad Terrell, WR Josh Vann, DL M.J. Webb and OL Dylan Wonnum.
ONE FOR THE THUMB: With the NCAA COVID rule allowing for an extra year, five Gamecocks – OL Eric Douglas, LB Brad Johnson, DB R.J. Roderick, WR Josh Vann and OL Dylan Wonnum – can become five-year letterwinners.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: The Gamecocks have 21 players who have their college degrees in hand. Twelve players who wore the SEC Graduate patch in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl return for the 2022 season, including Wyatt Campbell, Eric Douglas, Sherrod Greene, Brad Johnson, Tyreek Johnson, Dakereon Joyner, Hank Manos, Darius Rush, Jordan Strachan, Chad Terrell, M.J. Webb and Dylan Wonnum. Jovaughn Gwyn and Jaylen Nichols graduated in May. Traevon Kenion and R.J. Roderick graduated in August. In addition, Nate Adkins (East Tennessee State), Christian Beal-Smith (Wake Forest), Dante Miller (Columbia), Devonni Reed (Central Michigan) and Austin Stogner (Oklahoma) have degrees from other institutions.
YOU’RE MONEY’S NO GOOD HERE: Wide receiver Payton Mangrum was awarded the Jake Panus scholarship prior to the start of the fall semester. Mangrum has been a regular on special teams and has also been on the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE: KENTUCKY
LOOKING AHEAD: The Gamecocks will enjoy an off week next week before returning to SEC action on Oct. 22 when they host Texas A&M. Carolina is winless in eight all-time meetings with the Aggies.