Gamecocks Home Opener Set for Saturday Night
The South Carolina Gamecocks (0-1, 0-0 SEC) open the home portion of the 2023 schedule when they host the in-state FCS Furman Paladins (1-0, 0-0 SoCon) on Saturday, Sept. 9, at Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559) in Columbia. Game time is set for 7:30 pm.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s contest will be streamed on ESPN+/SECN+. John Schriffen handles the play-by play while Rocky Boiman will add the color commentary. Dawn Davenport will handle the sideline duties. The Gamecock Sports Radio Network features a pair of Gamecock Great quarterbacks in Todd Ellis (32nd season) and Tommy Suggs (51st season) in the booth. Chet Tucker takes over the sideline duties in 2023.
IT’S HISTORY: 2023 marks the 130th season of intercollegiate football at the University of South Carolina, dating back to 1892. It is the 117th-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 629-607-44, a .509 winning percentage. Since the start of the 21st century, the Gamecocks have posted a 163-125 record, a .566 winning clip.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: South Carolina opened the 2023 season with a 31-17 setback against No. 21/20 North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic, held in Charlotte, N.C. last Saturday night. The Gamecocks held a 14-10 lead late in the second period, but the Tar Heels responded with 21-consecutive points to open up a 31-14 advantage in securing the win. The Gamecocks got strong performances from quarterback Spencer Rattler, who completed 30-of-39 passes for 353 yards with no interceptions, but was sacked nine times. Wide receiver Xavier Legette had a career-best performance, collecting nine passes for 178 yards, the most by a receiver in Week 1 in the FBS. Drake Maye, the North Carolina quarterback and Heisman candidate, completed 24-of-32 passes for 269 yards and two scores, but was also intercepted twice.
CAROLINA VS. FURMAN: This is the 50th gridiron meeting between South Carolina and Furman in a series that dates back to 1892. The Gamecocks hold a 28-20-1 lead in the series, including a 15-8-1 advantage in Columbia. The teams have met just twice since 1982, with South Carolina posting a 38-19 win in 2010 and a 41-10 victory in 2014. The Gamecocks have won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the two Palmetto State schools dating back to 1950 with all but one of the wins coming by double-digits. Furman’s only win in the series since 1949 came in 1982 (28-23).
FURMAN IS FORMIDABLE: Furman entered the 2023 season ranked sixth in the country in the Coaches’ FCS poll. It marked the Paladins’ highest preseason ranking since 2006.
FURMAN’S FAST START: Travis Blackshear returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown on the fifth play from scrimmage and Dan Scianna had a 67-yard pick-6 in the fourth quarter to help Furman beat Tennessee Tech 45-10 in the season opener for both teams. The Paladins defense — which led the FCS in takeaways (29) and interceptions (18) last season — forced six Tennessee Tech turnovers (four interceptions and two fumble recoveries).
YOU HAVE TO SCORE TO WIN: Carolina has won 28 of the 35 games in which they have scored against the Paladins. Furman has pitched a shutout 14 times in the series, going 13-0-1 in those games which all came between 1892 and 1941.
REMEMBERING THE FIRST TIME: Furman defeated the South Carolina College Jaguars on Dec. 24, 1892, by a 44-0 score in the first football game ever played by the state’s flagship school. Professor A.T. Smythe volunteered to oversee 11 of our “fastest and heaviest” young men (the team averaged nearly 160 pounds) for South Carolina, but they were no match for the Mountaineers, who put their four years of football experience to good use on that Christmas Eve day in Charleston.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: The Gamecocks rolled to a 41-10 win over FCS in-state rival Furman on Oct. 18, 2014, in Columbia. The Gamecocks rolled up 548 yards of offense, 267 on the ground and 281 through the air, in posting the victory. Mike Davis (111) and David Williams (110) each went over the 100-yard rushing mark, while Shon Carson added 85 on the ground on just seven carries. Dylan Thompson completed 14-of-22 passes for 262 yards and two scores. The Carolina defense forced three turnovers and limited the Paladins to just 91 yards through the air.
IN-STATE FCS FOES: Since the regular season was expanded to 12 games in 2006, Carolina has hosted an in-state FCS opponent 13 times. They are 12-1 in those games, with wins coming against Wofford (2006, 2008, 2012, 2017), South Carolina State (2007, 2009, 2022), Furman (2010, 2014), Citadel (2011), Coastal Carolina (2013) and Charleston Southern (2019). The only loss during that stretch came against The Citadel in 2015.
WE KNEW YOU WHEN: University of South Carolina wide receivers coach Justin Stepp starred at Pelion (S.C.) High, before becoming a standout wide receiver and punt returner at Furman from 2003-06. He earned All-SoCon recognition as a junior and senior and finished his playing career with 118 catches for 1,568 yards and 10 touchdowns.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The Gamecocks are 40-14 in their last 54 non-conference games, a .741 winning percentage, with seven of the 14 losses in that stretch coming against Clemson. The Gamecocks went 4-1 against non-conference foes in 2022, posting wins over Georgia State, Charlotte, South Carolina State and Clemson and losing to Notre Dame in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. The Gamecocks lost a non-conference game against North Carolina last week and still have non-conference games against Jacksonville State (Nov. 4) and Clemson (Nov. 25) on the 2023 slate. Both of those contests will be played at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
PROTECT THIS HOUSE: Carolina has won 36 of its last 42 home games against non-conference foes. The Gamecocks had won a school-record 22-straight home games against non-conference teams before dropping the final two games of the 2015 regular season to The Citadel and Clemson. The Gamecocks were 3-0 in home non-conference games in 2022, posting wins over Georgia State, Charlotte, and South Carolina State.
THE POWER OF FIVE: Since the turn of the century, the Gamecocks have a 52-4 mark against teams not currently in a Power-5 conference. The only four losses in that stretch came to UConn in the 2010 Papajohns.com Bowl, to The Citadel in 2015, to USF 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.