Jeffery Honored as Gamecocks Host Mississippi State Saturday
QUICKLY: It’s Family Weekend on the University of South Carolina campus as the South Carolina Gamecocks (1-2, 0-1 SEC) open home portion of their 2023 Southeastern Conference schedule when they host the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday, Sept. 23. The contest at Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559) in Columbia, S.C. is set for a 7:30 pm kick.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s game will be televised by the SEC Network. Tom Hart will handle the play-by play while Jordan Rodgers adds the color commentary. Cole Cubelic will patrol the sidelines. 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 is in his first season as the sideline reporter.
SPECIAL DAY FOR A SPECIAL PLAYER: All-America and All-SEC wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will have his jersey retired in ceremonies at halftime of this week’s game.
The St. Matthews, S.C. native came to South Carolina as one of top wide receiver recruits in the nation in 2009 from Calhoun County High School and made his mark immediately for the Gamecocks.
Jeffery finished his three-year career with 183 catches for 3,042 yards and 23 touchdowns. In the Gamecock career record books he ranks third in receptions, second in receiving yards, tied for first in receiving touchdowns, first in 100-yard receiving games (12), sixth in yards per reception (16.6) and third in consecutive games with a reception (36).
As a true freshman in 2009, he was named consensus Freshman All-SEC and a first-team Freshman All-American. He had a team-high 46 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns during his first year at Carolina. Against Kentucky in his freshman season, he had seven catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns and was named SEC Freshman of the Week. He followed that up later in the season with eight catches for a season-best 161 yards and a score against Vanderbilt, and five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas.
Jeffery’s best statistical season for the Gamecocks was his sophomore campaign in 2010. He led the SEC with 88 catches for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns enroute to earning All-America and unanimous All-SEC honors and helping the Gamecocks to their first SEC Eastern Division title. He was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. Against Auburn, during the regular season, Jeffery had eight catches for career-high 192 yards and two touchdowns. At the time, it was the fourth-highest receiving yardage game in school history and remains sixth on the all-time list. He earned the Ernest Brooks Offensive MVP Award with five catches for 141 yards in a win over Clemson and had nine catches for 130 yards against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Prior to his junior season, ESPN ranked Jeffery as the best player in the SEC. He had 49 catches for 762 yards and eight touchdowns in his junior campaign. He was the Capital One Bowl MVP, catching four passes for 148 yards and had a 51-yard TD catch at the end of the first half to give Carolina a halftime lead that helped propel the Gamecocks to a win over Nebraska.
Jeffery was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft by Chicago and went on to a nine-year NFL career with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. He caught 475 career passes for 6,786 yards and 46 TDs. He made the Pro Bowl in his second NFL season. In his first season with the Eagles, Jeffery played in the Super Bowl, and helped Philadelphia defeat New England with three catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. In 2019, Jeffery made the Bears’ list of the Top 100 players in franchise history.
CAROLINA VS. STATE: This is the 17th meeting between South Carolina and Mississippi State, with the Gamecocks holding a 9-7 advantage in the all-time series, including a 5-3 record when the games have been played in Columbia. The schools never met before becoming SEC foes in 1992. The Bulldogs won six of the first eight meetings between the two teams, but the Gamecocks rallied to win the next seven in a row before MSU snapped that streak with a 27-14 win in 2016, the last time the teams met on the gridiron. State has not won in Columbia since 1998, losing the last four in a row.
LUCKY SEVEN: The Gamecocks have come out on the winning side in seven of the last eight meetings between the two schools, dating back to the turn of the century. Three of the wins in that stretch have been by four points or less, while the other four Gamecock wins came by at least a 15-point margin.
IT’S GOOD TO SCORE: The Gamecocks are 9-7 overall against Mississippi State but own a 9-4 record against the Bulldogs when putting points on the scoreboard. The Gamecocks have been blanked in the series three times, 23-0 in 1993, 38-0 in 1998 and 17-0 in 1999. They tried to make up for those three whitewashes with a 65-point effort in Starkville 1995.
GOOD HOME COOKIN’: The Gamecock offense has had much more recent success at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia than at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville. Over the past seven games, South Carolina has scored 34, 38 and 34 points when playing at home against the Bulldogs, while tallying just 16, 15, 14 and 14 points in Starkville since 2001.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: A 24-0 halftime deficit was too much for the Gamecocks to overcome as they dropped an SEC road contest at Mississippi State by a 27-14 count on Sept. 10, 2016. The Gamecocks had no answer for Bulldog quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, as he completed 19-of-29 passes for 178 yards and two scores and rushed 17 times for 195 yards. Brandon McIlwain gave Carolina a second-half spark, as the freshman completed 11-of-22 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns and carried 11 times for 17 yards. Tight end Hayden Hurst contributed a then career-best performance with eight catches for 68 yards. Ulric Jones (9) and Jasper Sasser (8), a pair of reserves, each logged career highs in tackles. Punter Sean Kelly had a good night as well, averaging 49.1 yards per punt, including a long of 66 yards. The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for South Carolina against Mississippi State.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: The Gamecock defense posted five turnovers to help South Carolina claim a 34-16 victory over Mississippi State in Columbia on Nov. 2, 2013. The five turnovers led to 17 of the Gamecocks’ 34 points on the day. Sophomore tailback Mike Davis posted 154 all-purpose yards, including 128 yards on the ground in the win. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw tied a career high with four touchdown passes, throwing for 147 yards in a 10-for-20 outing. Sophomore wide receiver Shaq Roland hauled in two of those TD passes and led the team with 57 receiving yards.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The Gamecocks went into the Magnolia State and signed Stone Blanton, who played at Madison-Ridgeland Academy in Jackson.
HOW GOOD WAS THAT POPCORN?: South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer is very familiar with Starkville and the Bulldog program. He served on Sylvester Croom’s staff at Mississippi State from 2004-2006, his first full-time coaching stop. He worked with the cornerbacks (2004-05) and running backs (2006) and served as the team’s recruiting coordinator. Beamer did his best recruiting job by luring his now wife, Emily, to go out on a date, after initially laying eyes on her in the press box while she was working on the sports information staff at MSU. Emily’s parents still make their home in Starkville.
ALL THE WRIGHT STUFF: Jody Wright was part of the Mississippi State program from 2005-09, first as a volunteer coach, then as a G.A, and finally in an administrative role in football operations.