Gamecocks and Gators Square Off Saturday Afternoon
It’s Homecoming Week as the South Carolina Gamecocks return home to a sold-out Williams-Brice Stadium (77,559) for another SEC Eastern Division showdown on Saturday, Oct. 14. The Gamecocks (2-3, 1-2 SEC) will host the Florida Gators (4-2, 2-1 SEC) in a 3:30 pm contest on the SEC Network.
WELCOME HOME: Homecoming 2023 is bringing Gamecocks together Under a Carolina Sky! The weeklong (Oct. 6-14) celebration features an array of fun events, giveaways, the Cockstock concert, and Paint the Town Garnet & Black, a block party meets pep rally in the Five Points District the night before the game against Florida. All of this will take place with the South Carolina State Fair providing the backdrop for a memorable time of celebration in the Palmetto’s State’s capital city.
HALL OF FAME WEEKEND: Eight former University of South Carolina standout student-athletes will be inducted into the USC Lettermen’s Hall of Fame as the Class of 2023 on Thursday, Oct. 12. They will also be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s game between South Carolina and Florida. The eight include Allison Brennan (swimming & diving), Ernest Dye (football), Eric Ecker (men’s golf), Shaunzinski Gortman (women’s basketball), Wallie Jones (baseball), Chris Mayotte (men’s tennis), Kim Pietro (softball) and Demetria Washington (women’s track & field).
Homecoming. Saturday in South Carolina. SEC football.
— Gamecock Athletics (@GamecocksOnline) October 13, 2023
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s game will be televised by the SEC Network. Taylor Zarzour will handle the play-by play while Matt Stinchcomb adds the color commentary. South Carolina alum Alyssa Lang 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.
GAMECOCK REWIND: The Gamecocks are 2-3 in 2023 including a 1-2 mark in SEC play. All three of their losses have come to teams ranked in the AP Top-25 and away from Williams-Brice Stadium. The five teams that Carolina has played are a combined 22-5, with two of those five losses coming to the Gamecocks. South Carolina opened the season with a 31-17 setback to No. 21/20 North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte, before posting a convincing 47-21 win over Furman, the sixth-ranked team in the FCS. The Gamecocks opened SEC play at two-time defending national champion Georgia in Week 3. South Carolina held a 14-3 lead at intermission, but the top-ranked Bulldogs rallied for a 24-14 win. Carolina rebounded with a 37-30 win over Mississippi State in Columbia. The Gamecocks then went to No. 21/19 Tennessee and dropped a 41-20 decision to the Vols. The Gamecocks have been led all season by quarterback Spencer Rattler and wide receiver Xavier Legette. Rattler has completed 119-of-163 passes (73.0 pct.) for 1,411 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He ranks 18th in the nation with 282.2 passing yards per game and is ninth in completion pct. Legette has caught 32 passes for 606 yards, averaging 18.9 yards per catch and 121.2 yards per game, with three touchdowns. He ranks fourth among all FBS players in receiving yards per game and was recently added to the Biletnikoff Watch List.
THEY COME TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS PLAY: South Carolina has announced a sellout for this week’s game after selling out each of its first two games this season. Carolina sold out six of its seven home games during the 2022 season and has announced a sellout in 10 of its last 11 home games including this week’s Florida contest. Seating capacity at Williams-Brice Stadium is listed at 77,559.
— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) October 2, 2023
CAROLINA VS. FLORIDA: This is the 44th meeting between South Carolina and Florida in a series that dates back to 1911. The Gators lead the all-time series, 30-10-3, including a 12-8-1 lead when playing in Columbia and a 17-2 advantage in Gainesville. The teams have also met three times at a neutral site with Florida winning once and the other two games ending in a tie. The Gators hold a slim 7-6 advantage in the last 13 contests after dominating a stretch in which they won 18 of 19 games from 1964-2009.
JUST GETTING WARMED UP: The Gamecocks have won six of the last 13 gridiron battles with the Gators after winning just four of the first 30 meetings between the two schools.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Florida scored on each of its first four possessions to open up a 24-0 lead and never looked back in a 38-6 victory over South Carolina in The Swamp on Nov. 12, 2022. The Gators dominated on both sides of the ball, rolling up 515 yards of offense including 374 on the ground to just 237 total yards for the Gamecocks. Carolina also turned the ball over three times in four plays to open the second half, thwarting any possible comeback bid. It was the Gators’ fourth win in the last five meetings with the Gamecocks.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: South Carolina scored its most points in the series and had its largest margin of victory in a 40-17 win over Florida in Columbia on Nov. 6, 2021. First-time starter Jason Brown threw for two TDs, Kevin Harris and ZaQuandre White each rushed for over 100 yards and South Carolina’s defense held the Gators’ attack to just 82 yards rushing in the win. Parker White booted a career-best four field goals and defensive tackle Jabari Ellis added an 18-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the rout. Carolina scored 10 first-quarter points and added 20 more in the second stanza to take a 30-10 advantage into the locker room at the half and never looked back.
SCORING POINTS: Carolina has tallied at least 24 points in five of its last six meetings with the Gators after being held below that threshold in each of the previous six contests. Ironically, despite scoring more, they are just 2-4 in the last six games after splitting the previous six games evenly.
THE SPURRIER FACTOR: The Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier remains the winningest head coach at both Florida and South Carolina. He was 122-27-1 with the Gators from 1990-2001 and 86-49 with the Gamecocks from 2005-2015.
ONCE A GATOR: Carolina defensive backs coach Torrian Gray coached the Gator cornerbacks in 2019 and 2020. University of South Carolina Director of Football Operations George Wynn held a similar position at Florida from 2011-17.
OLD FRIEND ALERT: Florida EDGE coach Mike Peterson spent six seasons a member of the Carolina coaching staff, serving as the outside linebackers/defensive ends coach from 2016-21 under both Will Muschamp and Shane Beamer.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The Gamecocks boast 10 players from the Sunshine State including Kajuan Banks (Tallahassee), Ahmarean Brown (Tampa), Connor Cox (Jacksonville), Nick Elksnis (Jacksonville), Landon Grier (Ft. Lauderdale), Grayson Howard (Jacksonville), Kelton Henderson (Lehigh Acres), Daniel Lester (Land O’ Lakes), Bryan Thomas Jr. (Windemere) and Jamaal Whyce (Miami).
A LITTLE 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 631-609-44, a .509 winning percentage. Since the start of the 21st century, the Gamecocks have posted a 165-127 record, a .565 winning clip.
THE LAST TIME OUT: South Carolina has had a week to regroup during its lone bye week of the season following a 41-20 setback at No. 21/19 Tennessee on Sept. 30. The Gamecocks withstood an early punch in the mouth (a nine-play, 94-yard drive on UT’s first possession) to gain a 10-7 advantage late in the first quarter but could not hold on as the Vols raced to the win in front of 101,915 fans in Neyland Stadium. Mario Anderson provided a spark in the running game, rushing for 101 yards on 10 carries. Tight end Trey Knox had his best outing as a Gamecock, catching seven passes for 51 yards. True freshman safety Jaylon Kilgore totaled 15 tackles, the most for a Gamecock since 2020, and added an interception.
REACHING THE CENTURY MARK: Mario Anderson, a transfer from Newberry, made his first start for the Gamecocks at Tennessee and responded with a big performance. Anderson carried 10 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, including a 75-yard TD run, the longest run from scrimmage for Carolina since Kevin Harris in 2020. Over the last two contests he has rushed 36 times for 189 yards and two scores. He logged just eight carries for 41 yards through the first three contests.
GETTING THE GROUND GAME GOING: Buoyed by the emergence of Mario Anderson, the Gamecocks have started to get their ground game on track. Carolina totaled 86 rushes for 159 yards in the first three games combined but has rushed 74 times for 276 yards in its last two games against SEC opponents Mississippi State and Tennessee. Carolina is 14-2 when rushing for 100 or more yards in the Shane Beamer Era.
BILITNIKOFF WORTHY: Senior wide receiver Xavier Legette was added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List last week, and justifiably so. Legette ranks third in the SEC and fourth in the country in receiving yards per game at 121.2, with 32 receptions for 606 yards through five contests. He is third in the league and tied for 19th in the nation with 6.40 catches per game and ranks fourth in the conference and 34th in the land in yards per catch at 18.94.
SEEING HIM IN 4K: Spencer Rattler has thrown for 1,411 yards in five games this season and now has passed for 4,437 yards in 18 games in a Gamecock uniform. He became just the 12th player in school history to pass for more than 4,000 yards. With 563 more passing yards, he will become the 10th passer to notch 5,000 career yards in Carolina history.
HOT FROM THE START: Spencer Rattler has come out on fire in every game this season. In the first quarter of the five games played, he has completed 36-of-41 passes (87.8 pct.) for 393 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He completed his last four first-quarter passes against North Carolina, then went 10-for-10 in the first quarter against both Furman and Georgia and was 5-for-5 versus Mississippi State, extending his first quarter streak to 29-consecutive completions, before missing on his first attempt at Tennessee. He competed his first 15 passes against Furman, his first 10 at Georgia and his first 17 versus Mississippi State.
FAST STARTS: The Gamecocks have scored a first-quarter touchdown in all five games. They were able to do that in just six of 13 games a year ago. Carolina has held a lead in all every game in 2023.
START ME UP: Fifteen players have made their first start as a Gamecock this season. Six made their first start at Carolina in the opener against UNC, including offensive linemen Sidney Fugar, Nick Gargiulo and Cason Henry, tight end Trey Knox, defensive end Bryan Thomas Jr. and linebacker Stone Blanton. Fugar (Western Illinois), Gargiulo (Yale) and Knox (Arkansas) are transfers who made starts at their previous school. Joshua Simon and Jalon Kilgore made their first Carolina starts against Furman. Simon is a grad transfer from Western Kentucky. Kilgore is a true freshman, the first of his class to gain a starting assignment. True freshman Tree Babalade made his first career start at left tackle at Georgia, while UAB transfer Drew Tuazama made his first Gamecock start at defensive end in the same game. Wide receiver O’Mega Blake and defensive tackle T.J. Sanders made their first career starts against Mississippi State. True freshman offensive guard Trovon Baugh became the third member of the 2023 recruiting class to earn a start when he got the nod at Tennessee, along with running back Mario Anderson and defensive end Tyreek Johnson.
ON THE JOB TRAINING: The Gamecocks started three true freshmen in their last contest at Tennessee. Left tackle Tree Babalade made his third-consecutive start, while right guard Trovon Baugh joined him in the starting lineup along the offensive line for the first time. Defensive back Jalon Kilgore moved into the starting lineup in Week 2 and leads the team in tackles through five games.
BATTLE TESTED: South Carolina has played six ranked opponents in its last eight games, including three of five in 2023. The Gamecocks finished the 2022 season with wins over No. 5 Tennessee and No. 7 Clemson before dropping the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl to No. 19 Notre Dame. They opened the 2023 season with a loss to No. 21 North Carolina before falling at top-ranked Georgia two weeks later. The gauntlet continued with a loss at No. 21 Tennessee to close out September. Dates with Missouri, Texas A&M, No. 24 Kentucky and Clemson, all teams that received AP votes this week, await in the season’s second half. Vanderbilt is the only opponent on the slate with a losing mark.
GAMECOCKS ARE RESILIANT: The Gamecocks have lost 13 regular season games under Shane Beamer. They are 10-2 in games coming off a loss.
SUPER SENIORS: The Gamecocks list 10 players whose eligibility would have expired had not the NCAA allowed the 2020 COVID-19 season to be a “free” year. Those “Super” seniors are WR Ahmarean Brown, OL Nick Gargiulo, DB DeAngelo Gibbs, WR Dakereon Joyner, TE Trey Knox, WR Xavier Legette, WR Eddie Lewis, OL Jaylen Nichols, EDGE Jordan Strachan and RB D.J. Twitty.
UTILIZING THE PORTAL: The Gamecocks’ roster features 11 new scholarship transfers, including nine who enrolled in January. The list includes RB Mario Anderson (Newberry), DT Elijah Davis (East Mississippi C.C.), TE Nick Elksnis (Florida), OL Sidney Fugar (Western Illinois), OL Nick Gargiulo (Yale), TE Trey Knox (Arkansas), WR Eddie Lewis (Memphis), TE Joshua Simon (Western Kentucky), and LB Jaron Willis (Ole Miss). Jatius Geer (Syracuse) joined the squad in the summer and Drew Tuazama (UAB) was added in August. In addition, DB DeAngelo Gibbs joined the team as a graduate transfer walk-on from Tennessee, OL Jaxon Hughes joined the squad as a walk-on from Charlotte and OL Ni Mansell came from Mercer.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: Twenty-two Gamecocks had their degrees in hand when the 2023 season began. Sixteen have earned a diploma from the University of South Carolina, including Ahmarean Brown, Terrell Dawkins, Marcellas Dial, B.J. Gibson, Alex Herrera, Tyreek Johnson, Trai Jones, Dakereon Joyner, Xavier Legette, Bam Martin-Scott, Jakai Moore, Jaylen Nichols, David Spaulding, Jordan Strachan, D.J. Twitty and Tyshawn Wannamaker. Nick Garguilo (Yale), DeAngelo Gibbs (Tennessee), Trey Knox (Arkansas), Eddie Lewis (Memphis), Joshua Simon (Western Kentucky) and Drew Tuazama (UAB) have degrees from other four-year institutions.
WE MAY NEVER PASS THIS WAY AGAIN: The 2023 season marks the final year that the Southeastern Conference will compete in the East and West divisional format with six intradivision games, one “permanent” cross over opponent and a rotating opponent from the opposite division. In 2024, Texas and Oklahoma will join the conference and the league will merge into one 16-team division. South Carolina will not face traditional rivals Georgia, Florida or Tennessee in 2024, teams they have played every year since joining the league in 1992.
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks begin a two-game SEC road swing when they travel to Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, Oct. 21, to face the Missouri Tigers in a battle for Mayor’s Cup. Mizzou has won the last four games to take an 8-5 lead in the overall series. The Tigers have won three of the five games played at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo. The following week the Gamecocks will travel to College Station, Texas for a match with the Texas A&M Aggies.