Gamecocks Head to CoMo with Mayor's Cup on the Line Saturday
The Mayor’s Cup is on the line as the South Carolina Gamecocks travel to Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium (62,621) in Columbia, Mo. for an SEC Eastern Division showdown with the Missouri Tigers on Saturday, Oct. 21. For the second-straight week, Carolina will be playing in a Homecoming game as the Gamecocks (2-4, 1-3 SEC) and No. 20/20 Tigers (6-1, 2-1 SEC) tangle in a 3:30 pm ET (2:30 CT) contest on the SEC Network. The Gamecocks are looking to snap a two-game losing streak while Mizzou rebounded with a road win last week at Kentucky after suffering its only loss of the season to LSU a week prior.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s game will be televised on the SEC Network. For the second week in a row, Taylor Zarzour will handle the play-by play while Matt Stinchcomb adds the color commentary. South Carolina alum Alyssa Lang patrols the sidelines for the SEC Network. 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.
Wouldn’t be denied. 😤 pic.twitter.com/EBke3KTg9O
— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) October 14, 2023
GAMECOCK REWIND: The Gamecocks are 2-4 in 2023 including a 1-3 mark in SEC play. Three of their four losses have come to teams ranked in the AP Top-25 and away from Williams-Brice Stadium. The six teams that Carolina has played are a combined 31-7, with two of those losses coming to the Gamecocks. South Carolina opened the season with a 31-17 loss 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 before surrendering a 10-point fourth quarter lead in a 41-39 home loss to Florida last week. The Gamecocks have been led all season by quarterback Spencer Rattler and wide receiver Xavier Legette. Rattler has completed 142-of-193 passes for 1,724 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He ranks 16th in the nation with 287.3 passing yards per game and is seventh with a 73.6 percent completion rate. Legette has caught 37 passes for 716 yards, averaging 19.4 yards per catch and 119.3 yards per game, with three touchdowns. He ranks fourth among all FBS players in receiving yards per game and is 24th in yards per reception.
THEY COME TO SEE THE GAMECOCKS PLAY: The Gamecocks have played in front of a sold-out stadium in each of their last five games. South Carolina has sold out all three of its home games this season, drawing 78,281 in the home opener against Furman, 78,311 in the SEC home opener versus Mississippi State, and a season-high 79,247 last week against Florida in the annual Homecoming game. The Gamecocks rank 15th in the country in average home attendance at 78,613 and have announced a sellout in 10 of its last 11 home games. The Gamecocks also played in front of sold-out crowds of 92,746 at Georgia and 101,915 at Tennessee this season. The fewest they have played in front of is 68,723 in the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte against North Carolina to open the season.
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 631-610-44, a .508 winning percentage. Since the start of the 21st century, the Gamecocks have posted a 165-128 record, a .563 winning clip.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: It’s the annual battle for the Mayor’s Cup, as the two SEC schools that call Columbia home are set to play for the silver trophy, given to the winning team.
CAROLINA VS. MIZZOU: Missouri has won the last four meetings to take an 8-5 lead in the all-time series with South Carolina. The Tigers have won three of the five previous games in their home state, while the teams have split six games in South Carolina evenly. Mizzou also owns a pair of neutral site bowl game wins (the 1979 Hall of Fame Bowl and the 2005 Independence Bowl) over Carolina.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: Since Mizzou joined the SEC, the Tigers own a slim 6-5 advantage in the series. South Carolina won the first two SEC Eastern Division battles between the two schools, posting a 31-10 win in the Palmetto State in 2012, then pulling out an improbable 27-24 double-overtime victory in Missouri in 2013. In 2014, the Tigers overcame a 13-point deficit in the final seven minutes to squeeze out a 21-20 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium, then won by a 24-10 count at Memorial Stadium in 2015. The Gamecocks then won three-straight games from 2016-18 by scores of 31-21, 31-13 and 37-35, respectively. The Tigers have rebounded with four-straight wins of their own by scores of 34-14, 17-10, 31-28 and 23-10.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: No. 25/25 South Carolina struggled to get anything going on either side of the ball in a 23-10 home loss to Missouri in the annual battle for the Mayor’s Cup on Oct. 29, 2022. After a quick three-and-out on its first drive, Missouri put together three-straight drives that went 15 plays and 96 yards for a touchdown; 10 plays and 84 yards for a touchdown, and 10 plays and 75 yards for a field goal, to open up a 17-0 advantage and the Tigers never looked back. Mizzou tallied 367 yards of offense, (just 113 after intermission), to 203 for Carolina and held the ball for 36:35 of the game. Brady Cook was 17-for-26 for 224 yards passing and added 53 yards on the ground on 11 carries for Mizzou. Spencer Rattler completed 20-of-30 passes for 171 yards for the Gamecocks. The loss snapped a Carolina four-game winning streak.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: Tyler Badie rushed 34 times for 209 yards and a touchdown and Missouri held off South Carolina’s fourth quarter charge to post a 31-28 win in CoMo on Nov. 13, 2021. Mizzou outgained the Gamecocks by a 438-250 margin. Jason Brown made his second start for Carolina and went 16-for-30 for 193 yards with two touchdowns and an interception and also fumbled in the endzone, resulting in a Tiger TD.
THE LAST GAMECOCK WIN: In what has become known in South Carolina as the “Michael Scarnecchia Game,” the Gamecocks’ backup quarterback threw for three touchdowns in his only collegiate start and Parker White hit the game-winning 33-yard field goal with two seconds left to lift Carolina to a 37-35 victory over Missouri on Oct. 6, 2018 in Columbia, S.C. The Tigers had gone ahead 35-34 on Tucker McCann’s career-long 57-yard field goal with 1:18 remaining, but Scarnecchia and the Gamecocks drove to the Missouri 16 where White nailed his third field goal of the game. The Gamecocks rallied from a 23-14 halftime deficit in a game that lasted more than five hours due to rain and lightning delays. Scarnecchia completed 20-of-35 passes for 249 yards. Missouri’s Drew Lock, the SEC’s passing leader, was held to 204 yards.
BLACKJACK FOR THE WIN: The Gamecocks are 5-2 against the Tigers when scoring 21 or more points. They are winless in six games when scoring 20 or fewer, including three of the last four contests.
OLD FRIEND ALERT: Marcy Girton holds the title of Missouri’s Senior Associate Director of Athletics for Football Administration and Special Projects. Girton was the Chief Operating Officer at the University of South Carolina from 2008-2012.
RUN IT BACK IN 2024: The Gamecocks and Tigers are scheduled to meet again in Columbia, South Carolina next season in the new 16-team, one division Southeastern Conference alignment.
THE LAST TIME OUT: Florida scored two touchdowns in the final 4:40 to overcome a 10-point fourth quarter deficit and steal a 41-39 win over South Carolina in Columbia last Saturday. Graham Mertz completed 30-of-48 passes for a career-high 423 yards and three scores, including a 21-yard TD pass to Ricky Pearsall with 47 seconds left in the contest to escape with the win. The Gators converted on three fourth-down plays in their final two drives to extend the game. Spencer Rattler was 23-of-30 for 313 yards and four touchdowns to lead Carolina. Xavier Legette was again a top target with five catches for 110 yards. Mario Anderson rushed 20 times for 98 yards. Tight ends Trey Knox and Joshua Simon both had touchdown catches, while Juju McDowell scored twice. Jalon Kilgore led Carolina with 11 tackles, while Debo Williams logged nine stops including 3.5 tackles for loss.
FAST STARTS: The Gamecocks have scored a first-quarter touchdown in all six games. They were able to do that in just six of 13 games a year ago. Carolina has held a lead in every game in 2023.
39 WASN’T ENOUGH: The Gamecocks scored 39 points in a losing effort against Florida. It was the most points they’ve scored in a loss since a 59-42 loss at Ole Miss on Nov. 14, 2020. The last time they put up 39 or more points in a home loss was on Nov. 1, 2014, a 45-42 OT setback to Tennessee.
GAMECOCKS ARE RESILIANT: The Gamecocks have lost back-to-back games for just the third time in the Shane Beamer Era at South Carolina. They have not lost three in a row since the end of the 2020 season when they dropped their final six games. They are 10-4 in games coming off a loss under Coach Beamer.
PASS HAPPY: Spencer Rattler continues to play at a high level. He ranks fourth in the SEC and 13th in the country in total offense per game (308.83), fourth in the SEC and 16th in the nation in passing yards per game (287.33), seventh in the SEC and 19th overall in passing efficiency (163.27) and third in the SEC and seventh in the country in pass completion percentage (73.58).
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 (1.8 yards per carry) in the first three games combined but has rushed 107 times for 428 yards (4.0 ypc) in its last three games against SEC opponents Mississippi State, Tennessee and Florida, including a season-best 152-yard effort against the Gators. Carolina is 14-3 when rushing for 100 or more yards in the Shane Beamer Era.
BILITNIKOFF WORTHY: Senior wide receiver Xavier Legette was recently added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, and justifiably so. Legette ranks second in the SEC and fourth in the country in receiving yards per game at 119.3, with 37 receptions for 716 yards. He is fourth in the league and tied for 24th in the nation with 6.17 catches per game and ranks third in the conference and 24th in the land in yards per catch at 19.4.
START ME UP: Sixteen 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. JUCO transfer Elijah Davis earned his first start at defensive end against Florida.
ON THE JOB TRAINING: The Gamecocks have started three true freshmen in their last two contests. Left tackle Tree Babalade made his fourth-consecutive start against Florida, while right guard Trovon Baugh moved into the starting lineup in the Tennessee game. Defensive back Jalon Kilgore moved into the starting lineup in Week 2 and leads the team in tackles.
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 play their final road game of the season next week when they travel to College Station, Texas for a match with the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies lead the all-time series by an 8-1 count, including a 4-0 mark at Kyle Field (102,733) in College Station, but the Gamecocks won last year in Columbia by a 30-24 score, securing the Bonham Trophy for the first time.
LOOKING FURTHER AHEAD: The Gamecocks will host LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri and Texas A&M at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2024, and will travel to Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Vanderbilt. Dates and kick times will be announced at a later date. The non-conference portion of the 2024 slate includes home games against Old Dominion (Aug. 31), Akron (Sept. 21) and Wofford (Nov. 23) and a road game at Clemson (Nov. 30).