Gamecocks and Aggies Set for High Noon Showdown in Texas
For the second week in a row, a trophy is on the line for South Carolina as the Gamecocks (2-5, 1-4 SEC) travel to College Station, Texas for a Southeastern Conference matchup with the Texas A&M Aggies (4-3, 2-2 SEC). The Bonham Trophy will be presented to the winner of this week’s contest, which will be televised nationally on ESPN beginning at noon ET (11 am CT) from Kyle Field (102,733). Both teams are looking to snap losing skids, as the Gamecocks have dropped three-straight contests to SEC Eastern Division rivals Tennessee, Florida and Missouri, while the Aggies lost back-to-back games against Alabama and Tennessee before enjoying their bye week last week.
OVER THE AIRWAVES: This week’s game will be televised nationally on ESPN. Mark Jones will handle the play-by play while Louis Riddick adds the color commentary. Quint Kessenich patrols the sidelines for the mothership. 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 2-5 in 2023 including a 1-4 mark in SEC play. Four of their five losses have come to teams ranked in the AP Top-25 and away from Williams-Brice Stadium. The seven teams that Carolina has played have a combined 40-10 record. South Carolina opened the season with a 31-17 loss to No. 21 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 to even its record at 2-2. The Gamecocks have lost their last three, falling at No. 21 Tennessee by a 41-20 count, surrendering a 10-point fourth quarter lead in a 41-39 home loss to Florida, then dropping a 34-12 decision at No. 20 Missouri last week. The Gamecocks have been led all season by quarterback Spencer Rattler and wide receiver Xavier Legette. Rattler has completed 165-of-223 passes for 1,941 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He ranks tied for 19th in the nation with 277.3 passing yards per game and is 12th with a 70.8 percent completion rate. Legette has caught 38 passes for 736 yards, averaging 19.4 yards per catch and 105.1 yards per game, with three touchdowns. He ranks ninth among all FBS players in receiving yards per game and is 17th 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 six 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 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, 101,915 at Tennessee and 62,621 at Missouri this 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 631-611-44, a .508 winning pct. Since the start of the 21st century, Carolina is 165-129, a .561 mark.
THE SERIES: This is the 10th gridiron meeting between South Carolina and Texas A&M. The Gamecocks are looking to make it two wins in a row and are eyeing their first win ever in College Station over their “permanent” SEC Western Division rival. The Aggies own a perfect 4-0 record against the Gamecocks in College Station and are 4-1 in Columbia in a series that dates back to 2014. Four of the nine games in the series have been decided by seven points or less and four have been blowouts of 24 points or more.
TROPHY HUNTING: Amateur historian Richard Peterson, a USC Broadcasting Journalism graduate and previous resident of Alamo Heights in San Antonio, Texas, recommended “The Governor’s Trophy” to be named after James Butler Bonham, Hero of the Alamo and himself an Alum of The University of South Carolina. Peterson and Katon Dawson took the idea to then Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and a new tradition was born. “The Bonham Trophy” is exchanged between the Governors of South Carolina and Texas with the winner taking possession of the Bonham Trophy of “Western Artwork,” created by renowned Texas sculptor Jeff Gottfried, and displayed at the victorious State Capital, University or any location the Governor may choose. Two weeks after the game, The Bonham Trophy is returned for permanent display at The Alamo until the next South Carolina – Texas A&M football game.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: South Carolina extended its winning streak to four and captured the Bonham Trophy for the first time in nine tries with a 30-24 win over Texas A&M at a sold-out Williams-Brice Stadium on Oct. 22, 2022. The Gamecocks exploded for 17 points in the first 5:09 of the game, using a Xavier Legette kickoff return for a touchdown and cashing in on turnovers on each of the Aggies’ first two possessions to build an insurmountable cushion. A&M cut the lead to 24-21 heading into the final period, but the Gamecocks put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive, using 5:13 of the clock to seal the win. Darius Rush logged a game-high eight tackles, returned an interception 59 yards setting up a score and forced a fumble, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS: Carolina is 4-12 all-time against teams from the Lone Star State, going 1-0 against Texas, 1-2 versus both Baylor and Houston, and 1-8 against Texas A&M. The Gamecocks have made four trips to College Station starting in 2015. Prior to that, South Carolina had not ventured into the state of Texas since dropping an 18-17 decision to Baylor in Waco on Oct. 2, 1976.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: Ainias Smith had a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown and Jalen Wydermyer added two TD catches as No. 17 Texas A&M built a huge first-half lead and coasted to a 44-14 win over South Carolina on Oct. 23, 2021 in College Station. The Aggies held a 31-0 advantage at the intermission and led 41-0 after three quarters. The Gamecocks scored two fourth quarter touchdowns, but gained just 185 yards on the night, compared to 477 for the Aggies.
LONE LONE STAR WIN: The Gamecocks only win in eight tries in the Lone Star State was a 27-21 win over Texas in Austin on Oct. 5, 1957, a result that caused both Gamecock and Aggie fans to rejoice.
TEXAS TIES: The Gamecocks have three players from the state of Texas. Reid Mikeska is from Cypress (Bridgeland), Landon Samson is from Southlake (Southlake Carroll) and Peyton Williams is from Heath (Rockwall-Heath).
RUN IT BACK IN 2024: The Gamecocks and Aggies are slated to meet again in Columbia next season in the new 16-team, one division SEC alignment.
SCHEDULING QUIRK: South Carolina is playing its final road game of the regular season this week at Texas A&M. The Gamecocks’ final four games will all be played in the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia during the month of November. South Carolina is the only school in the FBS to have each of its final four games of the 2023 regular season at home. The Gamecocks will host Jacksonville State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Clemson in the month of November.
BATTLE TESTED: South Carolina and Notre Dame are the only schools that have played four ranked opponents this year. The Gamecocks 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. They lost at No. 20 Missouri last week. The seven opponents that Carolina has played are a combined 40-10. Removing games involving FCS teams, South Carolina’s opponents are 35-8, an .814 winning percentage, the top mark in the FBS. South Carolina is the only team in the country that has 11 of its 12 regular season opponents currently owning a record better than .500. Vanderbilt is the only opponent on the slate with a losing mark. Going back to last season, seven of South Carolina’s last 10 opponents have been ranked in the AP Top-25.
THE LAST TIME OUT: After a quick three-and-out on its first possession, Missouri scored three touchdowns and added a field goal on its next four possessions to open up a 24-3 halftime advantage en route to a 34-12 win over the Gamecocks in Columbia, Mo. last Saturday, securing the Mayor’s Cup for a fifth-consecutive year. The Gamecocks had several scoring opportunities, getting into the red zone four times, but had to settle for a career-high four field goals from placekicker Mitch Jeter.
THE EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE: The Gamecocks were held without a first quarter touchdown at Missouri, the first time they did not reach paydirt in the first stanza this season. They were able to tally a first quarter TD in just six of 13 games in 2022. The loss at Missouri was also the first game in 2023 that Carolina never led, snapping a string of nine-straight games in which they held a lead.
MITCH WAS THE MAN: Placekicker Mitch Jeter booted a career-high four fields in five opportunities at Missouri, accounting for all of Carolina’s points. He converted from 51, 41, 38 and 21 yards after missing his first attempt from 51 yards. Jeter came into the contest having connected on just five of six field goal attempts all season. He is now 9-for-11 in 2023 with both misses coming from 50 yards or beyond and is 20-of-22 in his career. The school’s single game record is five field goals, set by Collin Mackie vs West Virginia in 1990 and matched by Spencer Lanning at Georgia in 2009.
YOU CAN’T RATTLE SPENCER: Despite being pressured a ton this season (the Gamecocks are last in the SEC and 127th in the country in sacks allowed with 30), Spencer Rattler continues to play at a high level. He ranks fifth in the SEC and 19th in the country in total offense per game (292.4), fourth in the SEC and 19th in the nation in passing yards per game (277.3), seventh in the SEC and 30th overall in passing efficiency (152.1) and fourth in the SEC and 12th in the country in completion pct. (70.8).
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 136 times for 497 yards (3.7 ypc) in its last four games against SEC opponents Mississippi State, Tennessee, Florida and Missouri, 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.
AWARD WORTHY: Senior wide receiver Xavier Legette was recently added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List and was named a Midseason Second-Team All-American by the AP. Legette ranks third in the SEC and ninth in the country in receiving yards per game at 105.1, with 38 receptions for 736 yards. He is sixth in the league and tied for 42nd in the nation with 5.4 catches per game and ranks third in the conference and 17th in the land in yards per catch at 19.4 and is second in the SEC and 20th in the country with 124.3 all-purpose yards per game. He left the Missouri game with an upper body injury after just one catch for 20 yards.
START ME UP: Sixteen players, including three true freshmen, have made their first start as a Gamecock this season:
North Carolina (6): OT Sidney Fugar, OG Nick Gargiulo, OT Cason Henry, TE Trey Knox, DE Bryan Thomas Jr. and LB Stone Blanton.
Furman (2): TE Joshua Simon and S Jalon Kilgore.
Georgia (2): OL Tree Babalade and DE Drew Tuazama.
Mississippi State (2): WR O’Mega Blake and DT T.J. Sanders.
Tennessee (3): OG Trovon Baugh, RB Mario Anderson and DE Tyreek Johnson.
Florida (1): DE Elijah Davis.
ON THE JOB TRAINING: The Gamecocks have started three true freshmen in their last three contests. Left tackle Tree Babalade made his fifth-consecutive start at Missouri, while right guard Trovon Baugh moved into the starting lineup in the Tennessee game and has made three-straight starts. Defensive back Safety Jalon Kilgore was the first member of the 2023 recruiting class to earn a start when he moved into the starting lineup in Week 2.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: 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’ 2023 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 return home to open a regular season-ending four-game homestand when they host Jacksonville State out of Conference USA in a first-time ever matchup between the two schools that share the nickname Gamecocks. Home games against Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Clemson round out the 2023 regular season.
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).