Gamecocks Set to Face Nationally-Ranked Kentucky
SEC Network to Televise Sept. 29 Game in Lexington
Sept. 28, 2018
GCF Staff Report
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1, 1-1 SEC) play another SEC Eastern Division road game this week when they travel to Lexington, Ky., to face the No. 17/17 Kentucky Wildcats (4-0, 2-0 SEC). Game time is set for 7:30 pm ET from Kroger Field (61,000).
TV COVERAGE: SEC Network has the telecast for this week's contest. Tom Hart will handle the play-by-play with Jordan Rodgers serving as the analyst. Cole Cubelic will work the sidelines.
A HISTORY LESSON: 2018 marks the 125th season of intercollegiate football at South Carolina. It is the 112th-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 603-574-44.
SEC HISTORY: The South Carolina Gamecocks are in their 27th year in the Southeastern Conference. Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their lone SEC Eastern Division title in 2010. The Gamecocks are 91-118-1 (.436) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 36-30 (.545) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season. With a 5-3 mark and sole possession of second place in the SEC East in 2017, the Gamecocks won five or more conference games for just the eighth time in 26 years since joining the SEC.
CAROLINA VS. KENTUCKY: This is the 30th meeting between the Gamecocks and Wildcats in a series that dates back to 1937. Carolina leads the all-time series 17-11-1, including a 9-6 advantage in Lexington. The teams played just three times (1937, 1978 and 1981) before Carolina joined the SEC for the 1992 season. Since then, they have met every year. Since joining the SEC, the Gamecocks own a 16-10 record against UK, including wins in 13 of the 18 meetings in this century, but the Wildcats have won each of the last four contests, their longest winning streak in the series.
POLL CATS: This is the first time South Carolina will face an undefeated and ranked Kentucky team since 2007. The 11th-ranked Gamecocks defeated No. 8 Kentucky by a 38-23 score in Columbia on Oct. 4, 2007. Eric Norwood tied an NCAA record with two fumble recoveries for touchdowns, earning National Defensive Player of the Week honors.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Benny Snell rushed for 102 yards and two TDs and the Wildcat defense held Carolina to just one score over the final 59:13 as Kentucky upended the Gamecocks by a 23-13 score in Columbia on Sept. 16, 2017. Jake Bentley connected with Deebo Samuel on a 68-yard scoring strike on the game's first play from scrimmage, but Carolina could muster just 290 yards of offense the rest of the way. Bentley completed 24-of-36 passes for 304 yards and two scores and Samuel logged 122 yards on five catches before suffering a season-ending leg injury.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: Benny Snell capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge early in the fourth quarter to break a 10-10 tie, and Kentucky held on for a 17-10 win over South Carolina in Lexington on Sept. 24, 2016. The Gamecocks were limited to just 268 total yards of offense. Brandon McIlwain went the distance at quarterback, completing 15-of-30 passes for 177 yards. Kentucky rushed for 216 of their 351 total yards in the contest.
THE LAST CAROLINA WIN: The 13th-ranked Gamecocks opened up a 27-7 lead, but the Wildcats made it interesting with 21 fourth-quarter points before falling by a 35-28 count in Columbia on Oct. 5, 2013. Mike Davis rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Connor Shaw added 312 yards of total offense, including 262 through the air on 17-of-20 passing. Damiere Byrd had one of the top days of his career, catching five passes for 94 yards, including a 62-yard TD catch on the first drive of the game.
MUSCHAMP VS. THE CATS: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp owns a 4-2 record against Kentucky. He was a perfect 4-0 against the Wildcats as the head coach at Florida, but has dropped both games as the Carolina head coach.
BLUE GRASS TIES: Carolina assistant coach Pat Washington was on the Kentucky staff in 2012, while assistant coach Kyle Krantz served as a GA on the Wildcat staff back in 2011 and 2012.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The Gamecocks are the only SEC team that twice has to play consecutive Saturday league games on the road: at Vanderbilt and Kentucky on September 22 and 29; and at Ole Miss and Florida on November 3 and 10.
IT'S HAPPENED BEFORE: The Gamecocks are trying to win two-straight SEC road games when they travel to Kentucky this week after winning at Vanderbilt last week. A win would:
• Give the Gamecocks back-to-back road wins for the first time since they defeated Missouri on Oct. 26, 2013 in the last road game of the 2013 season, and Vanderbilt on Sept. 20, 2014, in the first road game of the 2014 campaign.
• Give the Gamecocks back-to-back road wins in consecutive games (ie. no home or neutral games in between) since 2011 when they won at Missisippi State on Oct. 15 then, after an off week, won at Tennessee on Oct. 29.
• Give Gamecocks back-to-back SEC road wins in consecutive weeks since winning at Ole Miss and at Kentucky on Oct. 4 and 11, 2008, respectively.
THE LAST TIME OUT: Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason asked for a "street fight" and got it, as the South Carolina Gamecocks pounded out a convincing 37-14 win in Nashville last Saturday. The Gamecocks won both lines of scrimmage, outgaining the Commodores 273-92 on the ground and 534-284 overall. Jake Bentley completed 19-of-28 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown. Rico Dowdle logged 112 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, while Shi Smith hauled in five passes for 119 yards and a score. Parker Whitematched his career high with three field goals made. The game endured a third-quarter weather delay that lasted 39 minutes.
EARLY POINTS: Carolina came out on fire at Vanderbilt, needing just three plays and 55 seconds to cover 75 yards for a touchdown. The Gamecocks had gone 10 true road games, dating back to the 2015 season, without scoring a first-quarter point before a 38-yard TD strike from Jake Bentley to Shi Smith. Parker White added a field goal later in the quarter. It was the first time Carolina had scored 10 or more first-quarter points in a true road game since scoring 10 on Nov. 15, 2014 at Florida, a game that Carolina eventually won, 23-20, in overtime.
BIG PRODUCTION: The Gamecocks put up 534 yards of offense against Vanderbilt, averaging 7.0 yards per play. It was the first time Carolina had rolled up 500 yards of offense against an SEC opponent since Nov. 1, 2014 versus Tennessee.
ROAD WARRIORS: In the Vandy win, the Gamecocks had their most productive road contest under head coach Will Muschamp. Carolina posted its most points (37), first downs (28), rushing attempts (48), rushing yards (273) and total yards (534) in a true road contest since Coach Muschamp took the reins in 2016.
THIRD DOWN IS OUR DOWN: The Gamecocks held Vanderbilt to just 2-of-14 on third-down conversions. For the season, Carolina has held its opponents to an SEC-leading 24.2 percent (8-of-33) on third down conversions, the nation's fourth-best mark. Last season, the Gamecocks struggled getting off the field on third down, allowing conversion on 39.8 percent of their opportunities.
HE'S NOT YOUR UNCLE: Rico Dowdle had another solid performance in the win over Vandy. The junior running back collected 112 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown. It was his second 100-yard rushing game of the season (he went for 105 in the season-opener against Coastal Carolina), and his fifth-career 100-yard rushing game.
HE WASN'T BASHFUL: Sophomore wide receiver Shi Smith had the best game of his career against the Commodores, collecting five passes for 119 yards, including a 52-yarder and a 38-yard touchdown reception. He entered the game with just six receptions for 72 yards through the season's first two contests.
REACHING THE CENTURY MARK: When Rico Dowdle (112 yards rushing) and Shi Smith (119 yards receiving) both reached the century mark, they became the first rusher/receiver combo to go over 100 yards in the same game for the Gamecocks since Nov. 5, 2016 when Dowdle (149 rushing) and Deebo Samuel (125 receiving) accomplished the feat against Missouri.
JAVON LAYS DOWN THE LAW: Javon Kinlaw had a huge effort at Vanderbilt. The junior defensive tackle was a presence in the backfield all day, logging five tackles including 3.0 tackles for loss accounting for 21 yards, a pair of sacks for 18 yards, two forced fumbles, a pass break up and a pair of quarterback hurries, before missing the final quarter with a toe injury. He earned a spot on the PFF National Team of the Week, receiving a 97.1 grade and was named the SEC Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week.
PARKER WAS PERFECT: Placekicker Parker White tallied 13 of the Gamecocks' 37 points in the win over Vanderbilt. The sophomore connected on all seven of his kicks (three field goals and four extra points), including field goals of 33, 35 and 36 yards. He is one of 17 kickers in the country who is still perfect on his attempts this season.
IN AND OUT OF THE POLLS: The Gamecocks began the 2018 season just outside the top-25, ranking 26th in both the Associated Press and Coaches' polls. South Carolina moved into the the No. 24 slot in both polls after a season-opening win over Coastal Carolina. It was the first time it had been ranked in the AP top-25 since September of 2014. After a loss to No. 3 Georgia, the Gamecocks fell back out of the top-25 in the national polls, but continue to receive votes.
GIVE THE KEYS TO BENTLEY: Junior Jake Bentley triggers the Carolina offense. The 6-4, 224-pounder from Opelika, Ala., owns a 15-8 record as a starting signal-caller. Bentley was impressive in the season-opening win over Coastal Carolina, completing 22-of-29 passes for 250 yards with a career-best four touchdowns. He completed 30-of-47 for 269 yards with a touchdown and two picks against Georgia and was 19-of-28 for 261 yards with a TD and an INT at Vanderbilt. For the season, he is 71-of-104 (68.3 percent) for 780 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He ranks third in the SEC in passing yards per game at 260.0 and fifth in total offense at 278.0. He ranks second in career completion percentage, seventh in career pass attempts and career completions and ninth in career passing touchdowns in Carolina history.
FOUR SCORES AND FOUR YEARS AGO: Jake Bentley threw four touchdown passes in the season-opening win over Coastal Carolina. He connected on scoring tosses of 8, 24, 22 and 8 yards out to four different receivers. The last Gamecock quarterback to throw four or more TD passes in a game was Dylan Thompson, who threw 5 touchdown passes at Auburn in 2014.
BE LIKE MIKE: Fifth-year senior Michael Scarnecchia is the only other quarterback on the roster that has thrown a pass in a game. He tossed his first career TD strike in the win over Coastal, hooking up with Randrecous Davis from 27-yards out. The cerebral Scarnecchia, who earned a finance degree in May, was recognized as the 2017 Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student-Athlete. He is on record naming Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Shakespeare as the three people he would most like to have dinner with.
JUNIOR RUSHING QUARTET: The Gamecocks feature a stable of four junior running backs. Carolina is averaging 5.6 yards per rush through three games after averaging just 3.9 yards a year ago.
• Rico Dowdle has been the starter. In the season opener against Coastal Carolina, he responded with 105 yards on 15 carries, a 7.0-yard average, with one score, and also caught a 22-yard TD pass, then went for a season-high 112 yards in the win at Vanderbilt, his fifth-career 100-yard rushing game. He has 235 yards through three games, just 16 yards shy of his 2017 season total, ranking sixth in the SEC at 78.3 yards per game. With 1,250 career rushing yards, he ranks tied for 31st with the great King Dixon in school history.
• Just 131 yards and nine notches below Dowdle on the school's all-time rushing list is A.J. Turner, who ranks 40th with 1,119 yards. Turner is averaging 7.6 yards per carry this season and is also one of the squad's top special teams performers.
• Ty'Son Williams, who spent one year at North Carolina before transferring to South Carolina, had one of his better games as a Gamecock in the opener against Coastal, rushing 11 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. He is second on the squad in rushing with 156 yards and averages 6.5 yards per carry, with a pair of touchdowns. He has no lost yards on his 24 attempts.
• Mon Denson has been slowed with a hamstring injury, but has been used in short-yardage situations. He is also a solid special teams contributor.
SAMUEL IS KING: One of the most electrifying players in college football is 6-0, 210-pound senior Deebo Samuel. Samuel has earned numerous preseason All-America and All-SEC accolades as a wide receiver, kick returner and all-purpose performer. In 2016, Samuel had 1,320 all-purpose yards and became one of just six Power 5 players in the past five years to record a passing, rushing, receiving and kickoff-return touchdown in the same season. He scored six TDs in three games a year ago before suffering a season-ending injury. In the 2018 season opener, Samuel caught a game-high seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, rushed once for 11 yards and returned two kickoffs for 45 yards. He threw his second-career touchdown pass against Georgia. He had seven more receptions for 56 yards at Vandy and returned a kickoff 34 yards. With 20 receptions in three games, he has already exceeded his 2017 total of 15 catches. His 6.7 receptions per game ranks second in the SEC.
SAMUEL REMAINS PERFECT: Do-it-all performer Deebo Samuel kept his career passing numbers perfect, as he tossed a 13-yard scoring strike to Bryan Edwards in the first quarter to get the Gamecocks on the board against Georgia. Samuel's only other career pass was a 33-yard touchdown completion to Edwards against Clemson in 2016. His career pass efficiency rating is a gaudy 623.4.
LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE: Deebo Samuel owns 22 career kick returns, giving him enough chances to qualify for the school's career kickoff return record. With 728 yards and a 33.1-yard average, Samuel is well in front of challengers Rashad Fenton (24.8 from 2015-18) and Kent Hagood (24.7 from 1981-85) as the school's record-holder.
NO SECOND FIDDLE: While Deebo Samuel has received much of the preseason accolades, and rightly so, junior Bryan Edwards is statistically the Gamecocks' top receiver. Just a junior, Edwards could rank among the greatest wide receivers in school history before he is through. He had one of his better games as a Gamecock against Georgia, posting game-highs with seven catches, 111 receiving yards and two touchdowns. It was his third career 100-yard receiving game. With that performance, he moved into the top-10 in career receptions. He has started and has caught a pass in all 28 games in which he has appeared for the Garnet & Black. He ranks seventh in the SEC with 4.7 receptions per game and seventh with 70.3 receiving yards per game.
REPLACING HAYDEN: The Gamecock offense has four upperclassmen capable to fill the tight end vacancy created when All-SEC performer Hayden Hurst went to the NFL as a first-round draft pick. Seniors K.C. Crosby and Jacob August, and juniors Kyle Markwayand Kiel Pollard all have seen extensive action, with Pollard catching his first career touchdown in the season-opening win over Coastal Carolina.
O-LINE EXPERIENCE: Despite losing a pair of starters in Cory Helms and Alan Knott off the offensive line from a year ago, the Gamecocks front unit boasts a wealth of experience with 86 combined starts. Senior left guard Zack Bailey owns the most starts on the team with 29 and has been given some preseason All-SEC recognition. Fifth-year junior Donell Stanley moves to center this season where he is a Rimington Award candidate. He has made 16 career starts. Senior left tackle Dennis Daley, a former junior college transfer, moved into the starting lineup early in the 2017 season and has now made 14-straight starts. Highly-regarded redshirt sophomore right guard Sadarius Hutcherson and senior right tackle Blake Camper, have each made seven starts. Senior Malik Young, who is listed with the second-team unit, has made 13 career starts.
GIVING PROTECTION: Carolina has allowed just three sacks for 13 yards through three games this season, despite having 111 pass attempts.
WONNUM CAPTAINS THE D: Junior Buck D.J. Wonnum was selected a team captain a year ago as a sophomore, and is the leader up front. A two-time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, Wonnum was voted the Gamecocks' Most Productive Defensive Player in 2017 after logging 13.0 tackles for loss, including 6.0 sacks. He had three tackles, including a tackle for loss, in the season opener before leaving with an ankle injury. The injury has kept him off the field for the last two contests and he is expected to miss about a month.
THE LONG ARM OF KINLAW: Junior defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is a force in the middle of the line. Down to around 305 pounds after coming in a year ago at about 340, Kinlaw is on track to have a big year. He is tied for second on the team with 13 tackles, and leads the team in tackles for loss (4.5), sacks (2.5), quarterback hurries (3) and forced fumbles (2).
B-A-W IS B-A-C-K: After missing much of last season following a season-ending shoulder injury, senior Bryson Allen-Williams is back and better than ever. Listed as the starter at SAM linebacker, Allen-Williams can also put his hand in the dirt and give Carolina a solid rush off the edge. He has recorded a dozen tackles, including 4.0 tackles for loss, a sack and two quarterback hurries. Off the field, he is the Vice Chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council.
CLEARANCE CLARENCE: The NCAA gave freshman defensive lineman Josh Belk a waiver just prior to the start of the season making him eligible for the 2018 season. Belk graduated from Lewisville (S.C.) High School in December 2017 and enrolled at Clemson before transferring to Carolina this summer due to a family situation.
BRUNSON JUST MAKES STOPS: Junior linebacker T.J. Brunson picked up right where he left off from a season ago. Brunson, who was the first player that Coach Muschamp recruited upon his hire, was second on the squad with 88 tackles a year ago. He earned a spot on the AP's All-Bowl team following his 13-tackle, two-sack performance in the Outback Bowl win over Michigan. He is leading the team with 15 tackles on the season, including 13 solo stops.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: True freshman defensive back Jaycee Horn earned a starting assignment in the season opener. He became just the seventh true freshman to start for the Gamecocks in the season opener since the 2009 season joining Stephon Gilmore(2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), Bryson Allen-Williams (2014), Al Harris Jr. (2014) and Bryan Edwards (2016).
FENTON ISLAND: Senior cornerback Rashad Fenton has both of the team's interceptions this season, giving him four in his career, which matches Bryson Allen-Williams for the most among current players.
KICKING IT WITH PARKER: Redshirt sophomore Parker White held off challenges from sophomore Alexander Woznick and graduate transfer Shane Hynes to reclaim the starting placekicking duties. He has been successful on all 17 of his attempts this season, going 4-for-4 on field goal attempts (including a career-high tying 3-for-3 at Vanderbilt) and is 13-for-13 on extra points. For his career, he is 18-of-29 on field goal attempts, including 14-of-15 from inside 40 yards, and a perfect 39-for-39 on extra points. White also handles the kickoff duties and has 11 touchbacks among his 16 kicks.
I'M CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Junior