South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt SEC Network to Televise September 22 Contest from Nashville at 4:00 pm ET
Sept. 21, 2018
YOU ARE LOOKING LIVE: The South Carolina Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 SEC) go on the road for the first time this season when they travel to Nashville, Tenn. to face the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-1, 0-0 SEC) in an SEC Eastern Division matchup. Game time is set for 4 pm ET from Vanderbilt Stadium (39,790).
TV COVERAGE: SEC Network has the telecast for this week's contest. Taylor Zarzour will handle the play-by-play with Matt Stinchcomb serving as the analyst. Kris Budden 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 602-574-44.
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 90-118-1 (.433) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 35-30 (.538) 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. VANDY: This is the 28th all-time meeting between South Carolina and Vanderbilt, with the Gamecocks holding a commanding 23-4 advantage, including a 12-2 record when the games have been played in Nashville and an 11-2 mark when the teams have met in Columbia. The teams met just once (1961) before they became SEC Eastern Division rivals beginning in 1992, and have met every year since.
IN DOMINATING FASHION: The Gamecocks have won each of the last nine games, their longest winning streak in the series, and 16 of the last 18 meetings between these two SEC Eastern Division rivals. Of the Division I FBS opponents against whom the Gamecocks have at least 10 all-time meetings, Carolina has its best winning percentage against Vanderbilt at .852. In the previous 27 outings, Vanderbilt has tallied more than 17 points just six times (24 in 2003, 28 in 2005, 24 in 2008, 25 in 2013, a record-high 34 in 2014 and 27 in 2017).
THE OUTLIERS: Vanderbilt's four wins in the series have come in back-to-back fashion on two occasions - first in 1998 and '99, then again in 2007 and '08. Those four wins have been by a combined total of 22 points (17-14, 11-10, 17-6 and 24-17).
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Jake Bentley completed 19-of-29 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown and rushed six times for 47 yards and two scores to lead South Carolina to a 34-27 win over Vanderbilt on October 28, 2017 in Columbia. A.J. Turner added 121 yards on the ground, as Carolina outrushed the Dores, 212-107. Kyle Shurmur had a big day for Vandy, hitting 27-of-49 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET HERE: The Gamecocks rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit on September 1, 2016, to post a 13-10 victory at Vanderbilt in the season opener for both squads. Deebo Samuel scored on an eight-yard run to tie the score midway through the fourth quarter, then Elliott Fry booted a career-long 55-yard field in the game's final minute to lift the Gamecocks to victory. The Gamecock defense forced seven three-and-outs and limited the Commodores to just 242 yards of offense, including 73 through the air.
IMPOSING HIS WILL: Will Muschamp is 5-1 in six games as a head coach against the Commodores. He was a 26-21 winner in 2011 in "The Swamp," posted a 31-17 win in Nashville in 2012, dropped a 34-17 decision at Gainesville in 2013, then won by a 34-10 count in Nashville in 2014, all as the head coach at Florida. He ran his record in Nashville to 3-0 when he took the Gamecocks to the Music City and survived a 13-10 decision to open the 2016 campaign in his Carolina debut, then won against last season, 34-27 in Columbia.
MASON IN THE JAR: Vandy head coach Derek Mason is winless in four tries against the Gamecocks.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: For the third time in the last four years, the Gamecocks' home schedule was affected by Mother Nature. This time, Hurricane Florence forced a postponement of the South Carolina-Marshall football game, which was scheduled for Saturday, September 15. The Gamecocks will look for an opportunity to play a 12th regular season game later this year.
AT LEAST WE DIDN'T HAVE TO GO TO BATON ROUGE: The Gamecocks were forced to give up a home game against LSU during the 2015 season due to the "1,000-Year Flood," instead traveling to Baton Rouge for a date with the Tigers. LSU came out on top of that contest by a 45-24 margin in what turned out to be head coach Steve Spurrier's final game at South Carolina. Ironically, the Gamecocks first game after that unexpected trip to Bayou also came against Vanderbilt, and Carolina responded with a 19-10 win under interim head coach Shawn Elliott.
OR MAKE US PLAY ON SUNDAY: It was Hurricane Matthew that forced a scheduling change in October of 2016, as the Gamecocks hosted the Georgia Bulldogs in a rare Sunday afternoon game. The Bulldogs churned out 326 rushing yards on 50 carries in a 28-14 win over the Gamecocks that afternoon. Following that game and an off week, Jake Bentley was inserted into the lineup at quarterback, and has been there ever since.
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.
THE LAST TIME OUT: In a battle of top-25 teams, No. 3/3 Georgia came away with a 41-17 win over No. 24/24 South Carolina in a CBS nationally-televised contest on September 8 in Columbia. The tone of the game was set early when Georgia returned an interception for a touchdown on the first series of the game, then scored on its first offensive possession to take a 14-0 lead in the game's first 3 minutes and 10 seconds. The Gamecocks cut the deficit to 17-10 in the second quarter, but Georgia got a field goal as the first half expired, then put the game away with three third-quarter touchdowns.
PITCHING IT AROUND THE PARK: Gamecock quarterback Jake Bentley threw the ball early, late and often in the setback to Georgia. The junior signal-caller completed 30-of-47 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice. For Bentley, the 47 pass attempts was the most in a game in his career, while he completed 30 or more passes for just the second time in his career, just two shy of his career-best 32 completions against USF in the Birmingham Bowl on December 29, 2016. Both marks rank among the top-10 in school history.
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.
EDWARDS COMES UP BIG: Junior wide receiver Bryan Edwards had a big day against Georgia. The 6-3, 220-pound junior from Conway, S.C., had game highs with seven receptions for 111 yards and two touchdowns. The seven receptions was one shy of his career high of eight, while it was his third-career 100-yard receiving game.
FIRST ONE GOES TO FENTON: Senior cornerback Rashad Fenton collected the Gamecocks' first interception of the season, when he picked off a Jake Fromm pass in the second quarter. It was Fenton's third career pick.
DON'T BOO THE FANS: A sell-out crowd of 83,140 was on hand for the SEC opener against Georgia. It was the 23rd-largest crowd in Williams-Brice Stadium history and the most since 83,493 came to see Carolina host Missouri in 2014.
GIVE THE KEYS TO BENTLEY: Junior Jake Bentley triggers the Carolina offense. The 6-4, 224-pounder from Opelika, Ala., owns a 14-8 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. For the season, he is 52-of-76 for 519 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He ranks fourth in the SEC in passing yards per game at 259.5 and fifth in total offense at 264.0. He ranks 10th in career pass attempts, eighth in career completions and ninth in career passing touchdowns in Carolina history.
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 touchdown 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 in history he would most like to have dinner with.
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.
JUNIOR RUSHING QUARTET: The Gamecocks feature a stable of four junior running backs. Rico Dowdle has started both games. 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. It was Dowdle's fourth-career 100-yard rushing game. With 1,138 career rushing yards, he ranks 38th in school history. Just 83 yards and four notches below him is A.J. Turner, who ranks 42nd on the career rushing list with 1,055 yards. Turner also is one of the squad's top special teams performers. Ty'Son Williams, who spent one year at North Carolina, had one of his better games as a Gamecock in the opener, rushing 11 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. Mon Denson sat out the opener with a hamstring injury.
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. With 13 receptions in two games, he is just two catches shy of his 2017 total of 15 catches. His 6.5 receptions per game ranks second in the SEC.
LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE: With two kick returns against Coastal, Deebo Samuel now owns 21 career kick returns, giving him enough chances to qualify for the school's career kickoff return record. With a 33.0-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 with 119. He has started and has caught a pass in all 27 games in which he has appeared for the Garnet & Black. He ranks sixth in the SEC with 5.5 receptions per game and fifth with 82.0 receiving yards per game.
REPLACING HAYDEN: The Gamecock offense has four upperclassmen ready to step into 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 Markway and 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 81 combined starts. Senior left guard Zack Bailey owns the most starts on the team with 28 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 15 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 13-straight starts. Highly-regarded redshirt sophomore right guard Sadarius Hutcherson and senior right tackle Blake Camper, have each made six starts. Senior Malik Young, who is listed with the second-team unit, has made 13 career starts.
GIVING PROTECTION: Carolina has allowed just two sacks for 12 yards through two games this season, despite having 83 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 kept him off the field for the Georgia game and he is expected to miss about a month.
JAVON LAYS DOWN THE LAW: 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 collected five tackles in the season opener against Coastal Carolina including 1.5 tackles for loss and a half sack and added three stops against Georgia.
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 accounted for five tackles in the season opening win over Coastal Carolina, including 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack along with a quarterback hurry. 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 logged a team-leading six tackles, all solo stops, in the season opening win over Coastal and added five more against Georgia, giving him a team-high 11 tackles through two games.
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).
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. White connected on 14-of-25 field goal attempts last season, but was 10-for-11 from inside 40 yards. He booted a 31-yard attempt in the final seconds to lift the Gamecocks to a 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech in 2017. White also handles the kickoff duties. He logged 44 touchbacks among his 65 kickoffs a season ago (68 percent). This season, White has been successful on all nine of his extra point attempts and connected on his only field goal attempt, a 26-yarder against Georgia. He is also 9-for-9 in touchbacks on his kickoffs.
I'M CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Junior Joseph Charlton handles the punting chores for the Gamecocks and is an All-SEC candidate. Last season, Charlton averaged 43.5 yards on 55 punts with a long of 73 yards. He had just four touchbacks, logged 15 punts inside the 20 and boomed 17 punts of 50 yards or more. The Gamecocks ranked 19th in the nation in net punting with a 40.5-yard average. He has booted six punts this season for a 41.7-yard average with a long of 53. Four of the six have been fair catches. The Gamecocks have a 40.2-yard net punting average.
BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID: Senior kick returner Deebo Samuel had two chances to return kickoffs last season and took them both to the house from 97 yards away, turning the trick against NC State and Missouri. He is the only player in school history to log three kick returns for scores in his career, and is the school's all-time leader in kickoff returns with a 30.0-yard average.
FRESH FISH: The Gamecocks have played 11 true freshmen this season. In addition to Jaycee Horn who was a starter, R.J. Roderick, Josh Vann, Israel Mukuamu, Rosendo Louis Jr., Kingsley Enagbare, Ernest Jones, Jovaughn Gwyn, Dylan Wonnum, Rick Sandidge and Josh Belk all have seen game action.
2017 IN REVIEW: South Carolina football concluded its 124th season of intercollegiate football in 2017 with a record of 9-4, including a 5-3 mark in the SEC. The Gamecocks won nine or more games for just the seventh time in school history. Five of those seven seasons have come in the last eight years. South Carolina defeated Florida and Tennessee, two of the big three SEC East rivals, in the same season for just the fourth time. Two of the Gamecocks' four losses were to teams that participated in the College Football Playoff (Georgia and Clemson). The season culminated with a New Year's Day Outback Bowl win over perennial Big Ten power Michigan by a 26-19 score, as the Gamecocks rallied from a 19-3 third-quarter deficit.
PROGRAM ON THE RISE: The Gamecocks increased their overall win total from three in 2015 to six in 2016 to nine in 2017. South Carolina is one of only three NCAA FBS programs and the only one in the Power Five to have a multiple-win improvement in each of the last two regular seasons.
GOING BOWLING: The Gamecocks played in the 2018 Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, defeating Michigan by a 26-19 score. Carolina overcame a 19-3 third-quarter deficit, the largest in head coach Will Muschamp's career, to post the victory. It marked the 13th time in the last 14 years that the Gamecocks were bowl-eligible. The Gamecocks are 6-5 in the 11 bowl games played in that stretch, including wins in five of their last six bowl appearances. Carolina is 9-13 all time in 22 bowl games.
WHERE THERE'S A WILL: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is in his third season in Columbia. Coach Muschamp posted a 15-11 ledger in his first two seasons guiding the Gamecocks. Only Joe Morrison (15-8 in 1983-84) and Steve Spurrier (15-10 in 2005-06) won as many games in their first two seasons at Carolina.
COACHING CAROUSEL: Head football coach Will Muschamp relieved co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper of his duties on December 6, 2017. Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon coordinated the Gamecocks' offense and called the plays for the 2018 Outback Bowl game versus Michigan. He was given the full-time coordinator's role in January. Veteran offensive coach Dan Werner was selected to coach the quarterbacks for the 2018 season. Kyle Krantz moved into an on-field role as the additional 10th coach. He will assist with the special teams and coach the nickelbacks and Sam linebackers.