Sep 17, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) rolls out against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Stetson Bennett and No. 1 Georgia smother South Carolina

Stetson Bennett passed for two touchdowns and also rushed for one as top-ranked Georgia rolled to an easy 48-7 victory over South Carolina on Saturday in Southeastern Conference play at Columbia, S.C.

Brock Bowers caught five passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns and added one score on the ground as the defending national champions were dominant for the third straight game. Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) has outscored Oregon, Samford and South Carolina by a cumulative 130-10.

Bennett completed 16 of 23 passes for 284 yards before leaving with Georgia ahead by 38 midway through the third quarter. Malaki Starks, Dan Jackson and Trezman Marshall had interceptions as the Bulldogs beat the Gamecocks for the seventh time in the past eight meetings.

Spencer Rattler was 13-of-25 passing for 118 yards and two interceptions for South Carolina (1-2, 0-2), which lost its second straight game. Backup Luke Doty tossed a 13-yard touchdown to Traevon Kenion with 53 seconds left to mark the first touchdown scored against the Bulldogs this season.

Georgia outgained the Gamecocks 547-306 and had a 30-17 edge in first downs.

Bowers scored Georgia’s first touchdown on a 5-yard reverse with 8:20 left in the opening quarter.

The Bulldogs increased their lead to 14-0 on a 1-yard run by Kendall Milton with 4:42 remaining in the period.

Bennett hit Bowers on a 6-yard scoring pass to make it a 21-point margin with 11:25 left in the first half. Jack Podlesny tacked on a 42-yard field goal with 30 seconds left as the Bulldogs held a 24-0 halftime lead.

On the third play of the second half, a wide-open Bowers caught a pass from Bennett, broke a tackle at midfield and raced to a 78-yard touchdown.

On the next possession, Bennett drove the Bulldogs 88 yards on eight plays and scored on an 11-yard run with 7:13 left to increase the lead to 38 points.

After Jackson’s interception, Carson Beck replaced Bennett with 6:59 left in the third quarter and it took him just 59 seconds to add another score. Beck hit Oscar Delp on a 28-yard aerial to make it 45-0.

Backup kicker Jared Zirkel added a 21-yard field goal with 8:57 left in the game.

South Carolina later reached the Bulldogs’ 9-yard line but Doty was intercepted by Marshall with 4:33 left. But Doty got one more chance and he hit Kenion for the score to avoid being blanked.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) passes against the Samford Bulldogs during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

New No. 1 Georgia meets South Carolina in SEC opener

Defending national champion Georgia is back to No. 1 in the nation as it battles South Carolina in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday in Columbia, S.C.

The Bulldogs (2-0, 0-0 SEC) outscored their first two opponents 82-3 to jump over Alabama, which struggled to beat Texas 20-19 last weekend.

Georgia impressed during a season-opening 49-3 domination of Oregon and followed up with a 33-0 win over FCS program Samford.

The return to the top spot doesn’t mean much to Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart.

“It’s never a big deal. It only matters at the end of the year,” Smart said. “I mean, I don’t know that we’ve spent many weeks outside of the top 10. And it never mattered whether we were inside the top 10 or outside of the top 10. It just is irrelevant.”

Smart is more concerned with Georgia’s performance against South Carolina (1-1, 0-1).

Georgia has won six of the past seven meetings, including five of six during Smart’s tenure.

The Bulldogs are averaging 525 yards of total offense per game, which ranks 10th-best nationally. Quarterback Stetson Bennett has passed for 668 yards and three touchdowns. Bennett is 31 yards away from becoming the eighth Georgia quarterback to reach 5,000 career passing yards.

The Bulldogs’ defense is off to a strong start, leading the nation in scoring defense (1.5 points per game) and ranking eighth in total defense (220.5 yards per game). The unit is tied for sixth in fewest first downs allowed (12 per game).

Georgia allowed 128 yards and three first downs against Samford.

Despite holding two consecutive opponents out of the end zone, inside linebacker Smael Mondon said the defense has work to do.

“It wasn’t a perfect game. We know that,” Mondon said of Saturday’s win over Samford. “There are always things you can clean up. You will never play a perfect game, but as long as you strive to be perfect, I feel like you are going to get better week in and week out.”

The Gamecocks will be looking to get better after falling 44-30 at then-No. 16 Arkansas on Saturday.

South Carolina was carved up for 295 yards and five touchdowns on the ground while Arkansas racked up 20 of its 28 first downs via the rushing attack.

The Gamecocks are allowing 247.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks 129th nationally out of 131 teams.

South Carolina also struggles to run as it averages 59.5 per game, which ranks 125th.

“We got to be able to run the football,” Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer said. “(Against Arkansas), we liked our matchups in the passing game for sure. We got to be able to help our defense out.”

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler has completed 61.8 percent of his throws for 603 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Antwane Wells Jr. has 15 receptions for 244 yards and one score.

Wells’ 189 receiving yards against Arkansas were tied for 10th most in school history.

South Carolina lost two starters, outside linebacker Jordan Strachan and middle linebacker Mo Kaba, to season-ending ACL injuries against Arkansas.

“I’m extremely disappointed and heartbroken for both of these young men,” Beamer said. “They both worked really hard to prepare for this season and were off to great starts for us. Their best football is still in front of them.”

Cornerback Cam Smith was lost with an upper-body injury against Arkansas and his status will be firmed up later in the week. Safety R.J. Roderick (arm) could return after being hurt in a season-opening win over Georgia State.

Smart is optimistic on the status of Georgia receiver Adonai Mitchell (ankle) after an injury against Samford. Mitchell did not practice Monday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson (1) celebrates with offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg (51) and Luke Jones (70) after rushing for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 Arkansas moving into SEC play vs. South Carolina

Fresh off an impressive season-opening win, No. 16 Arkansas now opens Southeastern Conference play against a familiar and potentially dangerous opponent when it hosts South Carolina on Saturday at Fayetteville, Ark.

The Razorbacks (1-0) lead the all-time series 13-10 against South Carolina (1-0), but the Gamecocks have won the past three meetings, including a 48-22 win at Columbia, S.C., in 2017.

“South Carolina has a really good team,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “A hard-playing team, really good in all three phases. Coach (Shane) Beamer’s done an excellent job there and they’re playing with a lot of passion. So we’re excited that it’s home. I think our crowd has proven that we have a good home-field advantage.”

Pittman opened his third season as Arkansas’ coach with a 31-24 victory over Cincinnati last week in a matchup of Top 25 teams. Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson threw for 223 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for another score.

Arkansas has gone from a perpetual underdog in Pittman’s first season to a team that was ranked for eight weeks last season. They were ranked No. 19 last week before moving up three spots.

“You see your name in the top 25 and all that kind of stuff; we’ve been there for a while now,” Pittman said. “But we have a smart group of kids, and they believe in their coaches. Their belief in what we’ve done, in what we do at practice and how we play is the only reason why we’re winning.”

Beamer, the son of former legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, is trying to follow a similar path at South Carolina. And last week, at least, his squad took a page out of his father’s book during a 35-14 win over Georgia State powered largely by the Gamecocks’ special teams.

South Carolina blocked two punts and returned them for touchdowns. Gamecocks kicker Mitch Jeter nailed field goals from 53 and 51 yards, and even their long snapper Hunter Rogers converted a first down on a fake field goal that led to a first-half touchdown.

While Beamer’s team mirrored the special teams-driven “Beamer Ball” style of his father, Shane Beamer credited his defense for setting up such big plays like the blocked punts.

“We were able to block those punts because we kept getting stops on defense and coming into this game, we knew we needed to stop the run, we knew we needed to hit the quarterback, and for the most part, we did that,” Beamer said.

Beamer led South Carolina to a 7-6 record and a victory over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl last season – just one year after the Gamecocks went 2-8.

But Beamer stressed the need for offensive improvement. South Carolina went 3 of 14 on third downs and was limited to only 2.5 yards per rushing attempt. Transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler was sacked three times and completed 23 of 37 passes for 227 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown.

“We certainly have to be better offensively, and we will be,” Beamer said.

–Field Level Media

The USC football team held their first preseason football practice at the USC practice fields on Aug. 5, 2022. The team's head coach is Shane Beamer.  Spencer Rattler (7) on the field goes through passing drills.

Spa Usc First 2022 Football Practice33

Spencer Rattler looking to shine for Gamecocks vs. Georgia State

South Carolina coach Shane Beamer doesn’t see Georgia State through the same lens that he viewed last year’s opening-night opponent from a lesser conference.

He sees the Panthers as a legitimate threat in Saturday night’s game in Columbus, S.C.

“We opened with Eastern Illinois last year,” Beamer said, referencing the team the Gamecocks defeated 46-0. “No offense, but this ain’t Eastern Illinois. Georgia State has played a lot of football together and had a heck of an opportunity to beat Auburn last year. We know what this game means to them and we have to go and play well.”

The Gamecocks will introduce new quarterback Spencer Rattler, a transfer from Oklahoma who went 15-2 as a starter and threw for 4,595 yards and 40 touchdowns in 23 games for the Sooners.

Georgia State returns 18 starters from last year’s 8-5 team that won the Camellia Bowl. The Panthers finished second in the Sun Belt’s East Division and went bowling for the third time in a row.

The emotions will run high for Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott and the Panthers’ 20 native South Carolinians on the roster, including quarterback Darren Grainger, sixth-year center Malik Sumter and cornerback Quavian White.

Elliott grew up in nearby Camden and spent seven seasons on staff at South Carolina. He and Beamer were assistants on the team that won the SEC East in 2010 and their families remain close friends. Elliott was interim head coach for the final six games in 2015 when Steve Spurrier quit in midseason.

“It’s going to be thrilling, honestly,” Elliott said. “I grew up 25 miles away, watched a lot of games there, won a high school state championship there. And now we’re taking our team there to open our season. That’s going to be hopefully a great night. It’s going to be an exciting one.”

Beamer hopes it isn’t too exciting, but any victory will work for the Gamecocks, who are coming off a 7-6 record in Beamer’s first season as head coach.

Though Georgia State and South Carolina have never met, the Gamecocks are 18-2 all-time against teams from the Sun Belt. Georgia State is 1-13 against Power Five teams, earning the program’s signature win at Tennessee to open the 2019 season.

–Field Level Media

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (5) throws during the third quarter at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky Saturday, November 6, 2021.

Ncaa Football Clemson At Louisville

No. 23 Clemson seeks seventh straight win over South Carolina

After a one-year break due to COVID that interrupted one of the oldest rivalries in college football after 111 consecutive years, Clemson and South Carolina are eager to renew acquaintances on Saturday night in Columbia, S.C.

“We’re excited about the state championship being back in play,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I think everyone missed it last year. It’s a long-standing tradition in college football. It will be a great game and a great environment.”

The Tigers (8-3) will look to continue their dominance in the rivalry. Clemson is seeking its seventh consecutive victory in the series, which it leads 71-42-4, and would tie for the longest winning streak (also by Clemson) in the series.

A Clemson victory also would make Swinney the first coach on either side to win seven straight games in the series, but Swinney has been impressed by what first-year head coach Shane Beamer has been able to accomplish in his initial campaign at South Carolina (6-5).

“They are playing physical, with a ton of effort and it’s a reflection of what Shane Beamer has done in a short amount of time,” Swinney said. “They are 5-1 at home. They have battled every week. They have found a little bit of an identity.”

That identity is a run-first offense. In last week’s win against Auburn, South Carolina got 99 yards rushing and a receiving touchdown from running back ZaQuandre White, who is averaging 6.9 yards per carry and has emerged as the primary threat in a backfield that also includes Kevin Harris, who’s rushed for 465 yards.

The Gamecocks defeated Florida and Auburn in two of their last three games, with the only loss a three-point defeat at Missouri. The win against Auburn clinched the program’s first six-win season and bowl opportunity since 2018.

Clemson, meanwhile, still has a slim but mathematical chance at a seventh straight Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. The Tigers, who cracked the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time this season at No. 23 on Tuesday, need a North Carolina victory against N.C. State on Friday night coupled with a Boston College upset of Wake Forest on Saturday to win the league’s Atlantic Division and a title-game berth.

“We’ve done all we can — we can’t waste any energy focusing on that,” Swinney said. “We just need to focus on winning the state championship.”

Clemson has lost 17 players this season due to season-ending injury or transfer, which helps explain why the Tigers won’t start a single senior on offense on Saturday and will start underclassmen at quarterback, running back and all three wide receiver positions.

“I think you could certainly make the case that he should be coach of the year in their conference with the injuries they’ve overcome all over the field,” Beamer said. “So many new faces going into the season, and to struggle by their standards a little bit earlier in the season, to just continue to get better each week, to be sitting here with eight wins…they are certainly peaking at the right time.”

The Tigers have won four in a row and six of their last seven games, including a dominating 48-27 victory against then-No. 10 Wake Forest last week in which Clemson had two 100-yard rushers and amassed 543 total yards in their most productive offensive output of the season.

Clemson’s defense, meanwhile, remains the team’s calling card. The Tigers rank first in the ACC and eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 16.4 points per game. Clemson had 10 tackles for loss and eight sacks against Wake Forest.

“Defensively, they’re fantastic,” Beamer said. “They’re all over the place. When you’re ranked in the top four in the country in sacks and tackles for loss, that’s pretty amazing.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Tyler Badie (1) runs the ball as South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Jaylan Foster (12) and linebacker Brad Johnson (19) make the tackle during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Badie leads Missouri past South Carolina

Tyler Badie rushed 209 yards and a touchdown and Connor Bazelak threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns Saturday to lead host Missouri to a 31-28 victory over South Carolina in a Southeastern Conference game.

Bazelak went 15-for-23 passing that included two interceptions, with Badie finishing with five receptions for 22 yards and Mookie Cooper catching three catches for 72 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers (5-5, 2-4 SEC).

South Carolina quarterback Jason Brown went 16-for-30 passing for 193 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but he also committed a costly fumble that was recovered for a touchdown.

Josh Vann had five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown, while Zaquandre White rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries for the Gamecocks (5-5, 2-5).

Leading 17-14 late in the third quarter, Missouri’s defense took control of the game.

On first-and-10 from his team’s 17-yard line, Brown dropped back to pass. But defensive back Martez Manuel blitzed and sacked Brown, knocking the ball free. Travion Ford fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead with 4:28 left in the quarter.

Badie put the game away on the Tigers’ next possession when his 19-yard touchdown run pushed the lead to 31-14 with 12:31 left in the game.

Brown pulled South Carolina to 31-21 with a 38-yard touchdown pass to White with 6:56 remaining. After Bazelak threw an interception that gave the Gamecocks the ball at the Tigers’ 14-yard line, White scored on a three-yard run with 4:32 left to cut the deficit to 31-28.

Yet, Missouri ran out the clock on its ensuing possession.

South Carolina accounted for the only scoring in the first quarter on Kevin Harris’ two-yard run less than three minutes into the game.

Missouri dominated the second quarter. After Bazelak threw a two-yard touchdown to Daniel Parker just 34 seconds into the quarter, he gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead a little more than two minutes later with a 60-yard strike to Cooper.

After South Carolina tied the score on Brown’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Josh Vann with 4:26 left in the quarter, the Tigers took a 17-14 lead into halftime on Harrison Mevis’ 19-yard field goal as time expired.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada (10) talks with head coach Jimbo Fisher during the second half against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Jimbo Fisher halts rumors as No. 17 Texas A&M readies for South Carolina

No. 17 Texas A&M is preparing for Saturday’s home game with South Carolina amid rumors involving coach Jimbo Fisher and the impending head coaching vacancy at LSU.

Coach Ed Orgeron, who led the Tigers to the 2019-20 national title, will depart after as LSU’s coach at the end of the season.

After that announcement, rumors started to swirl that Fisher could be a candidate for the job at Baton Rouge, La. Fisher tried to shut down the whispers early this week.

“I love being here. This is the job I wanted,” Fisher said. “There is nothing going on there. I love A&M, and I plan on being here and fulfilling my whole contract.”

His deal was extended before this season, adding four years through the 2031 season. The contract includes an annual salary of $9 million starting Jan. 1 and will increase to $9.15 million on Jan. 1, 2023. In each of the following years, the base salary increases by $100,000 on Jan. 1.

The Aggies (5-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) will look to build on winning their past two games when they play the Gamecocks (4-3, 1-3).

Fisher’s team has defeated then-No. 1 Alabama and Missouri in consecutive weeks after losing two straight to Arkansas and Mississippi State to start the conference schedule.

The Aggies reportedly have ignored social media during their recent success.

“(Avoiding social media) eliminates clutter,” Fisher said. “It makes a big difference, and I think it has helped us.”

The Gamecocks are coming off a 21-20 home win last week against Vanderbilt in a game that featured 24-year-old graduate assistant Zeb Noland taking over at quarterback for South Carolina.

Noland, granted sixth year of eligibility after playing at Iowa State and North Dakota State, entered for South Carolina’s final possession and led a 75-yard touchdown drive, connecting with Xavier Legette on a 9-yard scoring pass with 37 seconds left.

“It’s surreal,” Noland said. “I told you guys, I thought I’d never put on the pads again. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get this opportunity again.”

Noland, who replaced injured Luke Doty (foot) against Vanderbilt, will start for the fourth time this season when South Carolina plays Texas A&M.

“He’s been getting plenty of reps in practice,” Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer said of Noland. “We work our first and second group on offense and defense equally, so they’ve got plenty of work in practice.”

The win over the Commodores snapped the Gamecocks’ nine-game SEC losing streak.

Vanderbilt scored its first points in an SEC game this season, but the South Carolina defense forced the Commodores into two turnovers and limited them to 312 yards of total offense.

The Gamecocks finished the game with a sack fumble caused by Kingsley Enagbare and a recovery from Jabari Ellis at the Vanderbilt 4-yard line.

Texas A&M’s offensive line appears ready for the challenge presented by South Carolina. The unit has allowed only one sack in the last two games and has also opened large holes for the Aggies’ running game, which amassed 283 yards last week against Missouri.

“The O-line did a great job,” Texas A&M junior running back Isaiah Spiller said. “They were blocking. It was just reading it, you know, hitting it, so that’s what I did.”

–Field Level Media