On Nov. 16, 2013, a quarterback named Jimmy Garoppolo was facing Jacksonville State, not NFL trade rumors. Today, nearly four years later, the Gamecocks still haven't lost to an Ohio Valley Conference opponent since it faced Garoppolo and Eastern Illinois.
The winning streak against Ohio Valley Conference competition is at 29 games now, the Gamecocks have only lost 7 games in head coach John Grass' four years — with four of those seven losses coming to Power Five programs like Auburn (in overtime in 2015), LSU, Michigan State and Georgia Tech. Also included is a three-year OVC title run and likely another one this year as long as the Gamecocks keep things moving in the right direction.
"It's not something we really talk about, we don't talk about the streak or being undefeated for that amount of time," Grass told HERO Sports this week. "It's just a daily basis of how you operate and the culture of your whole program to give you a chance to win on Saturday. That's a year-round deal here."
One big key during that four-season stretch has been the defense. It has allowed only 17.7 points per game to FCS opponents in that stretch, and only 14.3 to Ohio Valley Conference opponents. They'll hit you, suffocate you, and beat you. This year, players like DL Darius Jackson, LB Joel McCandless and DB Marlon Bridges have been just some of the leaders on the defense.
As of now, the Gamecocks are 7-1 and do still need to get the job done with a road game at Tennessee-Martin and home games against Tennessee State and Murray State. But they should be heavily favored in all three games as those three opponents are a combined 4-10 in OVC play. Should the Gamecocks finish the regular season 10-1, they will undoubtedly receive a Top 4 seeding, which insures a first-round FCS Playoff bye, along with successive home games in the second round and quarterfinal round.
Keep an eye on JSU. The program is building towards a strong December run.
2017 FCS DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
|DEFENSIVE CATEGORY||FCS RANK||NUMBER|
|Total Defense||4th||263.8 YPG|
|Scoring Defense||6th||15.9 PPG|
|Rush Defense||7th||79.3 YPG|
|Pass Eff. Def.||11th||107.68|
|3rd Down Conv.||12th||45.80%|
|Red Zone Def.||12th||70.60%|
|1st Downs Def.||14th||127|