South Carolina met East Carolina in Charlotte for the first of a five game contract and defeated the Pirates 56-37.
Breaking it Down…1st Quarter…South Carolina won the toss and opted to receive the ball. Connor Shaw took the offense over at the 35 yard line. He had some success moving the offense down the field until he got into the red zone. On a 2nd down scramble, Shaw was hit and fumbled. ECU recovered and took over at their 15. USC forced a quick three and out, getting the ball back for the offense at the SC 37 yard line. The Gamecocks went three and out, and East Carolina going three and out again. On USC's next play Marcus Lattimore fumbled the ball back to ECU. Starting in South Carolina territory the Pirates were able to capitalize. Five plays later the Gamecocks were down 7-0. USC still couldn't find their rhythm and went three and out again. Continue reading after the jump.
2nd Quarter…At the beginning of the second quarter the Pirates were at the South Carolina 18 yard line. It only took them two plays to score and push their lead to 14-0. It was starting to look like a long night for Carolina when Kenny Miles fumbled the ensuing kick off giving ECU the ball back at the Gamecocks 32 yard line. After picking up two first downs and moving the ball to the 7, East Carolina was forced to settle for a field goal and a 17-0 lead. Stephen Garcia then came into the game. He directed a 5 play 59 yard scoring drive culminating in his 32 yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 17-7. It was then ECU's turn to fumble the kickoff, and Antonio Allen recovered at the Pirates' 41 yard line. 5 plays later the Gamecocks had another touchdown, this one courtesy of Marcus Lattimore. The offenses then cooled some. ECU went three and out, followed by USC doing the same, then ECU went three and out again. Unfortunately Stephon Gilmore muffed the punt, and East Carolina had their fourth gift of the half. 5 plays and 29 yards later, the Pirates led 24-14.
3rd Quarter…ECU received the second half kickoff. On second down Antonio Allen stripped Lance Lewis and Shaq Wilson recovered. 4 plays and 34 yards later, Stephen Garcia found Ace Sanders in the flat for the touchdown. East Carolina fumbled on their next possession, and the Gamecocks recovered at the ECU 10. On second down Garcia ran the ball in himself to take the lead 28-24. On their next drive ECU fumbled yet again, and Antonio Allen returned it for a touchdown. The Pirates responded with a 9 play, 80 yard drive to cut the lead to 35-31. That was followed by a 10 play, 59 yard Gamecock touchdown drive. Lattimore carried 7 times, including one into the end zone from the one. After that drive, East Carolina couldn't respond, and punted.
4th Quarter…The ensuing Gamecocks drive was hampered by penalties, and they punted. Melvin Ingram then intercepted Dominique Davis at the ECU 34. Marcus Lattimore scored his third touchdown of the day, again from one yard out to push the lead to 49-31. After ECU went three and out, Ace Sanders put an exclamation point on the day by returning the punt 68 yards for a touchdown. East Carolina managed another late score to make the final 56-37.
Stars of the Game…Antonio Allen…16 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered, one for a touchdown and a pass broken up…Marcus Lattimore…23 rushes for 112 yards and 3 TD…Stephen Garcia…7-15, 110 yards, 1 TD 0 INT…5 rushes for 56 yards and 2 TD…Alshon Jeffrey…5 receptions for 92 yards…Ace Sanders…1 TD receiving, 1 punt return for 68 yards and TD…
What to Take from the Weekend…You never know what you are going to get when your team takes the field for the first time in 8 months. It should come as no surprise that the game was very sloppy at times. Four fumbles would normally be cause for concern, but it can probably be blamed on first game jitters. If that continues, the Gamecocks won't have a good season, but there is no need to worry about that now.
There was only so much South Carolina could hope to achieve on Saturday night. Beating East Carolina isn't going to get anyone any first place votes, but losing to them could have cost USC their Top 25 ranking. Obviously the Gamecocks took care of business and exhibited quite a few weapons in doing so. It looks like the offense has a chance to score plenty of points, and the defense will be healthier and deeper this week. USC came out of the game healthy and is 1-0, right where they want to be.
This and That…USC is 1-0 on the season; ECU is 0-1…South Carolina won their opener for the 12th straight season…USC now leads the ECU series 11-5…Steve Spurrier got win #45 at South Carolina, which ties him for second all time at Carolina with Jim Carlen…Marcus Lattimore had his 5th, 100+ yard game (It seems like more doesn't it?)…Alshon Jeffrey is now third all time on the USC receiving yards list. He moved ahead of Zola Davis and trails only Kenny McKinley and Sidney Rice…Ace Sanders' punt return for touchdown was the first one in nearly 8 years…Points off of turnovers: ECU 17; USC 35...
Up next…South Carolina opens SEC play at Georgia on Saturday at 4:30. The game is on ESPN. USC opens as the favorite by 1.5 to 2.5 depending on the source.