Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No. 21 South Carolina Tops East Carolina, 33-23

No. 21 South Carolina defeated East Carolina, 33-23, tonight at Williams-Brice Stadium, giving Head Coach Steve Spurrier his 200th win as a coach in the Southeastern Conference. Junior running back Mike Davis led the way with his eighth-career 100-yard rushing game, as he totaled 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

After forcing the Gamecocks to punt on the opening possession of the game, a 53-yard punt from Tyler Hull was down at the Pirates' 3-yard line. East Carolina strung together an 11-play drive to move into the red zone, but from there, the drive stalled. The Gamecock defense clamped down and forced the Pirates to convert on a 26-yard field goal by Warren Harvey.

On the following drive, redshirt senior quarterback Dylan Thompson was intercepted by Josh Hawkins, giving ECU the ball at the South Carolina 43-yard line. The Pirates were unable to muster much and Harvey connected on a 35-yard field goal to give the visitors a 6-0 lead with 6:35 on the clock.

Trailing 6-0, the Gamecocks mounted a 10-play drive with Thompson going four-of-five and Davis rushing four times for 48 yards. The tailback capped off the drive by bursting through an open whole on the right side of the line and taking it 36 yards into the end zone to give Carolina a 7-6 lead with 1:56 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Pirates responded though as quarterback Shane Carden went five-of-six for 67 yards on the next drive. Chris Hairston finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to give ECU a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter. Eleven plays later, South Carolina cut the deficit to three with a 39-yard field from sophomore Elliott Fry with 9:55 left in the half.

A three-and-out for the Pirates gave the Gamecock offense a spark and Thompson went four-of-four on the drive connecting on a 31-yard pass down the middle to junior wide receiver Shaq Roland and a 19-yard completion to Davis that got the Gamecocks down to the 3-yard line. The tailback then pounded his way into the end zone on the next play for his second touchdown of the half to give South Carolina a 17-13 lead with under five minutes remaining in the half.

ECU's Breon Allen countered on the next possession with a 42-yard run down to the Gamecock 19-yard line. South Carolina's defense then forced a pair of incomplete passes and a rush for no gain, before Junior defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr. blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt, the Gamecocks' first blocked field goal since 2011. With just over a minute left before the end of the half, Fry connected on his second field goal, a 42-yarder to take a 20-13 lead.

Aided by a roughing the passer penalty and a 20-yard completion to Cam Worthy, the Pirates set up Harvey for a 40-yard field goal, his third conversion of the half with four seconds remaining, and the Gamecocks held a 20-16 lead at the break.

East Carolina opened the second half driving into Gamecock territory, but on a third-and-five, junior defensive end Cedrick Cooper put pressure on Carden, forcing the Pirate quarterback into a tough throw which spur Sharrod Golightly intercepted just before stepping across the sideline. It was the senior's first career interception.

Thompson completed six-straight passes on the ensuing drive before finding wide receiver K.J. Brent open in the left corner of the end zone for the junior's first-career touchdown reception to push the Gamecocks lead to 27-16 with 8:36 left in the third.

Junior safety T.J. Gurley intercepted Carden on the Pirates next possession allowing the Gamecocks to use up 5:40 off the clock before Fry converted on a 26-yard field goal to put South Carolina up 30-16 just before the end of the third quarter. With the Gamecocks seizing control, Carden engineered an 11-play drive, capping it off with a 17-yard touchdown pass across the middle to Worthy to cut the Pirates deficit to 30-23 early in the fourth.

South Carolina put the game away with an 18-play, 86-yard drive, lasting 10:33, the second-longest drive during the Spurrier era, that culminated in a 20-yard field goal conversion by Fry, tying his career-high with four in a game.

GAME CHANGER
Senior spur Sharrod Golightly and junior safety T.J. Gurley intercepted East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden on back-to-back possessions to open the third quarter, which led to 10 points that pushed the Gamecocks lead to 30-16.

KEY STAT
Junior Mike Davis rushed for his eighth-career 100-yard game, going for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

NOTABLES
South Carolina picked up a 33-23 win over East Carolina, marking Steve Spurrier's 200th win as the head coach of an SEC institution.
It's also the 50th home win at South Carolina for Steve Spurrier.
The Gamecocks improve their winning streak against non-conference teams to 16 games and in regular-season non-conference games to 21 games.
Junior tailback Mike Davis ran for 101 yards, moving into South Carolina's career top-25 list in rushing yards in the process. He passed Alex Hawkins (1956-58) in the first half to claim 25th for himself, now with 1,574 yards. He's now three yards shy of tying for Jeff Grantz (1,577) for 24th.
Sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper set a new career high with five receptions in the game, tallying 45 yards. He also ran twice for six yards.
Junior wide receiver Shaq Roland posted a team-best seven catches for 94 yards. The seven catches eclipse his previous best of six in the 2014 Capital One Bowl against Wisconsin.
South Carolina compiled seven quarterback hurries in the game, the most for a Gamecock defense since posting 10 against Georgia on Oct. 6, 2012.
South Carolina's Gerald Dixon Jr. blocked a second-quarter field-goal attempt, the Gamecocks' first blocked field-goal try since Stephon Gilmore's at Tennessee on Oct. 29, 2011.
Sophomore placekicker Elliot Fry had four field goals in the game, matching his outing against Florida last season (11/16).

QUOTABLE
South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Opening Statement
"We hung in there. Elliott Fry made all his field goals. We got a couple of turnovers. Brandon [Wilds], Mike [Davis] and the offensive line pretty much took it over. Elliot Fry making four field goals was crucial for us. The time of possession, we were up there, almost as good as Texas A&M was last week. We had over 36 minutes and made seven of 13 third downs. Our red zone offense wasn't as good as it should have been, but it worked out for us. I'm really proud of the entire team, all of them. We're not quite as talented as some of our teams in the past, that's obvious. The kids hung in there and played their hearts out. They played about as well as they could. Overall, our guys played well. Our fans were super; they hung in there with us. I think we're starting to realize what kind of team we are. We're going to have to scratch and get in a bunch of close games and try to find a way to win. This was a good win for us, and hopefully we can build on it."

Junior RB Mike Davis

On transition from last week's game
"It was frustrating. Coach came in and wanted us to have a live bench, good spirits on the sideline, help your teammates out and cheer them on, make sure one's head is down and everyone head in the game. Coach did a great job."

UP NEXT
South Carolina welcomes No. 6 Georgia to Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 13 for a 3:30 p.m., showdown on CBS. The Bulldogs were off this week after defeating then-No. 16 Clemson 45-21 in Athens, Ga., last week in their season opener.

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