Friday, September 4, 2015

Pawed By The Panthers

 UCF held a 14-3 lead at halftime over FIU Thursday night at Bright House Networks Stadium. But a pair of FIU touchdowns and a blocked field goal in the final minute lifted the Panthers over the Knights 15-14.

Trailing 3-0, UCF took the lead on a Justin Holman-to-Jordan Akins 9-yard scoring strike. The touchdown was set up by a turnover, when Chequan Burkett forced a Panther fumble at the FIU 26-yard line.

On its next possession, UCF marched 70 yards in seven plays. A 20-yard Holman-to-Akins completion put the ball in FIU territory. Three plays later, Akins was wide open in the seam for a 33-yard score. But that was the last time UCF would get on the board.

"You don't block or tackle or the things you're supposed to do fundamentally ... that's usually the end result," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "We didn't make enough plays in any phase."

FIU held UCF to just 46 yards rushing in the contest and just four yards in the second half. 
"I didn't think we made any movement up front, at all," O'Leary said.

The Panthers put together two touchdown drives of 80 or more yards -- one midway through the third quarter and one early in the fourth -- to take a 15-14 lead. Two-point conversion attempts after both scores failed.

The Knights had one last chance to take the victory late in the contest. The defense forced a three-and-out, holding on 3rd-and-1. UCF drove inside the FIU 25-yard line. 

"We are on the 25-yard line, you just maintain your distance and that kid makes field goals blindfolded from there," O'Leary said.

But a penalty pushed the Knights back to the 30.Matthew Wright's 47-yard field goal attempt with 30 seconds left was blocked.

Aim for Akins; Toss it to Tre'Quan
• Akins, a sophomore from McDonough, Ga. Scored his first two career touchdowns.
• Akins finished with nine receptions for 104 yards, both career-best marks. 
• Tre'Quan Smith, a redshirt freshman from Delray Beach, Fla., matched Akins' nine receptions and 104 yards in his first collegiate contest.
• The last time UCF had two 100-yard receivers in the same game was Nov. 16, 2013 at Temple (J.J. Worton-179; Rannell Hall-159).

Surpassing 2 Million At Bright House
• With an announced attendance of 39,184, Bright House Networks Stadium saw its 2 millionth fan come through the gates. 
• Bright House Networks Stadium has seen 2,021,448 fans attend UCF games since the venue opened in 2007.

OPEN AND SHUT CASE: FIU STARTS FAST IN THE 3RD & 4TH QUARTERS AND CLOSES UCF

This time FIU finished the close one.
 
All offseason the Panthers talked about finishing games in 2015 after losing four games by three points or less in 2014. Mission accomplished in the season opener.
 
After Darrian Dyson blocked the potential game-winning 47-yard field goal by UCF's Matthew Wright to preserve a 15-14 win over the Knights, the Panthers spilled from their sideline on to the Bright House Networks Stadium field to rejoice in the program's first season-opening win since 2011. The Panthers opened the 2011 season with a home win against North Texas.
 
FIU rallied from a 14-3 deficit in the second half with touchdowns to open the third and fourth quarters.
 
FIU narrowed the UCF lead to 14-9 with an 8-yard run by Alex Gardner on its first possession of the second half. The Panthers went 82 yards for their first touchdown in 2015. FIU went for the two-point conversion butAlex McGough's pass was incomplete.
 
The drive which took 6:19 featured the debut of freshman Anthony Jones, who gained 26 yards on his first collegiate rush on the second play of the drive. Later Alex McGough hit Jones for a 15-yard completion and found Jonnu Smith for 17 yards to the UCF 3. Smith extended his consecutive pass catching streak to 25 games with a 3-yard reception in the first quarter.
 
Much like it opened the third quarter with six, FIU did the same to start the final 15 minutes. The Panthers marched 80 yards to paydirt to take a 15-14 lead.
 
Senior tight end Ya'Keem Griner played a crucial part in the go-ahead touchdown drive. Griner caught a career-long 46-yard pass early in the drive. Griner was also the recipient of a fortuitous bounce when he grabbed the go-ahead touchdown after the pass intended for Thomas Owens was batted in the air. The 4-yard touchdown vaulted the Panthers on top.
 
Owens caught a career-high 11 passes for 78 yards to lead the FIU receivers. McGough established career-highs of 29 completions in 38 attempts for 260 yards and a touchdown. Gardner led FIU rushing with 75 yards and a touchdown.
 
FIU's nationally-ranked defense last season continued its steady course Thursday night in Orlando keeping the Panthers in the game while the offense found its footing. The FIU defense held the UCF offense to less than 300 total yards (295 yards) and recorded two sacks by its all-conference defensive ends Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine. The FIU D also had eight tackles for loss. Treyon Williams (11 tackles),Richard Leonard (10) and Anthony Wint (10) all had double-digit tackles. Williams established a new career-high in tackles.
 
The Panthers scored the first points of any FBS team this college football season when Austin Taylor hit a 28-yard field goal with 6:10 left in the first quarter to give FIU a 3-0 lead. FIU drove 76 yards to the UCF 11, highlighted by a 27-yard catch and run by Gardner on a pass from McGough.
 
The Knights answered near the end of the first quarter after an FIU fumble at its own 31. Justin Holman threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Akins to put UCF on top 7-3.
 
Holman and Akins connected again to fuel the Knights' second touchdown. The duo hooked up for 20 yards to the FIU 36. Two plays later, Holman found Akins again for a 33-yard score to send UCF into the locker room with the 14-3 edge.
 
FIU continues on the road next week with its first-ever meeting against Indiana. The Panthers and Hoosiers kickoff at 8 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 12 from Bloomington, Ind.

Football Opens 2015 Season With 17-13 Win Over North Carolina

After an offseason filled with anticipation, the 2015 South Carolina football season kicked off Thursday evening in Charlotte as South Carolina (1-0) defeated North Carolina (0-1) 17-13 in the Belk College Kickoff game at Bank of America Stadium.
A healthy dose of the running game would power the Gamecocks all night as the Gamecocks rushed for 254 yards with Shon Carsoncoming up with the big run of the night with a 48-yard carry for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks would also make key plays on the defensive end with three turnovers including a pair of interceptions in the end zone by junior linebacker Skai Moore.
The Tar Heels returned nine starters to a potent 2014 offense, and were moving the ball well on the opening drive. They would stall inside the Gamecocks 10-yard line though, and on third and goal quarterback Marquise Williams went for a shot in the back of the end zone, but Skai Moore stepped in front of it to snuff out the scoring drive. It was the junior linebacker's eighth career interception.
South Carolina's ensuing drive took them to midfield, and Sean Kellyfollowed up a successful fake punt earlier in the drive to pin the Heels at their own 9-yard line. It would not faze them, as the offense went the 91 yards in just five plays and a little over a minute to open the games scoring on a 21-yard pass over the middle from Williams to Bug Howard.
To respond, the Gamecocks turned to the ground game early, withPharoh Cooper running the Wildcat and Brandon Wilds grinding out first downs. Connor Mitch would connect on his first completion of the game on a 16-yard screen out to Jerell Adams, then went for 20 more to Brandon Wilds to get them to the opponent's 25. Wilds and Cooper would carry it down to the nine before the end of the first quarter, and facing third-and-five, Mitch connected with Cooper on a slant over the middle to tie the game up at 7-7. After starting the game 0-for-5 passing, Mitch closed out the drive with three straight completions for 45 yards and his first career touchdown pass.
A field goal drive for North Carolina would put it back up 10-7, but Mitch kept a hot hand to drive the Garnet and Black back down the field. Showing a higher level of confidence in his arm, Mitch would also show off his ground game on the drive, with runs of 15 and nine yards and a pair of first downs. The Gamecocks would not be able to cash in with a touchdown, but Elliott Fry knocked home a 25-yard field goal to tie the game back up at 10 with seven minutes to go before halftime.
Another North Carolina drive would be halted by the Gamecocks' defense on the very next drive. After taking the ball all the way down to the South Carolina 15, the Tar Heels faced a third-and five. Kelsey Griffin and Darius English would find daylight up the middle, with Griffin making the initial contact. The sack would force another field goal, but it allowed North Carolina to take a 13-10 lead to halftime.
The Gamecocks kicked off to start the third quarter, and quickly saw the defense provide another sizable momentum shift. After picking up nine yards on its first two plays, the Tar Heels were stuffed for no gain on third down at their own 34. They would hurry back to the line and tried to push through the final inches on fourth down, but penetration from Marquavius Lewis and Taylor Stallworth would force a turnover on downs.
The Gamecocks defense would come through again on their next drive, when Isaiah Johnson hammered UNC's Howard after it appeared that he caught a potential first down on third and 15. It forced the Tar Heels' first punt of the game with just over nine minutes left in the third quarter.
A bend-but-don't-break defense would hold to form on the next drive as well. A 44-yard run from Elijah Hood brought UNC all the way to the Carolina 20, but two plays later Jordan Diggs stepped in front of an out-route to keep it a 13-10 game.
The resilient defense buoyed an offense that struggled to find consistency in the third quarter. It would find intermittent success with the Wildcat on a drive late in the third quarter, but a penalty on the Gamecocks would push them just out of range of what could have been the tying field goal.
It would not faze the defense, who overcame a long run to open UNC's drive at the end of the quarter to force its second punt in the third. Facing third and three, Kelsey Griffin motored down Marquise Williams as he rolled out to the left, moving the game to the fourth quarter still locked in at 13-10.
That score would not last long, as the run game was reignited for the Gamecocks. Two runs from David Williams would give them a first down across midfield, and Shon Carson would be the exclamation point. He took a shotgun sweep handoff and went 48 yards virtually untouched to give Carolina its first lead of the game.
With the Gamecock faithful getting rowdy in the stands, the defense remained locked in and forced a quick three-and-out. Perry Orth would take over the offense with 11:46 to play in the game, after Connor Mitch went to the locker room with an undisclosed injury.
Carson would take much of the pressure off him early in the drive, carrying for 27 yards on the first three plays of the drive. Orth would join in the fun to pick up a key first down with his legs and get the Gamecocks in the red zone, but the offense would miss out on fourth and inches at the UNC 12 to give the Tar Heels possession with nine minutes left to play.
The UNC defense was finally able to solve Carolina's defense and quickly moved into the red zone with a chance to take back the lead. The shortened field would come to the aid of the Gamecocks, who were able to blanket the Tar Heel receivers and force a third and goal at the three.Dante Sawyer would pull down Williams for his first career sack and force a timeout with fourth down at the eight-yard line and just 3:40 on the clock.
In a mirror image of his play in the first quarter, Skai Moore would step in front of a pass right in the end zone to end the threat. With momentum from the turnover, South Carolina would run out the clock to seal the victory.
GAME CHANGER
Shon Carson took his first carry of the game 48 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, giving the Gamecocks their first lead of the night at 17-13. He would run for a team-leading 75 yards total in the fourth quarter.
KEY STAT
South Carolina won the turnover battle with three turnovers including a pair of interceptions by junior linebacker Skai Moore in the end zone. The Gamecocks are now 45-4 in the Spurrier era when committing fewer turnovers than the opponent.
NOTABLE
  • South Carolina is 81-37-4 in 122 season openers with head coach Steve Spurrier 24-2 all-time in season openers as a collegiate head coach as well as 10-1 in season openers since taking over South Carolina
  • Steve Spurrier now owns a 6-0 career record vs. North Carolina. He was 3-0 as head coach at Duke (1987-89) and is now 3-0 against North Carolina as head coach of the Gamecocks
  • This was the first time since 2011 that the Gamecocks were held scoreless in the first quarter of a season opener. The last time it came against East Carolina, in a game also played in Charlotte. The Gamecocks also won that contest.
  • After his second-quarter make, Fry is now 11-for-11 on field goals inside the 30
  • Pharoh Cooper's 3rd reception moves him into the top-25 in career receptions, with 75 for the Garnet & Black.
  • In his South Carolina debut, punter Sean Kelly was outstanding. He averaged 46.2 yards over 5 punts, including a long of 60 that was the team's best punt since Joey Scribner-Howard's 60-yard punt on October 15, 2011 at Mississippi State
  • The game's paid attendance was announced as 51,664
QUOTABLE
South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Opening Statement
I think the football Gods smiled on the Gamecocks. Coach Hoke and all of the defensive coaches did a good job keeping them (from scoring touchdowns).
We're very fortunate, have a lot to correct. I think North Carolina is a good team, I think they are going to beat a lot of people.
Skai (Moore) can pick the ball off, he does it in practice all the time. He has a knack for watching the quarterback. Those are the plays that won the game.
UP NEXT
South Carolina returns home to host Kentucky in SEC action at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 12 with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.

Gamecocks Down Tar Heels, 17-13

Shon Carson ran for 75 yards and a touchdown, linebacker Skai Moore intercepted two passes in the end zone and South Carolina defeated border state rival North Carolina 17-13 on Thursday night.
Carson, the Gamecocks' third-string running back, made an immediate impact when he entered the game in the fourth quarter, breaking free around right tackle and racing 48 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Gamecocks intercepted Tar Heels quarterbackMarquise Williams three times. Moore helped seal the game when he stepped in front of Williams' pass on a fourth-and-goal at the South Carolina 8 with 3:40 remaining.
For Moore it was the eighth and nine interceptions of his career. He also finished with a team-high 10 tackles.
Williams finished 19 of 31 for 232 yards and one touchdown. Elijah Hood led UNC with 139 yards on 12 carries and Bug Howard had six catches for 114 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown reception.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Mitch was 9 for 22 for 122 yards and a touchdown in his first career start before leaving with a hip injury in the fourth quarter.
Mitch started slow but improved as he became more comfortable in the pocket.
Known as a traditional pocket passer, Mitch showed some surprising mobility rushing for a team-high 47 yards on seven carries in the first half.
He also showed some feistiness, penalized 15 yards for taunting after completing a first down pass in the third quarter.
The Tar Heels were coming off a horrendous season on defense allowing a school record 39 points and 497.8 yards per game in 2014.
But under new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik they tackled better and applied more pressure for three quarters, shutting out the Gamecocks in the first quarter and taking a 13-10 lead into fourth quarter.
"Their defense got the best of our offense," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "We were very fortunate."
But the game changed when Carson took a handoff from backup quarterback Perry Orth and raced around right tackle and down the sideline untouched for a 48-yard touchdown on his first carry of the game.
Williams, on the other hand, couldn't seem to find a rhythm for the Tar Heels.
On North Carolina's first drive he didn't appear to see Moore step in front of his intended receiver in the end zone and was picked off. In the second half, he overthrew an open Ryan Switzer on a simple receiver screen and then followed that with an interception on the next play.