Sept. 10, 2016
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- South Carolina (1-1, 1-1 SEC) looked stronger in the second half for the second-straight week, but it couldn't overcome Mississippi State's first-half tally, as the Bulldogs claimed a 27-14 win on Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium.
Mississippi State (1-1, 1-0 SEC) claimed a 24-0 lead in the first half, using a trio of three-minute-or-less drives to take the lead. Fred Ross had a hand in the first two scoring plays, as the running back caught a six-yard pass to end the first drive before throwing a 17-yard pass to Donald Gray for the second touchdown.
Bulldog quarterback Nick Fitzgerald tossed the first and third scores, the latter to Jordan Thomas for a three-yard strike late in the second to make it 21-0. Westin Graves ended the first half with the first of his two field goals, the first coming from 27 yards out.
Freshman Brandon McIlwain engineered the Gamecocks' first scoring drive of the game late in the third quarter. The 12-play, 80-yard drive saw McIlwain run for 22 yards and throw for 58, including an 18-yard toss to A.J. Turner for the score. On the drive, the freshman was 4-for-6 from the air.
After the Bulldogs' Graves made it 27-7 with a 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks cut the lead to 27-14 after a 13-play, 83-yard drive led again by McIlwain. The freshman again accounted for every yard for South Carolina, ending the drive with a four-yard completion to K.C. Crosby.
South Carolina's offense rebounded after a tough first half, going from 90 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes to 153 in the second half.
Mississippi State's 290 rushing yards helped the Bulldogs control the game.
McIlwain went 11-for-22 with 126 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while he added 17 yards rushing.
Hayden Hurst led the Gamecocks with eight catches for 68 yards.
T.J. Holloman had seven stops as well and made one interception.
Quoting Head Coach Will Muschamp
"We just got physically beat on both lines of scrimmage. Defensively, we had guys at the point of attack that didn't want to tackle. It's hard to understand at times. It seems like we are a decent tackling team at times, other times we're not. You got to get off blocks. You have to make tackles. You have to be able to stick your face in there and tackle. Unfortunately, we just didn't do that tonight, especially in the first half. We settled down a little, played a little better in the second half. I like the way our guys responded in the game and came out and fought in the second half. There will be some bumps in the road. We said it last week, but we will continue to move forward and improve our team."
The Gamecocks return home to play their first non-conference contest of the year, hosting East Carolina at 4 p.m. The SEC Network provides television coverage from Williams-Brice Stadium.
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