Sept. 17, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Gamecocks (2-1) held on after a big first quarter to claim a 20-15 win over East Carolina (2-1) on Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
South Carolina jumped out to a 17-0 lead, putting the first touchdown on the board just 17 seconds into the contest. Freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain ran in the first score from nine yards out after A.J. Turner posted an 80-yard return on the game's opening kickoff.
McIlwain and the Gamecocks put together their second touchdown drive on their second possession, with the signal-caller capping the drive with a 10-yard run. The freshman connected with fellow rookie Bryan Edwards on the drive's big play, as Edwards brought down the 42-yard reception. David Williams followed that with a 20-yard run to set up McIlwain's score.
Senior Elliott Fry posted the first of three field goals that wrapped the first half, his from 37 to make it 17-0 halfway through the first quarter. East Carolina got two field goals of their own before halftime, one in each quarter, to make it 17-6. Davis Plowman hit from 32 and 43 yards for the Pirates.
Junior Jamarcus King had the biggest defensive play of the half, picking off a third-and-goal pass from the one to deny the Pirates a touchdown.
The Gamecock defense made big plays in the second half. Junior Chris Lammons made an interception at the one to stop East Carolina's first drive of the third quarter. On the Pirates' next possession, they drove to the Gamecock 8. The attempted 25-yard field goal was blocked by junior Ulric Jones, negating another ECU scoring chance.
Both teams hit field goals in the fourth quarter, Plowman a 45-yarder and Fry a 39-yarder. East Carolina drew within five points after a late four-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Nelson to Devin Anderson. The two-point conversion failed, and Hayden Hurst recovered the onside kick to get the ball and the win for South Carolina.
Turner's 80-yard kickoff return to start the game put the momentum on the Gamecocks' side early, which helped them post a big first-quarter lead.
The Gamecock defense posted four turnovers in the game for the first time this year, with two interceptions and one fumble all coming as the Pirates were in the red zone.
McIlwain went 16-for-28 with 195 yards as a passer, while he had both Gamecock scores on the ground as part of his nine-carry, 34-yard performance.
Edwards had five receptions for 68 yards, including a 42-yard grab.
Williams tallied seven carries for 67 yards.
Head coach Will Muschamp claimed his first home win at South Carolina in front of 80,384 fans.
T.J. Holloman led the Gamecocks with nine tackles.
Lammons posted eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, an interception and a forced fumble.
Quoting Head Coach Will Muschamp
First off I would like to thank this crowd, we played in a great environment. Even after the game we were waiting on the players to come in the locker room, the passion and energy and loyalty they have is awesome and we appreciate that. It certainly helped us win this game, especially early in the game to get us jumpstarted a little bit. We got ahead quick. Outstanding job to A.J. Turner and our kickoff return team, a couple of us, our special teams coordinator really blocked well he hit the crease exactly how we wanted. Then one play and we were in the end zone. Then we got some momentum defensively. We got some stops and got things going offensively then we were up 17 and we just have to continue to comply on some things offensively. I think a lot of it from the naked eye you say its an inside zone, but there's a lot of things going on as far as getting the ball back out on the perimeter from the zone on the read, whether it is an inside zone or bounce zone. There are some things we thought we could have gotten in the game but we got a little stagnant there. I am proud of Brandon [McIlwain] and how he preformed. It was a big ball with Bryan Edwards on the side and then to answer their score to make it now a two-score game with a field goal you have two great balls going down the field they bust the coverage on our sideline and Hayden Hurst can't catch the corner route and the other play as well. I am really proud of him and how he responded. That's what good teams do they respond and they gain momentum back in the game. There at the end we didn't want to put our defense back on the field. We played close to a hundred snaps in the game. When you play a team like this, that's what they're going to do. They average 5.7 yards per play we average 5.9. We needed to have more possessions in the game. I am really proud of our guys. When you play teams like this you get them in the red zone and those pass zones condense out so it is harder to throw the ball and when you are able to stop the run it makes them very difficult to be forced to a field goal. So that was part of the plan, to grind it out a little more offensively, create ball control for us, and when they did get the ball in the red zone, make stops. When you play a team like this, this quarterback is going to play on Sunday. He is really good. Next to Deshaun Watson he will be the second-best quarterback we see this season, in my opinion. He is a really good player, I give those guys credit, they have a good football team but it was a very gutty performance by our players. They kept battling and kept hanging in their in the game. They fought through adversity. We have to continue to build on that and gain some consistency from that and that's been my biggest issue with last week was emotionally how we played last week.
South Carolina hits the road to take on Kentucky. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. from Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on the SEC Network.
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