Nov. 19, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Sophomore Deebo Samuel scored three times in the first half, leading South Carolina (6-5) to a 44-31 win over Western Carolina (2-9) on Saturday evening at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The teams combined for 35 points in the opening 11 minutes, with freshman Rico Dowdle posting scoring runs of 43 and one yard to put South Carolina up 14-0. Detrez Newsome broke free for a 39-yard touchdown to put Western Carolina on the board. On the ensuing kickoff Samuel ran straight through the Catamounts' coverage for a 100-yard kickoff return, making it 21-7.
The Catamounts scored the next 10 points, with the Logan Howard 32-yard field goal drawing WCU within four points at 21-17 early in the second quarter.
But Samuel posted a pair of two-yard touchdown runs to cap double-digit play drives to put the Gamecocks lead to 35-17 at the half. Samuel had 231 total yards in the first half, 27 on the ground, 46 on receptions and 158 on returns.
Senior Elliot Fry made it 38-17 with a 32-yard field goal, but Western Carolina came back with a seven-play, 54-yard drive, capped by Connell Young's four-yard run, to draw within two scores again. Newsome ran in the two-point conversion to make it 38-25. Fry added two more field goals in the fourth from 24 and 32 yards, helping keep the lead at two score at all times.
Western Carolina made it interesting after Newsome's 93-yard kick return midway through the fourth quarter, but the pass attempt on the two-point try failed. The Gamecocks ran out the clock on its last possession, with senior Darius Paulk posting 24 yards on three carries to finish it out.
Samuel's 100-yard kick return put the Gamecocks up by 14 points, and his two end-around scores put the game out of reach.
The Gamecocks posted 588 yards of total offense, with 422 of those coming on the ground. Those 422 rushing yards are the most since 2013, when the Gamecocks ran up 352 yards on Coastal Carolina.
Dowdle posted a career-best 226 yards on 21 carries, the first 200-yard rusher in a game since Marcus Lattimore had 246 in the 2011 win over Navy.
Both Samuel and freshman Bryan Edwards had four catches on the day, with Edwards edging out Samuel in yardage, 61-56.
Redshirt freshman A.J. Turner tallied 97 yards on 17 carries.
Freshman quarterback Jake Bentley went 14-for-23 for 154 yards in the start.
Quoting Head Coach Will Muschamp
"I'm really proud of our football team. Whenever you're sitting at 2-4 going into the open week, the way things are in our society the negativity builds up. The staff stuck together; these players stuck together and continued to invest in what we were doing. Really the second half of the season, we've been a little bit more of what we wanted to be."
The Gamecocks face off against archival Clemson on Saturday. Time and network will be released on Sunday by the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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