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Game Balls: South Carolina vs. Western Carolina

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Top performers from the final game at Williams Brice in 2016 - or as we like to call it: Rico Dowdle, Deebo Samuel & Friends.

NCAA Football: Western Carolina at South Carolina
RB Rico Dowdle shouldered the load on the Saturday.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Gamecocks got their much-needed sixth win on Saturday with an ugly 44-31 win over FCS Western Carolina.

The back-and-forth game itself wasn’t much fun for Carolina fans to watch - but there was one player in particular who made all the anxiety on Saturday afternoon worth it.

Game Balls

RB Rico Dowdle

The Gamecocks’ freshman running back had the game of his life on Saturday, with 21 carries for 226 yards and two touchdowns, along with two catches for another 16 yards.

Dowdle was unstoppable, showcasing his patience, vision and tackle-breaking ability in averaging almost 11 yards per carry.

Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper wasn’t doing anything too special or creative in getting his freshman running back the ball. Many of Dowdle’s plays came straight up the middle, on either option read plays or designed inside runs.

For South Carolina to pull off the upset next Saturday night at Clemson, Dowdle will be counted on again to control the clock and set up the play-action.

LB Jonathan Walton

The senior linebacker led the Gamecocks in tackles, seven total (three solo), in his final game at Williams Brice.

In a game where the Catamounts ran the ball a staggering 43 times, Walton was critical in controlling the middle of the field beyond the line of scrimmage and watching for the play-action.

NCAA Football: Western Carolina at South Carolina
Walton was key in stopping dual-threat QB Tyrie Adams
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Western Carolina was killing the SC defense on third down, with their elusive quarterback Tyrie Adams dropping back and ultimately taking off for a first down. Walton helped limit those scrambles to 7 or 8 yards vs. a 10+ yard dash.

WR Deebo Samuel

Every superlative I used to describe Rico Dowdle earlier could be applied to Deebo Samuel as well.

The redshirt sophomore wide receiver was electric - with one of the most complete, triple-threat games SC fans have seen since Pharoh Cooper’s departure.

Samuel had five carries for 26 yards and two touchdowns in the patented Deebo-end-around-for-six play, to go with his four catches for 54 yards.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the wide receiver had a 100-yard kick off return for a touchdown in which he basically ran in a straight line from end zone-to-end zone. No jukes, no wiggle (not that he’s in incapable of either), just straight-line speed.

DE Darius English

Hampered in his effectiveness due to the Catamounts’ nearly-nonexistent passing game, Darius English was another player who made the most of his final game in Columbia.

The senior defensive end had 5 tackles (3 solo) and the Gamecocks’ lone sack.

With the sack, his ninth of the season, English is now tied for third in the SEC, trailing Tennessee’s Derrick Barnett by just two.

Other Standouts

  • LB T.J. Holloman: 5 tackles (4 solo)
  • CB Chris Lammons: 4 tackles (2 solo), 2 pass breakups
  • WR Bryan Edwards: 4 catches, 64 yards