Apart from a win, Gamecocks fans were hoping for big things from the team’s younger players. A.J. Turner and Bryan Edwards were a couple of the key freshmen that I was looking forward to seeing last night against Vanderbilt, and the duo didn’t disappoint in their collegiate debuts. Turner finished with 13 carries and 70 yards, while Edwards ended with a game-high 101 yards - including a highlight-reel 33-yard grab in the 3rd. Not a bad start for either.
With the Gamecocks struggling to find their sea legs in the first half, they needed players to take over in the second half if they were to have any chance of beating a team that they’ve handled so many other times before hand. We finally saw that in the third and (mainly) fourth quarter as Kurt Roper began to draw up plays to lean on the duo a little more. And while it was Deebo Samuel that ended up scoring the game-tying touchdown and Elliott Fry that was responsible for the game-winning points, if it wasn’t for Edwards and Turner’s production, it might have been a completely different result.
On the touchdown drive in the 4th quarter, Edwards and Turner were responsible for 61 of the Gamecocks’ 84 yards. In fact, it was a terrific 20-yard carry by Turner that ended up putting the Gamecocks in the red zone and set up the Samuel jet sweep to score.
Edwards and Turner accounted for all 36 yards Carolina picked up to get themselves in field goal range on the final drive. While I wonder why they didn’t utilize Turner in their final play before the Fry kick instead of Orth keeping in on a draw play, it turned out to be water under the bridge in the end with the Fry make, which was made possible by solid late-game running by Turner. Watching him, it’s clear that he is the best running back on this roster, a player that really has a chance to thrive in this conference.
The Gamecocks will face much tougher teams than Vandy - in fact, they’ll take on a Mississippi State team in eight days that is struggling to find an identity after graduating the great Dak Prescott. But if you were looking for two key players to make their mark right away and give you a glimpse of the future of Carolina football, you weren’t disappointed.