The South Carolina Gamecocks sent off their seniors with a fun performance and blessed their fans with a stress-free evening on Saturday, beating the FCS Chattanooga Mocs 49-9 to become bowl eligible.
The Gamecocks got off to a bit of a pearl-clutching start, as Chattanooga connected on a 45-yard reception on its first play. But as it’s done for much of the season, South Carolina’s defense held and forced a field goal try — which Javon Kinlaw promptly blocked to keep the game scoreless.
Now with the ball, South Carolina went right to work, marching down the field thanks to some nice outside rushes from Mon Denson and a couple grabs from Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel. The Gamecocks drew first blood when A.J. Turner leaked out of the backfield and ran a nice route to secure a 16-yard touchdown reception from Jake Bentley.
After forcing a quick Mocs three-and-out, the Gamecocks got a little creative on their next drive, putting Samuel in for a couple wildcat (wildcock?) looks. Turner collected his second score of the game when Bentley spun away from pressure, drew just about the entire defense to the left, then popped a pass to his wide-open running back.
Now up 14-0, South Carolina finally allowed Chattanooga to get on the scoreboard, as the Mocs knocked through a 36-yard field goal at the start of the second quarter. The Gamecock offense responded, though, and Turner notched a hat trick, grabbing his third touchdown on an 11-yard run that capped a quick 68-yard, 1 minute, 11 second scoring drive.
South Carolina’s offense finally stalled out when placekicker Parker White, who has been the turnaround player of the year with his steady performance, shanked a 40-yard goal. The Mocs started to move the ball a little better on their next possession, as the injury bug once again reared its ugly head and forced South Carolina to start substituting liberally on defense. Nonetheless, the teams traded punts, and the Gamecocks got the ball back late in the second quarter.
With just over a couple minutes left in the half, South Carolina scooted down the field in a hurry, thanks to big gains in the passing game by Edwards, Samuel, and Kiel Pollard, and capped the quick scoring drive with a 1-yard Denson touchdown to push the halftime advantage to 28-3. (Poor Josh Vann got in the end zone a play earlier, but it was overturned.)
The Gamecocks came out swinging again to start the third quarter, as Shi Smith burst onto the scene with a 53-yard touchdown jaunt after South Carolina had a few modest gains. Trailing 35-3, the Mocs looked to be putting together a solid drive of their own, but came up empty when a 39-yard field goal try sailed wide left.
After a South Carolina punt, the Gamecocks finally forced their first turnover of the game when Chattanooga fumbled in USC territory and linebacker Damani Staley pounced on the ball. With the fourth quarter now underway, Bentley cashed in, hitting Samuel on a quick slant that he brought 61 yards to the house. After another Mocs punt, freshman running back Deshaun Fenwick captured his first touchdown as a Gamecock, plunging in from 2 yards out after going on a highlight-worthy 35-yard scamper to get South Carolina into the red zone.
Chattanooga, at this point in a giving mood, immediately threw an interception to Israel Mukuamu. Freshman quarterback Dakereon Joyner then made his first appearance for the Gamecocks, dropping a beautiful pass to Kyle Markway that was unfortunately broken up at the last moment by a defender. Joyner scrambled for what was close to a first down, but unfortunately Fenwick couldn’t convert the fourth and short.
The Mocs finally got into the end zone thanks to a double-reverse trick play, but South Carolina blocked the extra point to maintain the final 49-9 margin. On the Gamecocks’ next series, Joyner returned and completed his first past to Evan Hinson, then showed off on a few nice scrambles. As the clock wound down, fellow freshman quarterback Jay Urich made his first appearance, displaying some wheels of his own.
Sotuh Carolina (6-4) travels to a certain school in the upstate next weekend for another game under the lights.