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Gamecocks cruise past Chanticleers 49-15 in season opener

That was a solid way to start things off.

Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Fans of the South Carolina Gamecocks got the stress-free, season-opening win that they wanted, as the boys in Garnet and Black handled Coastal Carolina to the tune of 49-15 on Saturday in Williams-Brice.

The new-look offense under freshly promoted coordinator Bryan McClendon got off to a blazing start, as the Gamecocks marched right down the field on their first possession in eight plays, covering 80 yards in 2 minutes, 58 seconds before running back Rico Dowdle plunged into the end zone. South Carolina then scored on another efficient 10-play, 69-yard drive, this time capped by a wild 8-yard reception from tight end Kiel Pollard, to close the first quarter.

From there, things settled down a bit, as the outmatched Chanticleers opted to milk the clock and slow down the pace of play. Coastal got on the board with a 39-yard field goal before the Gamecocks swung back into action, with receiver Bryan Edwards pulling in a perfectly placed, 24-yard pass from Jake Bentley to put South Carolina up 21-3. The Gamecocks weren’t done, though: The defense forced a Coastal punt with about a minute left in the half, and South Carolina ripped down the field in five plays, 76 yards before Dowdle notched his second score of the game, this time on a 22-yard reception.

Coming out of the break, the Chanticleers mounted a lengthy drive that ended in a 45-yard field goal. South Carolina answered, this time via Ty’Son Williams’ 9-yard run, in a crisp 3 minutes. The starters weren’t quite done yet, though: Deebo Samuel finally got on the board with an eye-popping one-handed touchdown grab to put the Gamecocks up 42-6.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, most of South Carolina’s reserves had filtered into the game, which included an appearance from much-hyped transfer Josh Belk. The Chants finally found the end zone thanks to Jaivon Heiligh’s 8-yard reception, but the Gamecocks got one last score of their own when backup quarterback Michael Scarnecchia tossed a 27-yard touchdown to Randrecous Davis. Coastal closed the scoring with a 27-yard field goal to provide the final 49-15 margin.

South Carolina rolled up 557 yards of total offense, highlighted by Bentley’s 22-of-29 line for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Dowdle went over 100 yards, notching 105 on 15 carries, and Williams looked similarly strong with 82 yards of his own on 11 touches. Shi Smith edged Samuel as the leading receiver, grabbing four passes for 61 yards to Samuel’s seven catches for 56 (although he did have an incredible touchdown). T.J. Brunson anchored the defense with six tackles, and Bryson Allen-Williams had the type of game you’d expect with five tackles — three of those for loss — and a sack. While the Gamecocks’ offense provided plenty of highlights, the defense looked a bit shaky and underwhelming at times, and moving forward, will need to clean up some silly penalties.

South Carolina, now 1-0, can focus its full attention on Week 2’s titanic matchup with Georgia. The Gamecocks will be crossing their fingers and hoping defensive line stalwart D.J. Wonnum, who twisted his ankle early in the third quarter, will be good to go. Otherwise, it was all smiles for South Carolina.