The South Carolina Gamecocks mounted a spirited defense against the arrival of the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in Columbia, but ultimately succumbed to the visitors’ talent advantage in a 47-23 loss on Saturday afternoon.
The first quarter got off to a scary start for those in Garnet and Black, as Tua Tagovailoa immediately staked the Tide to a 7-0 lead off a strong drive capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris. But South Carolina was able to answer with a 44-yard Parker White field goal and force a punt on Alabama’s ensuing possession.
Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, their next drive netted negative-10 yards and they were forced into another field goal try. After the snap, White took off scrambling on a fake and scored what seemed to be a 40-yard touchdown on some special teams trickery, but the play was whistled back for a debatable holding call on tight end Kyle Markway — and South Carolina had to punt.
Alabama made the Gamecocks pay for that misfortune with an 81-yard scoring strike from Tagovailoa to Henry Ruggs, and South Carolina found itself in a dispiriting 14-3 hole. But the Gamecocks weren’t done yet in the eventful first quarter, getting back on the board thanks to a 31-yard pass from Ryan Hilinski to Shi Smith and drawing within 14-10 of the Tide as the period came to a close.
Things settled down in the second quarter as both teams dug in, with Alabama forced to kick its first field goal of the day. The Gamecocks couldn’t capitalize, however, and handed the ball right back after a lightning quick three-and-out. Just as rapidly, Tagovailoa tossed his third touchdown of the day, linking up with Harris again for a 42-yard score and 24-10 advantage.
Both teams then traded miscues, with the Gamecocks turning it over on downs and Alabama missing a field goal, before Hilinski guided South Carolina deep into the red zone. Rico Dowdle appeared to reach the end zone, but was ruled down at the 1-yard line, and Hilinski’s fourth-down pass to Josh Vann was too high as the first half drew to a close.
The Gamecocks got the ball back out of the locker room, and tacked on a 28-yard field goal to narrow the margin to 24-13. Tagovailoa and the Tide answered right back with a 42-yard DeVonta Smith reception, and things started to unravel for South Carolina a bit.
Now trailing 31-13, the Gamecocks suffered a Hilinski fumble on their ensuing drive, which Alabama converted into three points. South Carolina could only muster a 48-yard field goal in response, now down 34-16 in a game that was rapidly getting away from USC by the minute. Tagovailoa poured further salt in the wound with his career-best fifth touchdown of the day, this one an 11-yard bullet to Smith, to stake the Tide to a commanding 40-16 lead.
Hilinski, who had played well within himself the whole afternoon, finally committed a freshman mistake on South Carolina’s next drive, throwing an interception that snuffed out a promising drive. With Tagovailoa now out of the game, Alabama nonetheless added another score off a 1-yard Mac Jones keeper. A garbage time strike from Hilinski to Markway provided the final 47-23 margin.
In his first performance against “real” competition, Hilinksi went a more-than-respectable 36-for-57 passing for 324 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception (as well as a lost fumble). Dowdle (12 carries, 102 yards), Smith (six receptions, 90 yards, one score) and Bryan Edwards (nine catches, 79 yards) were the top performers for South Carolina. Javon Kinlaw also had an impressively disruptive day on defense, while White was perfect on his field goal tries with a long of 48.
South Carolina falls to 1-2 (0-1 SEC) and travels to Missouri next week for a 4 p.m. kickoff in Other Columbia.