Much to the relief of the Gamecock faithful, South Carolina outlasted Troy 23-14 in an ugly, mistake-marred, and otherwise eventful contest on Saturday afternoon in Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecocks got off to a pretty good and balanced start offensively, mixing in the run and the pass on their way down the field against what has been a fairly stout Troy defense. Quarterback Luke Doty looked most effective rolling out, firing some nice completions to Jalen Brooks and Dakereon Joyner, and Kevin Harris converted a key 4th and short. Unfortunately, the drive stalled deep in the red zone, and Parker White came on to drill a 23-yard field goal and make it 3-0.
After the Gamecock defense forced a quick Troy three-and-out, Doty and Co. went back to work. Some frustrating procedural flags put South Carolina behind the chains, but a big strike to Jaheim Bell erased the penalty yardage and got USC moving again into Troy territory. However, a Joyner drop on fourth down ended the South Carolina threat.
Continuing the uninspiring turn of events, the Trojans then made the Gamecock defense look clueless on their next drive, methodically moving down the field and converting a key 3rd and long en route to a 35-yard touchdown run by B.J. Smith that made it 7-3 Troy.
The Gamecocks tried mounting a response, but were hampered by yet more procedural penalties and were forced to punt it away. Fortunately, the South Carolina defense managed to force a punt of its own, and USC got back in the scoring column with a nice 16-yard snag by transfer E.J. Jenkins to make it 10-7 Gamecocks.
Things started to look a bit dire again on Troy’s next drive, with the Trojans moving into Gamecock territory as the clock wound down in the first half. But a clutch interception returned 75 yards for a touchdown by David Spaulding put South Carolina ahead 17-7 as the teams went to the locker room.
Troy got off to a hot start in the second half, with quarterback Taylor Powell standing tall under pressure and firing a strike down to the 2-yard line while also drawing a questionable targeting call that ejected R.J. Roderick. The Trojans cashed in with an easy jaunt into the end zone by Jamontez Woods, cutting the deficit to 17-14 early in the third quarter.
Despite starting their next drive off with a big gain from Josh Vann on a reverse, the Gamecocks stalled once again and were forced to punt. The Gamecocks forced one of their own, and in a much-needed #BeamerBall moment, Jahmar Brown got a paw on the ball to set South Carolina up in the red zone. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks immediately went backwards, rushing for no gain and then taking a sack, but White saved the day again with a 48-yard make that pushed USC’s advantage to 20-14.
South Carolina’s propensity to generate turnovers almost came up big again on Troy’s next possession, with Brown playing hero for a second time and grabbing a pick — only for the officials to overturn the interception, claiming an incomplete pass despite Brown securing the catch and making a football move before the ball came loose. USC might have gotten away with it, but Ahmarean Brown then misjudged the ensuing punt, which Troy pounced on and recovered deep in Gamecock territory.
However, South Carolina got it back, with Jaylan Foster forcing Powell to fumble, Damani Staley scooping it up, and Jahmar Brown eventually coming up with the loose ball and scampering downfield into the end zone. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, replay showed Brown carelessly tossing the ball aside before he crossed the goal line. The ultimate result? A touchback for Troy, and no points for South Carolina.
Thankfully, it was no harm, no foul, as USC forced a much-needed three-and-out. Unfortunately, Doty fumbled on third down and Troy recovered in plus territory. BUT WAIT — Foster once again forced a fumble after a Troy catch, with Zacch Pickens coming up with the ball. South Carolina again went backwards in plus territory, hampered by yet another holding penalty in addition to some head-scratching play calls, but White played hero again and drilled a 26-yarder to give the Gamecocks the final 23-14 margin after Staley collected what was effectively a game-ending interception on Troy’s next drive.
South Carolina (3-2) travels to Tennessee next week.