What a game. I predicted this game to be a 34-20 Gamecock win.. just a little off. Let’s start with the beginning of the game. While I expected a fast start to the game, this is not what I had in mind. The Gamecocks kicked the ball off to the Pirates to start the game and everything seemed normal. That was until ECU ran a trick play where one of their receivers, Tyler Snead, ended up throwing a 75-yard bomb to ECU WR, Jsi Hatfield. 7-0 Pirates ten seconds into the game.
No reason to panic, right? The Gamecock running game was what most people were excited for this season and it did not show up today. The offensive line struggled from the beginning and the Gamecocks could not establish a ground game in the first half. After some three and outs, the Gamecocks drove down the field and things started to look good. Unfortunately that drive stalled with a Zeb Noland interception. The defense swarmed the ball all game and got a lot of first half stops. After a few punts and a missed FG by the pirates, the Gamecocks had the ball again. This possession should have ended in a Josh Vann touchdown, but he fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a touchback. The Gamecocks could not catch a break in the first half.
The Gamecock defense stood strong again after the Vann fumble, and it was time again for the offense to take over. This drive ended in a controversial fumble call after Dakereon Joyner lost the ball after a would-be first down catch. The Pirates returned this fumble to the Gamecock 16-yard line and then continued to punch it in, making it 14-0 Pirates. ECU had all of the momentum until the Gamecock defense made a huge play right before the half. Pirate QB Holton Alhers attempted to dump the ball to his RB on a screen, and the ball was tipped, picked off by Damani Staley. Staley returned the ball 63 yards for a Gamecock touchdown right before the half. The Gamecocks still trailed 14-7 at the half.
The second half started with a lot more of the same. Punt after punt for both teams. Then the Gamecocks put together a touchdown drive which seemed like it came out of nowhere. Zeb Noland threw a great pass to Josh Vann to start the drive and the play resulted in a 45-yard gain. Then there was a pass to Vann in the corner of the end zone that was called incomplete. After a Pirate pass interference, Zeb Noland threw a beautiful pass to Joyner for a much needed touchdown. 14-14 end third.
To start the fourth quarter the Pirates had a long, seven minute drive ending in a field goal, but even with the Pirate lead, it still felt like the Gamecocks had the momentum. The Pirates kicked off to Juju McDowell and he took the ball 63 yards, putting the Gamecocks close to field goal range. The drive ended in a 39 yard game tying field goal from Parker White, making it 17-17 in the fourth. The Gamecock defense stepped up once again getting a huge stop, putting the offense back on the field in a position to win the game.
Let’s talk about one of the best performances of the afternoon. Juju McDowell was not going to let the Gamecocks lose this game. He was dominant on the final drive, with multiple first down runs to ice the game. It is a great feeling to know that when others do not step up, we have guys that can. No hate to the other running backs, but Juju was the guy today. The Gamecocks milked the clock and set Parker White up for a game-winning field goal as time expired. Of course, Parker nailed it. Gamecocks win 20-17 and avoid a bad loss in Greenville.
Even though this game was a hard one to watch, the Gamecocks had guys step up when they had to. The defense was amazing, and I think they can play well next week too. Win one game at a time Gamecocks, the Beamer Era is off to a good start. Even though it was ugly, 2-0 is 2-0. On to Athens.