After battling East Carolina, the refs and even themselves at times, South Carolina did in fact escape with a 20-17 victory.
Nothing was easy in this one. There were fumbles, successful drives wasted with a turnover, no quarterback protection or run blocking whatsoever, missed calls, boneheaded penalties after the whistle and not much of an offense to work with for most of the game.
I thought the run was going to be the key to victory, but it really ended up being the big play, defense and special teams.
There were positives to take away and many more negatives. Nonetheless, the Gamecocks passed their first real test as they advance to 2-0 and await a trip to Athens next weekend to take on the Georgia Bulldogs.
There aren’t as many people to recognize as I would have hoped after this close victory, but let’s give it a go!
Offensive Game Ball: Juju McDowell
I guess it really is a blessing and a curse that a team’s FOURTH STRING running back was the most effective in a week where they were actually trying to win for four quarters (unlike last week).
If Juju lit up the stat sheet against Eastern Illinois, it probably would have been because of the team just wanting to give him reps. This week, he was simply the best, and USC chose to, rightfully, ride the hot hand.
Not only did Juju rush for 71 yards - a team high - on 11 carries, but he also had one of the most important, clutch plays of the whole game, returning a kickoff 63 yards to East Carolina’s 33 yard line midway through the fourth quarter. That drive later concluded with the game-tying field goal.
Additionally, Juju was fantastic on the last drive with some nice runs in order to set up Parker White for the game-winning field goal.
He is a freshman that doesn’t play like one at all, and he’s even making a case to be the top dog next week.
Defensive Game Ball: Kingsley Enagbare
The Gamecocks couldn’t stop the pressure the Pirates were hurling at them, but hey, the Pirates couldn’t contain Enagbare either.
It really felt like every time I blinked, he was already in their backfield.
Enagbare finished the game with two sacks and a quarterback hurry, and although those are pretty impressive stats to finish with, they don’t even tell the whole story.
He was a PROBLEM for the Pirates’ offensive line and was part of the reason why their offense as a whole faltered in the second half.
It also felt like his sacks came at the best times possible, too.
The one positive takeaway from this game was the Gamecock defense, and without Enagbare, Holton Ahlers would have had more time to throw, which could have resulted in more success for the Pirates.
Solid game from this young man.
I’ll also let this highlight do some talking.
Honorable Mentions: Josh Vann, Damani Staley, Parker White
Listen, Josh Vann did have his struggles, but he was still USC’s most competent receiver.
He finished with 116 receiving yards on five receptions. Two things not on the stat sheet were his two should-have-been touchdowns, one being axed because the ball got pushed out inches before the goal line and one being taken back because he didn’t have possession until he went out of bounds.
I personally think the second one should have stood, but Dak finished that drive off anyway, so I won’t complain.
Vann was out there stretching the field and making big plays, and he may have gotten the game ball had one of those touchdowns stood, but I’ll at least give him some slight recognition.
Next up is Damani Staley.
His big moment was really only the few seconds it took to bring that interception back for a touchdown, but he accounted for six of the team’s 20 total points. Staley also brought the Cocks a touchdown when they REALLY needed it.
Enagbare had a larger impact throughout the game, which was more deserving of the ball ball to me, but I won’t ignore Staley’s great performance.
Last, but certainly not least, is Parker White.
Do not ice this man!! He is built for these moments, and he displayed it once again with his game-winning 36-yard field goal. White really picked a great day to go 2/2 on kicks.
White may have had his struggles at times as a Gamecock, but when you think of him, you usually think of the man coming up big in these crucial moments.
With Georgia next up on the schedule, I think it’s only right to finish this article talking about a certain kicker who didn’t happen to hit a certain kick to win a game...
Give me Parker White.