South Carolina’s season has reached the halfway point, and with the Gamecocks off this weekend, we take a look back at five plays that have shaped their season.
Coach Will Muschamp’s team stands at 2-4 (1-4 SEC). Here’s how they got here:
1. Elliott Fry’s field goal
The first highlight is where the season started. South Carolina opened at Vanderbilt and opened badly. The first half was miserable football.
Senior quarterback Perry Orth got things moving enough in the second half. He pushed USC into field-goal range late in the fourth quarter to set the scene for Fry.
The senior kicker trotted out and hit a career-long 55-yard field goal to send South Carolina to a 13-10 win in Muschamp’s first game as the Gamecocks coach.
2. Jamarcus King’s muffed punt
South Carolina’s opportunity for a signature win – and a solid upset – came in its first home SEC game against then ninth-ranked Texas A&M.
Fry pulled the Gamecocks within eight points with a 43-yard field goal with 4:23 to play. The defense stopped A&M’s potent offense and forced a punt. But punt returner Jamarcus King fumbled and Texas A&M recovered. The Aggies kicked a field goal and put the game away with 1:46 to play, winning 24-13.
South Carolina put itself in position to potentially win late, especially with the offense having a few positive plays down the stretch. But the Gamecocks could not finish the job after King’s fumble. A bowl bid would feel much more likely if the Gamecocks sat 3-3 at the halfway point.
3. A.J. Turner’s opening kickoff
South Carolina spent the first two weeks of the season without any real sign of explosion. Turner put that to rest on the first play of the season at Williams-Brice Stadium.
On the opening kickoff against East Carolina, Turner almost had himself a touchdown. The 80-yard return did just fine as it put USC at the ECU 9-yard line thanks to a penalty for a horse-collar tackle.
Brandon McIlwain ran in one play later to give South Carolina its first first-half points of the season. The Gamecocks would win 20-15 thanks to a strong start fueled by Turner’s return.
4. Deebo Samuel pulls a hamstring
The Gamecocks got the look they wanted on their first offensive play against Mississippi State. So Kurt Roper dialed up the play and went long to Deebo Samuel. The ball was there, but Samuel was not.
The sophomore wide receiver came up short and was grabbing his hamstring. Instead of a potential 7-0 lead – Samuel was thinking touchdown and it looked the part – the Gamecocks didn’t score until the second half, at which point they were well behind. Samuel was in and out the rest of the night in Starkville.
But it was what happened next that mattered. Samuel missed the next three weeks because of the hamstring injury, leaving the Gamecocks without their best deep threat and an important playmaker.
5. Jamarcus King and Chris Lammons make red-zone interceptions
East Carolina’s Philip Nelson had no issue moving the ball through the air against South Carolina — until he got in the red zone, anyway.
South Carolina allowed 400 passing yards against the Pirates, a stat line that often indicates a loss. But the Gamecocks made big plays in the red zone.
King made the first one, picking off a poor throw from Nelson with a diving grab in the end zone. Lammons was next, coming back on a corner fade to make a diving interception of his own. For a secondary that has been highly criticized in recent years, it was a huge win to come up big in key moments.
Safety Antoine Wilder also forced a fumble inside the 5-yard line to help preserve the win.