COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina got the job done Saturday, despite it being a less-than-pretty defensive performance. The Gamecocks are going bowling, destined for postseason football in Will Muschamp’s first season.
They earned a place in December football on Saturday, scoring a season-high – and allowing one – in their 44-31 win on senior day at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecocks rushed for a season-high 422 yards, easily topping the 194 they had against Massachusetts. Rico Dowdle rushed for 226 yards, the sixth-best single-game performance in South Carolina history. Deebo Samuel had three touchdowns, two rushing and a 100-yard kickoff return, as he and Dowdle handle the bulk of the offensive play.
Defensively, South Carolina had a rough day. The Gamecocks gave up more than 200 yards rushing to the Catamounts, who averaged 144.5 rushing yards per game entering Saturday. WCU also racked up 275 yards on kickoff returns, including a 93-yard touchdown from Detrez Newsome.
The Gamecocks scored twice quickly on Rico Dowdle touchdown runs, the first a 43-yard burst and the second a 1-yard score. But the Catamounts had no problem running the ball on South Carolina. Newsome split the USC defense for a 39-yard touchdown and Connell Young took a fourth-and-1 carry all the way to the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.
The teams combined for a whopping 35 points and 232 rushing yards in the first 11 minutes, as South Carolina led 21-14 with 4:08 to play in the first quarter.
South Carolina pulled away later in the first half behind a pair of Samuel 2-yard touchdown runs, taking a 35-17 lead into the half.
Elliott Fry booted three second-half field goals, a pair of 32-yarders and a 24-yarder.
Newsome brought the Catamounts within 10, 41-31, as he broke through the South Carolina kickoff coverage team for a 93-yard touchdown.
Moment that mattered
South Carolina led 28-17 when Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams hit wide receiver Spearman Robinson for a 57-yard gain past Jamarcus King.
The Catamounts were sitting pretty to pull within a score at the USC 1-yard line, but South Carolina stuffed three straight run plays before Adams’ fourth-down pass was incomplete. USC drove 98 yards for a touchdown, extending their lead to 18.
Can South Carolina lock up a bowl?
The Gamecocks did what they absolutely had to Saturday, securing a bowl berth and taking that potential pressure off the table for Saturday’s rivalry clash at Clemson. That game has enough riding on it without the postseason implications for USC, so better to reach the 6-win mark against Western Carolina and have it secured on senior day at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Can South Carolina beat Clemson?
This question has been there since the start of the season for many and understandably.
The Gamecocks have a lot to iron out still – see: run defense. But South Carolina’s offense has shown it can move the ball and score some points. Can the offensive line hold up against Clemson’s front? That will be one of the big questions heading into Saturday.
The odds certainly are better than they were at the start of the season.
Samuel’s three touchdowns brought his season total to six, but he still has yet to record a receiving touchdown. He has five rushing scores and a kickoff return for a score.
What it means
Well, South Carolina is going to be playing December football. That’s important for perception, but more important for the extra practices. After all, Will Muschamp consistently talks about football being a developmental game. His young team now will have lots of changes to get better in December.
It also means the Gamecocks head into Clemson with a 4-1 record. Now, can they solve their road issues in a week?