COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina had a big offensive showing Saturday in its 44-31 win against Western Carolina, which got the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility.
We take a closer look at the way the Gamecocks played in the win:
South Carolina blitzed by basically all its season highs on Saturday. The Gamecocks scored 44 points, trumping the previous high of 34. They amassed 588 total yards, easily their highest and the best showing since Nov. 1, 2014 against Tennessee. Their 422 rushing yards were the most since they had 440 against The Citadel to open the 1985 season.
Rico Dowdle was a monster, racking up the sixth-most rushing yards in a game in school history with 226. Deebo Samuel had 2 touchdowns to match Dowdle’s pair.
It was good. The grade is good, only held back by not finishing drives without touchdowns in the red zone.
Grade: A –
To put this simply: South Carolina’s first-half defense bad, South Carolina’s second-half defense good.
The Gamecocks came out flat Saturday against Western Carolina, which hit for a handful of long run plays early. WCU quarterback Tyrie Adams was brutal to the USC defense on third downs, making a lot of key plays with his legs to lead to scoring drives. So, South Carolina allowed 270 yards in the first half, 194 of which came on the ground. It was not pretty.
The second half saw adjustments and intensity. USC held WCU to 97 second-half yards, just 5 of which came in the fourth quarter.
South Carolina had a kickoff return touchdown for the first time this season … but it also allowed a kickoff return touchdown.
Samuel housed a kickoff for a 100-yard score, but his was matched later on a 93-yard runback by WCU’s Detrez Newsome. It wasn’t the lone long kick return on the day for the Catamounts, who had 275 yards total. It comes back to speed once again for the Gamecocks, which Will Muschamp commented on after the game.
Elliott Fry was 3 for 3 on his senior day, adding to his school record for career scoring. Sean Kelly had one punt, a 52-yarder.
Big fan here of making sure Perry Orth got in the game Saturday. Big. Fan. The senior deserved that moment. It’s just unfortunate it came at the very end with a half-empty Williams-Brice Stadium.
But that was awesome. The Gamecocks made the necessary halftime adjustments, which they could not get done on the sideline to stop the run against WCU. The offensive play calling was good, albeit predictable – that’s OK in a game like this where USC was going to have no trouble moving the ball.
Most encouraging coaching move? The aggressive nature to drive 98 yards late in the first half. South Carolina went to the air on four straight plays, starting at their 2-yard line, to get the drive going.
The big blemish on the game was the run defense in the first half. Beyond that, South Carolina executed its offense at a high level. Jake Bentley was good. Dowdle was excellent.
South Carolina accomplished its task: It got bowl eligible. That was the single most important facet of Saturday’s game and the Gamecocks got it done.