Gamecocks down Knights; lose Shaw, Wilds to injury

Steve Spurrier’s creative offensive genius is well known in the state of Florida, and he put it on display again in the second half of South Carolina’s 28-25 victory over the University of Central Florida.

Spurrier, who authored the “Fun-N-Gun” attack when he was coaching the University of Florida, switched to the “Fun-N-Run” against UCF, a move that created enough room for his Gamecocks to squeeze out their third win of the season despite losing quarterback Connor Shaw and tailback Brandon Wilds to injuries.

South Carolina rallied from a 10-0 halftime deficit by rushing for 180 yards and four touchdowns in the final two quarters. Sophomore Mike Davis had 156 yards and three touchdowns in the second half and finished the game with 173 yards on 26 carries.

“We were down 10-0 and getting clobbered,” Spurrier said. “We had to do something, so I told the coaches we need to line up in the I-formation left and I-formation right and play the way we used to play 20 years ago. Just run straight at ’em and see if that would work. Fortunately, it did.”

The Gamecocks rallied despite losing Shaw to a sprained right shoulder on the first possession of the game. He is expected to miss two or three weeks, Spurrier said.

His replacement, Dylan Thompson, completed 15 of 32 passes for 263 yards and scored on a 2-yard run. With Shaw out, Thompson will get the start next week when the Gamecocks host Kentucky.

“It’s a little easier to get in the rhythm when you start the game, but I felt pretty good about how it went today,” Thompson said. “Thank God for Mike Davis today. He just kept answering the call. Give him the ball and watch him go 30 or 40 yards, then do it again and again.”

It wasn’t that easy in the first half when Davis had only 17 yards on five carries and UCF controlled the game. The Knights scored on their first possession, marching 75 yards in 10 plays to go up 7-0 on a 1-yard run by Storm Johnson.

UCF quarterback Blake Bortles accounted for 70 of those yards, 51 through the air and 19 on an option run that set up Johnson’s scoring run. Bortles went on the complete 25 of 36 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but he had two interceptions and a fumble that were costly.

“I didn’t play good enough for us to win,” Bortles said. “Our defense played great, but we didn’t capitalize on the turnovers and field possession they gave us. We just had too many missed assignments and mental errors.”

South Carolina changed the tempo immediately in the second half. The Gamecocks stayed on the ground for all four plays of a 75-yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter. Davis gained 70 yards in three rushes on that drive, including a 53-yard scoring run.

He picked up 150 yards on 21 carries in the second half as the Gamecocks ran for 195 yards on 32 attempts.

Thompson put the Gamecocks ahead 14-10 when he scrambled into the end zone on a third-and-goal play from the 2-yard line. That finished off a 97-yard drive, the longest this season for South Carolina, and put UCF behind for the first time in four games this season.

South Carolina’s Jimmy Legree intercepted a double-pass attempt by UCF wideout Jeff Godfrey, a former quarterback, on the next possession and the Gamecocks were back in business at the Knights’ 34-yard line.

Thompson converted a fourth-and-1 on a quarterback sneak and two plays later Davis scored from 13 yards out to make it 21-10.

Davis scored on another 13-yard run to push the advantage to 28-10 and a good portion of the 47,605, second largest crowd in Brighthouse Stadium history, headed for the exits.

UCF Coach George O’Leary wasn’t pleased with the second-half meltdown.

“If you can’t stop the run, which I thought we did a very poor job of, you’re going to have a tough time staying in games,” O’Leary said. “I thought we played with great effort, but not smart effort all the time. We have people who need to lock up and make tackles and we didn’t do it.”

Bortles threw a 73-yard scoring pass to Rannell Hall, and a 2-point conversion made it 28-18 with 9:48 left.

However, with UCF on South Carolina’s 27 on its next possession, Bortles threw an interception. The junior quarterback did come back with a 7-yard scoring pass to Hall to cap a three-play, 95-yard drive with just under two minutes left, but South Carolina recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock to seal the victory.

“Somebody on top is really looking after the Gamecocks right now,” Spurrier said. “We won a game that should not have got as close as it did, but it did. We’ve just got to get smarter and quit being careless when we get a lead.”

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