Gamecocks hold off Pirates; Spurrier gets 200th victory

uscfoot-davisNo. 21 South Carolina defeated East Carolina, 33-23, tonight at Williams-Brice Stadium, giving Head Coach Steve Spurrier his 200th win as a coach in the Southeastern Conference. Junior running back Mike Davis led the way with his eighth-career 100-yard rushing game, as he totaled 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

After forcing the Gamecocks to punt on the opening possession of the game, a 53-yard punt from Tyler Hull was down at the Pirates’ 3-yard line. East Carolina strung together an 11-play drive to move into the red zone, but from there, the drive stalled. The Gamecock defense clamped down and forced the Pirates to convert on a 26-yard field goal by Warren Harvey.

On the following drive, redshirt senior quarterback Dylan Thompson was intercepted by Josh Hawkins, giving ECU the ball at the South Carolina 43-yard line. The Pirates were unable to muster much and Harvey connected on a 35-yard field goal to give the visitors a 6-0 lead with 6:35 on the clock.

Trailing 6-0, the Gamecocks mounted a 10-play drive with Thompson going four-of-five and Davis rushing four times for 48 yards. The tailback capped off the drive by bursting through an open whole on the right side of the line and taking it 36 yards into the end zone to give Carolina a 7-6 lead with 1:56 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Pirates responded though as quarterback Shane Carden went five-of-six for 67 yards on the next drive. Chris Hairston finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to give ECU a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter. Eleven plays later, South Carolina cut the deficit to three with a 39-yard field from sophomore Elliott Fry with 9:55 left in the half.

A three-and-out for the Pirates gave the Gamecock offense a spark and Thompson went four-of-four on the drive connecting on a 31-yard pass down the middle to junior wide receiver Shaq Roland and a 19-yard completion to Davis that got the Gamecocks down to the 3-yard line. The tailback then pounded his way into the end zone on the next play for his second touchdown of the half to give South Carolina a 17-13 lead with under five minutes remaining in the half.

ECU’s Breon Allen countered on the next possession with a 42-yard run down to the Gamecock 19-yard line. South Carolina’s defense then forced a pair of incomplete passes and a rush for no gain, before Junior defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr. blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt, the Gamecocks’ first blocked field goal since 2011. With just over a minute left before the end of the half, Fry connected on his second field goal, a 42-yarder to take a 20-13 lead.

Aided by a roughing the passer penalty and a 20-yard completion to Cam Worthy, the Pirates set up Harvey for a 40-yard field goal, his third conversion of the half with four seconds remaining, and the Gamecocks held a 20-16 lead at the break.

East Carolina opened the second half driving into Gamecock territory, but on a third-and-five, junior defensive end Cedrick Cooper put pressure on Carden, forcing the Pirate quarterback into a tough throw which spur Sharrod Golightly intercepted just before stepping across the sideline. It was the senior’s first career interception.

Thompson completed six-straight passes on the ensuing drive before finding wide receiver K.J. Brent open in the left corner of the end zone for the junior’s first-career touchdown reception to push the Gamecocks lead to 27-16 with 8:36 left in the third.

Junior safety T.J. Gurley intercepted Carden on the Pirates next possession allowing the Gamecocks to use up 5:40 off the clock before Fry converted on a 26-yard field goal to put South Carolina up 30-16 just before the end of the third quarter. With the Gamecocks seizing control, Carden engineered an 11-play drive, capping it off with a 17-yard touchdown pass across the middle to Worthy to cut the Pirates deficit to 30-23 early in the fourth.

South Carolina put the game away with an 18-play, 86-yard drive, lasting 10:33, the second-longest drive during the Spurrier era, that culminated in a 20-yard field goal conversion by Fry, tying his career-high with four in a game.

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