Mike Davis, Gamecocks hold off ECU, 33-23

I’m sure Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks would have preferred a much, much more comfortable victory, but a win is a win as they held off the upset-minded ECU Pirates, 33-23, at Williams-Brice Stadium this evening to improve to 1-1 on the season.

It didn’t look good to start as many of the same issues that plagued the Gamecocks hurt them again in the 1st quarter. Fortunately, they bent but didn’t break and only found themselves down 6-0 with 6:35 left in the opening frame.

Then we got a look at the good Mike Davis. On the Gamecocks’ next drive, they marched 82 yards down the field in ten plays (six runs, four passes), capped by the junior’s 32-yard run to put the Gamecocks ahead, 7-6. That wouldn’t last long: Shane Carden and the Pirates responded with a strong drive of their own to go back up, 13-7, on a Chris Hairston run that saw him get in by breaking several Carolina tackles. The Gamecocks were able to get back into ECU territory on the next drive but were held to a field goal to draw within 13-10 with 9:55 left.

The cure for that ill? More Mike Davis. He ended a drive in which Dylan Thompson was 4-4 for 61 yards with a three-yard score. 17-13 Carolina with 4:49 left. It turned into 20-13 following an Elliott Fry field goal with a minute left, followed by a Warren Harvey 40-yarder with four ticks left to cut it to 20-16 (helped along by a bad J.T. Surratt roughing penalty).

How would South Carolina’s defense respond out of the locker room? For about the first few plays, not well, as Carden again lopped off yardage with each pass. That all changed, though. Sharrod Golightly came up with a huge pick at the Gamecocks’ 31 to give it to Carolina, and nine plays later, K.J. Brent was sailing into the end zone untouched. 27-16. They got it right back as T.J. Gurley joined the pick party, leading to a Fry 26-yarder to make it 30-16. However, the Pirates weren’t done. Carden would show his resilience with another efficient drive to cut it to 30-23 with 12:03 left in the contest.

That was as close as ECU got as the Gamecocks turned up the intensity on the offensive side in the fourth, eating up the clock with solid doses of running (including eight straight rush plays in a row at one point) to burn the majority of the period and set up a short Fry field goal to set the game’s final margin. The 18-play, 86-yard drive was the second longest in the Spurrier era, as it was clear that the Pirates “D” was too gassed to stack up to the resurgent Gamecocks.

Was it pretty? Absolutely not. The staff will have a mountain of tape to go through before the big showdown against Georgia at home next week. But it’s a win, and Steve Spurrier and his team can rest tonight knowing that they’re 1-1, not 0-2.