No. 12 Gamecocks Defeat Pirates in Season Opener, 56-37
Garcia runs for two touchdowns and throws for another
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- No.
12 South Carolina used a huge third-quarter rally to overcome four
first-half turnovers to pull away for a 56-37 victory over East
Carolina in its season opener on Saturday night at Bank of America
The Gamecocks (1-0) avoided the upset by
outscoring ECU 28-7 in the third stanza after trailing by 10 points at
the half. South Carolina has now won 13 straight season openers, while
head coach Steve Spurrier improves to 42-0 against schools outside of
BCS automatic qualifying conferences.
The Carolina defense
turned the game around for the Gamecocks after a sloppy first half,
forcing three turnovers early in the second half that led to 21 points
in less than four minutes to take control of the game.
Allen led the way with an impressive start to his senior campaign at
the Spur position as he recorded a career-high 16 tackles, forced two
fumbles and had two fumble recoveries, including one returned 25 yards
for a touchdown. Junior defensive back Stephon Gilmore tied his
career-high with 10 stops, while defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had a
stellar debut as a Gamecock with seven tackles and a pass breakup.
quarterback Stephen Garcia, who did not start for the first time in 28
games, came off the bench to give the Gamecock offense a boost after it
produced just 59 yards in its first four series. He completed 7-of-15
passes for 110 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 56 yards and two
scores to lead the Gamecocks to 351 yards of total offense.
running back Marcus Lattimore picked up where he left off last season
with 112 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 23 carries. Junior
Alshon Jeffery hauled in five passes for 92 yards, moving him past Zola
Davis (1995-98) for third all-time in receiving yards at Carolina.
The Gamecocks had a rough start to the night as their four first-half turnovers led to 17 ECU points.
Pirates (0-1) defensive tackle Terry Williams forced the second
gamecock fumble of the night at the South Carolina 43, ECU needed just
five plays to open the scoring. Dominique Davis connected with Justin
Hardy on a crossing pattern for a 25-yard touchdown strike to give the
Pirates the lead with 3:13 left in the first quarter.
Pirates pushed their lead to 14-0 early in the second stanza, as Davis
capped a seven-play, 52-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to
Lance Lewis at the 14:11 mark. Davis, who completed 37-of-56 pass
attempts, finished the contest with 260 yards and four touchdowns,
while Lewis had 13 receptions for 108 yards and two scores.
forced another South Carolina fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the
Gamecock 32, which led to a 24-yard field goal by Mike Barbour that
gave the Pirates a 17-0 lead with 9:45 left in the half.
gave the Gamecocks the spark they were looking for in his first series
of the night. He completed a short pass to Lattimore on his second play
from scrimmage that turned into a 20-yard gain down to the ECU 39. Two
plays later, Garcia kept the ball on the ground and raced 32 yards on a
quarterback draw for a touchdown. Jay Wooten's extra point trimmed
ECU's lead to 17-7 with 7:42 remaining.
forced its first of five turnovers on the next play, as Ace Sanders
punched the ball loose from Reggie Bullock on the ensuing kickoff, and
Allen recovered at the ECU 41. A 21-yard pass from Garcia to Jeffery
set the Gamecocks up deep in Pirate territory, and Lattimore punched it
into the end zone from 4 yards out to pull South Carolina within three
ECU answered after South Carolina's fourth fumble
of the half at the Gamecock 29, as Davis hooked up with Joe Womak for
an 8-yard touchdown with three seconds left to give the Pirates a 24-14
lead heading into the locker room.
But the Gamecocks
turned the momentum early in the second half and never looked back.
Allen forced his first fumble on ECU's first possession of the half,
and Shaq Wilson recovered it at the Pirates 31. Garcia found Jeffery
for a 25-yard gain down to the ECU 9, and two plays later the veteran
signal caller completed a three-yard touchdown pass to Sanders to help
the Gamecocks pull to within 24-21.
After another Pirate
fumble on the next possession, Garcia put South Carolina in front for
good with a 10-yard touchdown run with 10:40 left in the third quarter.
Allen then forced his second fumble of the night at the ECU
25 on the ensuing possession, recovered it and raced 25 yards for a
touchdown, giving South Carolina a 35-24 lead with Wooten's extra
Sanders put an exclamation point on South
Carolina's victory at the 9:46 mark of the fourth quarter as he weaved
his way down the field for a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown to
give the Gamecocks a 56-31 cushion. Sanders' punt return was the
Gamecocks' first for a touchdown since Nov. 15, 2003 against Florida.
Gamecocks open Southeastern Conference play next Saturday as they begin
defense of their Eastern Division title at Georgia. Kickoff is set for
4:30 p.m. in Athens, Ga. The contest is scheduled to be televised on