The long-awaited home opener at Williams-Brice Stadium had all the makings of a perfect night for the Gamecock faithful on Saturday. The rain stayed away, the crowd was ready and the team opened the game with the fastest Gamecock touchdown since South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference. Halfway through the second quarter, the Gamecocks held a comfortable 17-3 lead. Game over, right?
In the words of the evergreen Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.”
The Owls decided to make it interesting and engineered two scoring drives in the final four and a half minutes of the second quarter to pull within one. Had it not been for a missed extra point, the teams would have entered the locker room deadlocked at 17. While watching the two teams jog in at the break, I’m sure many of the Gamecock faithful feared another close battle with a non-conference opponent.
“I’ve come to accept the fact that right now, it’s going to be a dogfight, but I was happy we made three touchdowns in the third quarter,” said Coach Steve Spurrier. “I always expect a dogfight no matter who we play, whether it’s Wofford, Furman or South Carolina State.”
Those three touchdowns from the Gamecocks’ stable of running backs (two from Brian Maddox and one from Jarvis Giles) helped South Carolina pull away and made for a relaxing 38-16 final score to wrap up the first home date of the 2009 season.
“It would’ve been easy to have a down week in practice. It was good to get this one behind us and get ready for another SEC game Thursday in another national TV game,” said Spurrier. “Give Florida Atlantic credit. They’re a pretty good team. They won two bowl games in a row and had winning seasons.”
Despite the brief moments of tension, the Gamecocks put in a strong overall performance that resulted in another 500+ yard night for the offense. In the last two weeks alone, South Carolina has generated over 1,000 yards of offense. Even with the offensive strides made since the season opener at N.C. State, there’s still room for improvement.
“We’re not there yet. We should be a little bit better than we’re doing – a lot better,” said Spurrier.
Night of Firsts: On the night when Gamecock fans had their first chance of the season to sit in Williams-Brice Stadium, a number of South Carolina players had several firsts of their own:
- Stephon Gilmore picked up his first career interception and his first fumble recovery.
- Jarvis Giles scored his first career touchdown and had his first 100-yard night (he finished with 113 yards).
- Kenny Miles picked up his first career carries, rushing five times for 56 yards before sitting out the rest of the game with a shoulder injury.
- Tori Gurley recorded his first 100-yard night.
- Scott Spurrier snagged his first career reception.
- Reid McCollum took his first career snap and had the first completion of his career
- Tony Straughter recorded his first career start.
Game Ball: Akeem Auguste. “He was all over the place knocking down passes and making tackles. He was one of the defensive players that caught my eye and probably caught yours too.” – Spurrier
Double Century Marks: Gurley’s and Giles’ 100-yard nights mark the first time the Gamecocks have had two players with 100 yards receiving and 100 yards rushing in the same game since November 27, 2007 against Tennessee. Those players were Cory Boyd and Kenny McKinley. It was the first time two freshmen had done it since Sidney Rice and Mike Davis completed the feat in 2005 (against Clemson and in the Independence Bowl).
Look at him go!: Moe Brown’s 50-yard run to open the game was the longest Gamecock rushing play since a Mike Davis run in the season opener against N.C. State in 2008.
Hope the scoreboard operator was ready: Brian Maddox’s touchdown at the 13:39 mark of the first quarter was the fastest Gamecock touchdown since South Carolina joined the conference. It was the fastest score since the Gamecocks hit a field goal against Arkansas on November 3, 2003 at the 13:53 mark of the first quarter.
Update the record books: Eric Norwood moved closer to owning the all-time sack record at South Carolina after tying Andrew Provence tonight with his 26th career sack. Chris Culliver took the kickoff returns record from Robert Brooks with his 78th career return tonight. He only needs 67 yards to become the all-time yardage leader on kickoff returns.
Ready for Thursday: The Gamecocks host No. 5 Mississippi Thursday night (they could climb higher after Southern Cal lost to Washington on Saturday). The Rebels would be the highest ranked opponent to come to Williams-Brice since No. 2 Georgia visited last September.