ECU was a pretty trendy upset pick on Saturday afternoon but the South Carolina Gamecocks stood firmly and came away with a 20-15 victory in their 2016 home opener.
Despite allowing 400 yards through the air and over 100 yards on the ground, the Gamecocks were able to scrap out a victory thanks to the legs of their quarterback Brandon McIlwain. McIlwain scored two touchdowns as part of a nine-carry, 34-yard day on the ground while he threw for 195 yards on 28 passing attempts.
Elliott Fry was also an important factor in the win as he booted two field goals and went 2-for-2 on his extra point tries.
Here’s what we learned:
1. For at least a day, South Carolina put their trust in McIlwain: I the two previous games for South Carolina, the coaching staff let McIlwain and Perry Orth hold the charge under center. On Saturday afternoon, it was the youngster who held serve from start to finish. McIlwain showed promise with his arm and legs in the game and going forward, we can likely expect that Will Muschamp will keep his trust invoked in the freshman signal caller.
2. Turnovers played a major factor: ECU committed four turnovers on Saturday afternoon, losing two fumbles and being tagged with two interceptions by their quarterback Philip Nelson. When you look at the stats from this game, you’d be bewildered as to why the Pirates couldn’t have come away with a victory. Much of it had lots to do with turnovers as their longest drives of the game all resulted in turnovers sans their final drive, the only one they were able to score a touchdown on all day.
3. The defense still needs sharpening: After giving up nearly 400 yards last week, the Gamecocks gave up well over 500 yards this week. That’s simply not going to cut it so Muschamp and Co. will have to do their damnedest to make progress on that side of the ball going forward. They will play lowly Kentucky next week in Lexington so perhaps they will benefit from that, but with higher caliber offenses on the horizon, the Gamecocks will have to bear down soon.