Coastal coach praises Gamecocks: ‘We played a very, very good team’
South Carolina put the offensive weapons that have Gamecocks followers so excited on full display, and Coastal Carolina was unable to keep up Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecocks employed a hurry-up, no-huddle offense for much of the game and drove the field seemingly at will, scoring touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions in a 49-15 win in front of 75,126 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The Gamecocks outgained CCU 557-238 in new offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon’s debut, and the debut of Marvin Sanders as the defensive coordinator at Coastal, a building program that kicked off its second season at the FBS level of college football.
“We know they’re a good team. I recognize that so and I wanted to go into the game and find out what we can do,” Coastal coach Joe Moglia said. “I think we did a much better job with regards to mistakes. I’m not disappointed in anything. . . . It’s our first game and I would expect us to learn a lot between now and our second game.”
USC quarterback Jake Bentley and other South Carolina offensive starters exited with a 42-6 lead prior to USC’s eighth possession early in the fourth quarter.
Bentley completed 22 of 29 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns, and running back Rico Dowdle rushed 15 times for 105 yards and a score. Dowdle, Bryan Edwards of Conway and Deebo Samuel were among five players with receiving TDs for USC.
“They’ve got fast guys. We know they’re very good and they have athletes, and they got out in space sometimes,” said CCU sophomore linebacker Silas Kelly, who had a team-high eight tackles, CCU’s only sack and two of its four pass break-ups.
Backup freshman quarterback Bryce Carpenter threw a touchdown pass to former high school teammate Jaivon Heiligh in the fourth quarter, and freshman kicker Massimo Biscardi kicked three field goals to account for Coastal’s scoring.
Senior QB Kilton Anderson was an efficient 11 of 13 for 91 yards before exiting after taking a big hit on a pass attempt in the fourth quarter, and said after the game he was uninjured. Coastal did gain 20 first downs. “On offense we moved the ball but we weren’t always able to make the plays that we needed to make,” Moglia said.
South Carolina scored touchdowns on four of its five possessions in the first half, including the first three to take a 28-3 lead into halftime.
“I’m really proud of the way we played today,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “We were very efficient offensively. Obviously you are going to put yourself in a good position to win the football game when you stay as balanced as we were with Jake throwing the ball well and our run game moving the ball well.”
The Gamecocks drove 80 yards in eight plays on the game’s opening possession, picking up large chunks of yardage with little resistance before Dowdle scored on a 5-yard run less than 3 minutes into the game.
Missed tackles, which plagued CCU last year, contributed to USC’s second touchdown. On a third-and-6 in USC territory, a missed tackle on an quick out pass allowed a first down, and tackles were missed by linebacker James Heft and cornerback Preston Carey on Kiel Pollard’s 8-yard touchdown catch that was a dump-off by Bentley while under pressure.
Coastal responded by driving 67 yards in 11 plays to reach the USC 8-yard line, but lost 13 yards on the next three plays and settled for a 39-yard field goal by Biscardi.
The Gamecocks’ third scoring drive included the conversion of a fourth-and-1 at the CCU 29 on an inside run, and Bentley hit Edwards for a 24-yard touchdown on a deep slant for a 21-3 lead. It was the Conway High graduate’s 10th TD of his USC career.
Coastal finally stopped the USC offense on its fourth possession on a Kelly sack on third down that forced a punt with just 1:48 left in the half, but the Gamecocks tacked on another touchdown 14 seconds before halftime.
USC brazenly used a timeout before a CCU third-and-8 from the Coastal 42 with 1:14 remaining and used a second timeout following a 1-yard loss to begin its final possession on its 24 with 59 seconds left in the half. It needed just 45 seconds to drive 76 yards in five plays and score on a 22-yard reception by Dowdle and take a 28-3 lead.
The 28 points were the most by the Gamecocks in a season opener since 1998 against Ball State. The Gamecocks amassed 292 yards of offense on 40 plays in the first half. The Chants were held to 69 yards of offense in the opening two quarters.
“I think any time when your line is able to control the line of scrimmage, you’re going to have an advantage throughout the game,” Moglia said. “They have a very good offensive line and they did control the line of scrimmage, especially when our defense was on the field.”
Coastal’s scoring drive in the first half was aided by a 15-yard personal foul on USC defensive end D.J. Wonnum, who hit Anderson after the whistle on a pass rush after Coastal had called a timeout. Wonnum appeared to not hear the whistle.
Biscardi kicked a 45-yard field goal after Coastal drove 47 yards in nine plays to open the second half.
But South Carolina answered with another easy scoring drive of 64 yards in seven plays that was capped by a Ty’Son Williams 9-yard TD run, and that was followed by an 11-play, 77-yard drive that culminated in an 8-yard, one-handed TD catch by Samuel on a fade to the side of the end zone. Samuel had a game-high seven receptions for 56 yards after missing the final 10 games of 2017 with a leg injury.
Carpenter’s TD pass and a 27-yard field goal by Biscardi gave Coastal nine points in a fourth quarter that also included a 27-yard Michael Scarnecchia TD pass to Randrecous Davis for USC.
“This will be an incredible learning opportunity for us for the rest of the season,” Moglia said. “We have to be able to take advantage of it.”