COLUMBIA – After a sub-par showing against Vanderbilt last week, the Gamecocks proved why they are the No. 9 ranked team in the nation with a dominant performance in their home opener against ECU. Gamecocks back-up quarterback Dylan Thompson, who got the starting nod because of starter Connor Shaw’s shoulder injury, was impressive, going 21-37 passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
“The better team won today,” said ECU head coach Ruffin McNeil, who went on to say that they were outmatched.
The Pirates found themselves playing catch up for the vast majority of the game and were unable to get anything going offensively. In the first half, the Pirates really got away from running the football as they only did so three times. In addition, they committed five turnovers on six possessions during a stretch late in the first half and early in the third quarter that put the game out of reach for ECU. Those five turnovers match the total ECU committed in last year’s meeting in which the Gamecocks came from behind to win in Charlotte 56-37.
Despite Saturday’s blowout loss, the Pirates have a lot of positive things they can hang their hat on. The defense that many had questions about going in, especially with the absence of senior nose guard Michael Brooks, held Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore to only 40 yards rushing. On the other side of the ball, the Pirates’ offensive line did a surprisingly good job against one of the nation’s best front fours, not allowing a single sack.
The biggest question for the Pirates going into next week’s game at Southern Miss will be who will start at quarterback for this team? Both quarterbacks did good things on Saturday but there definitely isn’t one clear cut favorite to win the job. Rio Johnson was 18-29 passing for 193 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns while Shane Carden was 12-18 passing for 140 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
As previously mentioned, ECU will travel to Hattiesburg next weekend to open conference play against their rivals at Southern Miss. South Carolina will remain at home to face another Conference-USA opponent in UAB next weekend.
-In the first quarter, Daniel Drake recorded the Pirates first sack of the 2012 season.
-South Carolina now has won their 13th straight non-conference game.
-ECU punter Trent Tignor averaged 46.4 yards per punt on five punts Saturday.
-Justin Hardy had eight catches for 111 yards.
-The Pirates have only taken three penalties in their first two games this season.