Four interceptions (Rio Johnson-3 Shane Carden-1) and two fumbles (one lost) make it almost impossible to win a football game, especially one against a top ten opponent. Just like last year, the Pirates struggled to hang on to the football. What was even more discouraging was that the majority of the turnovers occurred in South Carolina territory, meaning that ECU was giving up scoring opportunities and abilities to capitalize.
Considering that only half of the turnovers resulted in any points for South Carolina, the Pirates
The quarterback situation is far from decided
Against App State, Rio Johnson seemed to get better as the game progressed. Against the Gamecocks, it was just the opposite. He seemed to be forcing his throws and trying to score on every throw. When you are down, sometimes you just have to take what the defense gives you. Instead he was giving the defense takeaways.
At the half, McNeil decided to go with backup Shane Carden under center. Carden lasted two plays before throwing an interception. Johnson played the next drive, throwing a pick-six to South Carolina's Jimmy Legree, resulting in his benching for the second time in one game.
For the rest of the game, Carden played solidly (excluding the pick: 12-17, 140 yards and a TD) albeit against a majority of South Carolina's back up players. After the game, McNeil made it clear that there is no set starter for next week's game against Southern Miss. This uncertainty cannot be good for the team.
ECU did a great job of limiting South Carolina's superstars
One bright spot on the day was ECU's ability to limit the Gamecocks most notable players. Heisman-hopeful running back Marcus Lattimore had just 40 yards on 13 carries (with a six yard touchdown on his first run). The Pirates played very physically along the defensive line, even without starting nose tackle Michael Brooks.
South Carolina's defensive playmakers were also kept quiet. Defensive ends Jadaveon Clowney and Devin Taylor were both held without a sack in the game (Clowney got to the quarterback once but was called for a facemask). The offensive linemen almost never get any recognition, but they deserve it today. They held their own against some of the nation's best.
Star of the game: Trent Tignor?
Punter Trent Tignor helped ECU mightily in the field position battle. In a game where the Pirates could not move the ball on offense, Tignor was there to help. He recorded five punts on the day for an average of 46.4 yards per punt (with a long of 53). Even more impressive, he was there to force USC's returner Ace Sanders out of bounds on what looked like a USC return touchdown.
One last note
The Pirates ran the ball just three times in the first half, for a total of six yards. ECU finished the game with 24 rushes for 70 yards, most coming with the game already out of reach. Besides making the offense virtually one-sided, it made the game an incredibly long affair.
Incompletions and clock stoppage made ECU's quick, hurry-up offense a non-factor.
With a week to go until the Pirates take on Southern Miss, there is a lot that needs to be worked on in all phases of the game. South Carolina is a quality program, and they were favored to win by three scores. It turns out they won by more than that. But fear not, I haven't given up on this team quite yet. With ten games to go, anything can happen.