With game two in the win column, how well did South Carolina perform vs. East Carolina
Sept. 12, 2021 / HF
Here’s a look at Gamecock positives and the negatives form the Gamecocks’ 20-17 win over East Carolina Saturday. So let's dive in.
Josh Vann: The Gamecocks lost Shi Smith to the NFL last year; Vann has stepped in and filled the spot to become the No. 1 receiver and has shinned in the role. The fumble at the goal line did leave a sour taste on his day; Vann stats showed by leading the Gamecocks with 91 yards on five catches and could easily had two touchdowns to his credit if not for the fumble. A second touchdown catch was overturned on replay review late in the game.
Damani Staley: the son of former Gamecock RB Duce Staley really had the pivotal play by intercepted a pass in the second quarter and raced 63 yards for a touchdown. Gamecock offense struggled though out the game, showing no signs of life and where on life support for the most part of the game. Staley did help injecting life back on the team with his defensive play. The big interception was much-needed, while aiding the offence in the first have.
Clayton White’s defense: Gamecocks defense managed there first shutout in 12 years, (which was back in 2008 vs. NC St.) to open the 2021 campaign. White’s defense carried over the momentum from game one and bottled ECU QB Holton Ahlers. The Gamecocks where caught with there paints down though resulting a 75-yard touchdown pass on the very first snap of the game. The Gamecocks defense did regrouped by intercepting Ahlers twice, sacking him five times and holding him to just 77 passing yards.
RB Juju McDowell: Gamecock fans will hear Juju name a lot it seems as he has busting out on to the flied with his blazing speed and juking moves. Yes, RB Kevin Harris made his season debut Saturday, it was the freshman McDowell who emerged as the hot hand in the backfield. McDowell set up a game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter with a 62-yard kickoff return. And on the final drive, the Gamecocks leaned on McDowell to chew out the clock. He finished with a team-leading 71 yards on 11 carries
Zeb Noland: Noland, the 24-year-old former grad assistant had subpar performance after leading the Gamecocks to victory over Eastern Illinois in game one to start the season. Not all Zeb though, he had help with his poor field performance. He didn’t receive much help from his offensive line, as they too had there struggles. Noland completed roughly half his passes and overthrew his intended receiver at times during the game. To his credit though, his lone interception came on a broken route by tight end Jaheim Bell. While Noland was sharper in the second half which did include a strong tight throw to Dakareon Joyner in the end zone he was shaky enough to raise more questions about the quarterback position moving forward.
The offensive line: Gamecocks had there hands full with ECU’s blitz-heavy scheme, the Gamecock offensive line struggled all afternoon to protect quarterback Zeb Noland and being able to open running lanes, especially during the first half, when the team stats showed resulting with minus-12 rushing yards. The protection improved somewhat in the second half. Noland and the Gamecocks offense tied the score late in the third quarter, but Zeb was still under heavy pressure for much of the contest.
Penalties &Turnovers: Many of the troubles the Gamecocks' experienced Saturday were self-inflicted. Noland’s interception came on a broken route by Bell in the first Gamecock offensive drive. Joyner fumbled in the second quarter after making a 13-yard reception. Vann was poised to score the Gamecocks first touchdown but fumbled the ball just before the goal line. The Gamecocks also committed eight penalties for a loss of 55 yards.
How you finish counts: In the end though, the Gamecocks are (2-0) for now. They did enough to give themselves a shot, Gamecocks' rode the legs of 5-10 177lbs speedster Juju McDowell, who gained 45 yards on six carries on South Carolina’s final 10-play drive to set up White’s winner that had the Gamecocks spilling onto the field from the sideline to celebrate.
Next up: No 2 Georgia on the road, stay tuned.