That’s really all I have to say about this game. A win is a win and you’d take an ugly win over any kind of loss any day, but woof. This one was rough.
Central Florida scored on the game’s opening drive, taking a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game thanks to a short run by Storm Johnson. The Knights pretty much did whatever they wanted on offense, as No. 12 South Carolina missed tackles and looked generally lost defensively. That was bad. Then things got worse.
Connor Shaw, who was basically the only offense the Cocks had on their first possession, got hurt when he scrambled and came down awkwardly. He left the field favoring his shoulder, went for ice and x-rays, and was diagnosed as having a sprained right shoulder. Enter Dylan Thompson, who, along with his receivers, looked…unimpressive.
USC messed around and couldn’t tackle and looked bad and seemed to forget that running the ball was an option. UCF, meanwhile, looked good (or at least not bad) and tacked on a field goal in the second quarter, putting them up 10-0. Victor Hampton snared an interception late in the quarter, but the Gamecocks did nothing with it. The second quarter also saw Brison Williams get flagged for targeting (which he didn’t even do), then get the call reviewed and his ejection reversed. There was still a 15-yard penalty, though, because that rule makes no actual sense.
All in all, Carolina was lucky to be down just 10 points at the half, considering they’d done virtually everything badly in the first two quarters.
While in the locker room, I assume the HBC used some choice words and told his team to quit pooping around and so on and so forth and start doing a little bit of this, that, and the other. He also changed his visor and his shirt, and I changed my shirt, too. The second half went better (at least in most ways) for USC, so I think it’s pretty clear that the clothing changes made the difference. You’re all welcome.
Anyway, back to the recap.
The Cocks got the ball to start the second half and – LIGHTBULB – they ran it! Someone remembered that Mike Davis is on the team and is kind of really awesome at running, so he started getting carries. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.
So Davis broke off a 53-yard run and found the end zone a minute into the third quarter and South Carolina finally got on the board. The Gamecocks started looking relatively good after that, and near the end of the quarter, USC executed a 97-yard drive that culminated when Thompson took the ball to the house himself to give the Cocks their first lead of the day. As positive as the scoring was, the negative part of the third quarter came when Brandon Wilds was injured on a play. He had to leave the game and was diagnosed with an elbow sprain.
Davis opened up the fourth quarter with another touchdown run, by which point I assume most of us were yelling something along the lines of, “WHERE WAS THIS IN THE FIRST HALF?!” He scored again three and a half minutes later, giving Carolina what should have been a comfortable 28-10 lead.
Alas, the Knights weren’t going down without a fight.
They scored twice more, including a touchdown that came with less than two minutes remaining in the game, as the Gamecocks defense seemed to forget that the game was still going on and they should try not to lose. Outside of their three interceptions (Hampton’s in the first half, Jimmy Legree and TJ Holloman each had one in the second), the defense looked the opposite of good today. The secondary was at times atrocious, people were missing tackles like they were Manti Te’o against Alabama, and Central Florida had gaping holes to run through.
Fortunately, the Knights went with the onside kick late in the game but South Carolina recovered it and that was that.
The Cocks tallied 23 first downs compared to UCF’s 20 and outgained them in total yardage 490-427 (the Knights were held to just 69 yards on the ground). Turnovers plagued both teams, with each squad coughing it up four times, and they split the time of possession almost equally.
Thompson finished the day 15-of-32 for 261 yards and a pick, while Central Florida QB Blake Bortles went 25-of-36 for 358 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Davis led USC in rushing with 26 carries for 167 yards (almost all of which came in the second half) and three TDs (tying a school record) and Bruce Ellington led them in receiving with four catches for 88 yards. Damiere Byrd also had a nice day, with five receptions for 74 yards. Johnson had 64 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and Rannell Hall had 142 yards and two TDs on eight catches to lead the Knights.
Per Spurrier, Shaw is expected to be out for a week or two, while Wilds will need two or three weeks. Best wishes for speedy recoveries for both guys.
South Carolina improves to 3-1 overall, while UCF drops to 3-1 overall. The Gamecocks will be home next weekend as they return to SEC play and host Kentucky. The Knights will be on the road against Memphis.