South Carolina's Win over Central Florida Was Better Than It Looked
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South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was right to be concerned.
UCF is better than most people realize, and South Carolina's 28-25 victory over the Knights Saturday at Bright House Networks Stadium was better than it looked.
In addition to playing on the road against a 3-0 UCF team that had a road victory over Penn State to its credit, the Gamecocks had other elements of adversity to overcome.
Shaq Roland, one of the Gamecocks' top receivers, did not make the trip after being suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Then starting quarterback Connor Shaw got knocked out of the game with a sprained shoulder with 6:34 to play in the first quarter.
So here was South Carolina trailing 10-0 at halftime against a team that had proclaimed this to be the biggest game in the history of the program and came out playing like it.
“@SEC_Logo: Let's just pretend that fist half never happened South Carolina.”— Jesse Barnes (@WhiteJungleboi) September 28, 2013
@SEC_Logo what first half?— Jaxon Tolar (@JaxsonTolar) September 28, 2013
The Gamecocks did not fold, made some significant second-half adjustments and reeled off 28 unanswered points.
Indirectly, Shaw's injury may have played to the benefit of the Gamecocks in one sense.
Seemingly intent on winning the game with his feet, Shaw was injured on his fourth and final carry, and what that did was get the ball out of Shaw's hands and into those of tailback Mike Davis.
South Carolina came out in the second half and lined up in the I-formation, putting backup quarterback Dylan Thompson under center instead of the shotgun.
The Gamecocks fed the ball to Davis and let him go to work behind an offensive line that outweighed the Knights' defensive front by an average of 42 pounds per man.
After only five carries in the first half, Davis finished the game with 167 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
Even with a 28-10 lead, the Gamecocks had to withstand a furious rally from the Knights who were determined to win a game that would have kept them unbeaten and vaulted them into the national rankings.
Time ran out for the Knights when Bruce Ellington recovered the Knights' onside kick and returned it 31 yards to the UCF with 1:47 to play.
With UCF out of timeouts, the Gamecocks were on their way back to Columbia, S.C. after three consecutive kneel downs.
South Carolina's much-maligned defense struggled again, allowing 427 yards in total offense. However, the Gamecocks did force three turnovers - two on interceptions off UCF's highly-touted quarterback Blake Bartles.
Bartles, who came into the game completing 71 percent of his passes, threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was held without a sack, but he had an impact on the game with a relentless pass rush against near-constant double-teaming.
Once again, however, it was the offense that saved the day for the 3-1 Gamecocs.
And even after finishing with 225 yards rushing as a team, the Gamecocks were hardly one-dimensional.
Thompson completed 15 of 32 passes for 261 yards, and that's a good sign. It appears Shaw will be out at least two to three weeks, so it's going to be Thompson running the show for now.
At least he's taking the helm of a team that's 3-1. It could easily be 2-2 after Saturday's scare from the Knights.
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