Brian Maddox had a short touchdown run while Stephen Garcia completed a key third-down pass in the final minutes to help South Carolina beat North Carolina State 7-3 on Thursday night.
Garcia threw for 148 yards on a frustrating night for both offenses, but the sophomore came through with a 33-yard completion to Moe Brown that allowed the Gamecocks to run out the final 2½ minutes of the game. It gave South Carolina a second straight season-opening victory against the Wolfpack, who were shutout 34-0 in last year's meeting and failed to reach the end zone in the rematch.
Maddox scored from a yard out in the first quarter and finished with 66 yards rushing, which ended up being about the most reliable form of offense for typically pass-happy coach Steve Spurrier. Garcia completed 13 of 22 passes with an interception that gave the Wolfpack a needed burst of momentum and led to N.C. State's only scoring drive.
It was just one of numerous mistakes for the Gamecocks, the most costly being an offensive pass interference penalty on Tori Gurley that negated his 38-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. There was also a low snap that killed a second-quarter field-goal attempt and a missed 27-yard kick from Spencer Lanning in the third.
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Then again, the Gamecocks had plenty of wiggle room considering the how defense bottled up Russell Wilson and the Wolfpack's offense all night.
N.C. State managed just 133 yards, with Wilson — who last year became the first freshman named first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback — completing just 12 of 23 passes for 74 yards while facing steady pressure from the speedy South Carolina pass rush. He got no help from the Wolfpack's ground game, either, with Toney Baker's first-quarter fumble setting up Maddox's early TD run.
Still, the Wolfpack had a chance for the go-ahead score, pushing to South Carolina's 32 with about 4 minutes left. Wilson evaded the rush and lofted the ball toward Jay Smith in the end zone despite the reserve receiver being in double coverage, but the ball slipped over both defenders and bounced off Smith's hands near the back of the end zone.
That drive ended with Wilson's fourth-down incompletion, and Garcia soon found Brown behind two Wolfpack defenders to seal the win.
Wilson set an ACC record with 272 consecutive passes without an interception. Florida State's Drew Weatherford held the record with 270 set in 2007.