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Halfway Runaway: USC sinks S.C. State

Stephen Garcia cocks to throw to South Carolina fullback Patrick DiMarco for a first down.
Stephen Garcia cocks to throw to South Carolina fullback Patrick DiMarco for a first down.

South Carolina players would say later that there were no real worries as they trudged into their locker room at halftime. There was, however, an unwanted sense of deja vu.

Another opponent the Gamecocks should be blowing out. Another halftime score that was way too close.

"The coaches were trying to fire us up. You could see, everyone in the stadium could see that we were flat," quarterback Stephen Garcia said.

But on a day that saw more bad news beyond the halftime score, the Gamecocks at least gave themselves and their fans one quarter to be ecstatic. And that was enough to survive.

USC ran and passed its way past S.C. State 38-14 on Saturday, again on the strength of a great third quarter.

It was eerily similar to two weeks ago, when USC beat Florida Atlantic - which is still winless - 38-16.

In both that game and Saturday against S.C. State, USC outscored its opponent 21-0 after holding a slim lead at the half. It was 17-16 two weeks ago and 10-7 on Saturday.

"The game was like Florida Atlantic, wasn't it?" coach Steve Spurrier said. "Unbelievable."

The way they got there may not have been ideal. But South Carolina (4-1) still enters the meat of its SEC schedule on a three-game win streak and has a chance to be ranked today when the new polls are released.

But they will go there without cornerback Akeem Auguste, who was suspended indefinitely before the game for what Spurrier called team and university policy.

He seems unlikely to play the next two weeks against Alabama and Kentucky, and assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson said Auguste could be out much longer, possibly all season.

As much of a loss as that is, the Gamecocks at least moved on with their perfect nonconference record intact. Their FCS opponent did keep it interesting, however.

S.C. State (3-1) had the momentum at halftime, having scored in the final minute of the second quarter.

Everything turned around at halftime, when the players and coaches harkened back to the FAU game.

"At halftime, we said what we said before the game: Keep playing," Spurrier said.

USC had 159 yards of total offense in the third quarter. It totaled 218 in the other three quarters.

During the lackluster first half, USC's offense wasn't bad, it just didn't make the big plays. That also changed in the third quarter.

Garcia and Moe Brown were a potent passing combination, hooking up on two touchdown passes, for 40 and 9 yards.

The pair also hooked up on pass plays for 23 and 13 yards during the quarter. In the first half, Garcia's longest completion was for 12 yards.

"Stephen Garcia made the best throws he's made since he's been here," Spurrier said. "And Moe had his best half as a Gamecock, after having sort of a sorry first half."

Tailback Kenny Miles set the big-play tone on the first play of the second half when he ran for 15 yards. He finished the drive with a 22-yard touchdown run up the middle.

The first 18 minutes were scoreless before Spencer Lanning made a 30-yard field goal for USC.

Later in the quarter, Garcia scored on a 1-yard plunge, set up by a 33-yard Jarvis Giles run to the S.C. State 6.

The Gamecocks wanted more late in the half, calling consecutive timeouts when S.C. State had the ball in its own territory. But S.C. State quarterback Malcolm Long hit several long passes, perhaps exposing Auguste's absence, and Long capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown.

The S.C. State cheering section, which overlooked that end zone, exploded. It was short-lived, with S.C. State's next touchdown coming with :04 left in the game.

S.C. State at least made progress, scoring a touchdown for the first time in five games against an FBS team.

"Anything you can find to give yourself a little better sense of purpose at the end, then you do it," coach Buddy Pough said of the late score. "The score was 38-14. I don't have to worry about (the media) saying we hadn't scored against a D-1 team. At least we have a score."

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