In he came, flinging passes downfield with abandon, and nearly led South Carolina to a season-saving upset. At the very least, he gave Will Muschamp something to think about next week.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The State
The Gamecocks displayed the classic bend-but-don’t-break mantra against a team that was averaging 43 points and nearly 546 yards per game. USC only broke when it had to re-take the field after lost opportunities.
While A.J. Turner out-rushed him, that was because of a 75-yard scamper on the game’s first play. Dowdle, the freshman, had nine carries for 47 yards and was bullish in finishing runs through tackles.
USC’s best receiver and former minor-league pitcher had five catches for 90 yards and had the best pass of the season when he fired a fastball to A.J. Turner off a reverse.
McIlwain struggled to get anything going and still seems to have a problem throwing the ball downfield. He presents a threat with his legs but it’s not being exploited.
The heart of the team the past two years, USC’s third unit was a disaster despite a nifty fake punt-and-throw from Sean Kelly. Elliott Fry missed two field goals and the Gamecocks fumbled two punts, the last from Mark King that sealed the loss.
Even with its top receivers out, USC wouldn’t challenge A&M’s single coverage, which was galling after getting two prime opportunities in the third quarter. Muschamp said Orth and McIlwain have the same package of plays – so why did Orth throw and McIlwain didn’t?
While it did pretty well the first half, the line still allowed 10 tackles for loss and three sacks. That was with A&M star pass-rusher Myles Garrett still in College Station.
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState