USC Gamecocks Football

South Carolina vs. Western Carolina: 25 things you might have missed

Bowl game is 'going to be huge' for Gamecocks

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp on the importance of a bowl game.
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South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp on the importance of a bowl game.

1. South Carolina’s 44-31 win against FCS Western Carolina got the Gamecocks bowl eligible in their first season under Will Muschamp.

2. That means USC alum Darius Rucker will play a concert on campus, the product of an Twitter back and forth in August between the musician and school president Harris Pastides.

3. Freshman running back Rico Dowdle ran for 226 yards, the sixth-best single game total in school history and most since 2011 when Marcus Lattimore ran for 246.

4. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel showed off his skills as a multi-purpose threat. In addition to 56 receiving yards, he ran for a pair of touchdowns and 27 yards, and returned a kickoff 100 yards for the Gamecocks’ first such touchdown of the season.

5. Defensive end Darius English recorded his ninth sack of the season. It’s the most for any Gamecock since 2013, and a half-sack behind Kelcy Quarles’ total for that season.

6. Prior to the game, South Carolina recognized 21 seniors, including Rivers Bedenbaugh, Matrick Belton, Larenz Bryant, Jordan Diggs, Chaz Elder, Darius English, Elliott Fry, Kelsey Griffin, T.J. Holloman, Shannon James, Sean Kelly, Abu Lamin, Marquavius Lewis, Chris Moody, Perry Orth, Darius Paulk, Benji Russell, Rod Talley, Jonathan Walton, Drew Williams and Mason Zandi.

7. The Gamecocks’ 35 points at the half represented the team’s most at the break since Nov. 23, 2013, against Coastal Carolina when they scored 42. It also marks the most points the team has scored in a single game this season.

8. With a 15-yard reception on the first play of the second quarter, sophomore Hayden Hurst became the program’s all-time leader in pass receptions in a single season for a tight end with 39. The previous record-holder, Doug Hamrick, hauled in 38 passes back in 1970.

9. South Carolina’s 422 yards rushing was the most since collecting 352 against Coastal Carolina in 2013.

10. USC captains were offensive lineman Mason Zandi, kicker Elliott Fry, buck Darius English and defensive end Marquavius Lewis.

11. Hurst completed his second pass in as many tries this season, hitting quarterback Jake Bentley on a 12-yard throwback double pass. Hurst joked his only goal was to keep Bentley from getting lit up.

12. Bentley’s 154 passing yards were a season low, but he ran for 34 yards, with three of five carries producing first downs.

13. Western Carolina’s most prolific receiver, Spearman Robinson, went to high school with Lewis in Greenwood. Robinson had 105 yards, including a 57-yarder.

14. The Gamecocks converted all six of their red zone chances into points.

15. South Carolina wore black jerseys with white pants and helmets.

16. Before the game, freshman wide receiver Korey Banks changed his number from seven to 12.

17. South Carolina played 10 true freshmen: wide receiver Bryan Edwards, Dowdle, Bentley, Banks, defensive tackle Keir Thomas, linebacker T.J. Brunson, wide receiver Chavis Dawkins, tight end Kiel Pollard, defensive end D.J. Wonnum, defensive tackle Kobe Smith.

18. Former starter Perry Orth came in late and took the final few snaps. After the game, Bentley thanked him on Instagram for all he did this season.

19. Outside of Orth, 15 other seniors played their last games as Gamecocks. That included running back Darius Paulk, who got 24 yards when he took the last three carries of the game.

20. Safety D.J. Smith’s first quarter fumble recovery was South Carolina’s 24th takeaway this season, which ranks sixth nationally.

21. Both of Western Carolina’s first two scores came on tackle-over plays, when the offense shifted an extra lineman to one side and ran behind it. Each time, the Gamecocks struggled to fit the gaps.

22. On South Carolina’s first six rushing plays, the ball carrier got at least six yards before first contact.

23. After a key goal line stop, South Carolina’s staff let Bentley throw it twice from the Gamecocks’ 2-yard line. It paid off as he connected on the second throw and led the team on a 98-yard scoring drive.

24. Attendance was 76,650.

25. The Gamecocks defense struggled giving up big plays (seven longer than 15 yards), and the special teams gave up three kick returns of 35 yards or longer, including a 93-yard TD.