South Carolina staged a soft opening of its 2018 football season Saturday, mostly a family-and-friends affair that gave the Gamecocks a chance to burn off some offseason energy and work out a few last-minute details before the big show next week.
South Carolina beat in-state opponent Coastal Carolina 49-15 in Williams-Brice Stadium. The opponent was badly overmatched. It was the noon game on the SEC Network; 75,126 fans showed up and many of them didn’t stay for the second half. The venue will be the same next week, but nothing else will.
South Carolina (1-0) will host No. 3 Georgia, the defending conference champion, in the 3:30 CBS game, the conference’s marquee time slot, and it’s doubtful there will be a ticket to be had by the time the game kicks off.
“We played a very good team,” Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia said Saturday.
And next week the Gamecocks will, so how much of what happened against the Chanticleers can be replicated against the Bulldogs?
“I think a lot can carry over,” said junior running back Rico Dowdle, who had a game-high 105 rushing yards. “No matter who we are matching up with, we want to come out and dominate each and every week. I think everything can carry over.”
That would be a good thing for South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ point total was their highest with Will Muschamp as coach, and their 557 yards were the most since gaining 588 against Western Carolina in 2016. The offensive dominance started at the line of scrimmage, Muschamp and Moglia said.
“We were getting a nice surge up front, which we should have,” Muschamp said. “The competition picks up next week. We need to continue to improve.”
After an offseason spent working on an up-tempo offense, the Gamecocks offered only a peek of pace against Coastal Carolina. Junior quarterback Jake Bentley, who had a career-high four touchdown passes, said his team was “somewhat conservative with the tempo” against Coastal.
“There were a few plays here and there,” he said after completing 22-of-29 passes for 250 yards. “I think you could see with those few plays what it did for us.”
The best sign for the Gamecocks on Saturday was not on the stat sheet but on the headsets, where Bentley and first-year offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon have found a comfortable and productive working relationship.
“A lot of times out there we were on the same page,” Bentley said. “I was thinking, ‘Hopefully, he’ll call this play,’ and he called it. That’s what you want as a quarterback. He called a lot of good plays that put us in good positions, and a lot of guys made good plays.”
Next week, they’ll get a chance to prove they can make them against better competition.
“Every game we play we want to play the best we can play,” Bentley said. “Each team we play, we approach it as a nameless and faceless opponent. A lot of good things are going to carry over. It was kind of nice to get this game under our belt and be ready to go next week.”