Gamecocks Open 2017 with a 35-28 W in Belk College Kickoff Game
Sept. 2, 2017
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Behind a resurgent defensive effort in the second half and three touchdowns from junior Deebo Samuel, South Carolina (1-0) claimed a 35-28 victory over NC State (0-1) in the Belk College Kickoff at Bank of America Stadium.
The Gamecock defense came out on fire in the second half, shutting down an NC State drive after five plays with a pair of quarterback hurries and a sack by Keir Thomas. Chris Lammons made it a short field, returning the punt 26 yards to near midfield. Three plays later, quarterback Jake Bentley, after escaping pressure, hit Deebo Samuel for a 39-yard score.
Defense set up the next Gamecock touchdown, as the Wolfpack fumbled the football on Dante Sawyer’s sack. Bryson Allen-Williams recovered it at the NC State 13. Two plays later, Rico Dowdle sprinted seven yards to hand the Gamecocks a 35-21 lead.
NC State took back momentum after the Gamecocks were stuffed deep in their own territory and the Wolfpack took over at the SC 46 after the punt. The Wolfpack methodically went 46 yards in nine plays, with Ryan Finley hitting Jaylen Samuels from one yard out to close within a score. An interception by Wolfpack Johnathan Alston gave the ball back to NC State. But the Gamecock defense stood strong, keeping NC State from gaining a second first down. South Carolina punted the ball back to NC State, but the Wolfpack turned over the ball on downs after D.J. Smith tackled Samuels just short of the first-down marker with 4:34 remaining.
The Wolfpack got the ball back with three minutes to go and drove inside the Gamecock 10, but the Gamecocks batted passes away from NC State receivers, the final one by D.J. Smith, to close out the victory.
The teams battled to a draw in the second half, scoring three touchdowns each in the contest. Samuel got the Gamecocks off to a blazing start, returning the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score, his second career kickoff return for a touchdown. The Wolfpack answered with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by Finley’s six-yard keeper.
South Carolina retook the lead on its next possession, as Bentley hit Dowdle out of the backfield for a 34-yard TD strike. Finley and the Wolfpack knotted the contest again, as Finley went 4-for-5 for 56 yards in a nine-play drive. Nyheim Hines capped the drive with a two-yard scoring run.
After SC went three-and-out, Sawyer forced a fumble, and Rashad Fenton recovered it to set up the next Garnet and Black points. Bentley kept the nascent drive going with a 13-yard scamper before hitting Bryan Edwards for a 26-yard strike to put the Gamecocks to first-and-goal. Bentley capped the drive with a six-yard pass caught by Samuel to put South Carolina ahead again, 21-14.
The Wolfpack missed a 29-yard field goal, giving the ball back to the Gamecocks with four minutes to go, but the NC State defense scuttled it around midfield, getting the ball back with 1:47 to play in the half. The Wolfpack marched to a tying score, with Finley hitting Jakobi Meyers with a four-yard scoring pass, tying the game at 21 at the half.
The Gamecock defense started the second half strong and finished it by holding the Wolfpack to less than half its yards from the first half (343-161) and kept NC State from converting on third down more often in the second half (5-for-8 in first, 4-for-12 in the second).
Samuel scored three of the Gamecocks’ five touchdowns and led the team with five receptions for 83 yards.
Bentley went 17-for-29 for 215 yards in the air and three scores while only tossing one interception.
Edwards also caught five balls from Bentley, gaining 55 yards.
T.J. Brunson made a game-best 16 stops and was a part of 1.5 of the teams 11 tackles for loss.
Four different Gamecocks posted a sack, while D.J. Wonnum posted three tackles for loss to go along with his quarterback sack and eight tackles, which tied for second on the team with Chris Lammons and Skai Moore.
D.J. Smith posted three of the Gamecocks’ four pass break-ups.
Sawyer had two of SC’s five quarterback hurries and added a sack as part of his seven tackles.
The Gamecocks scored 14 points off of Wolfpack turnovers, scoring both times after recovering fumbles.
South Carolina is now 3-0 at Bank of America Stadium and has won both of its season openers under head coach Will Muschamp.
South Carolina plays its first true road game of 2017 at Missouri. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in the western Columbia, with ESPN2 providing the television coverage.