PirateIllustrated - South Carolina Holds On For 20-15 Victory Over East Carolina
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South Carolina Holds On For 20-15 Victory Over East Carolina

Philip Nelson and East Carolina come up five points short in a Pirate turnover fest in Columbia.

South Carolina scored 17 of their 20 points in the first seven and a half minutes of game and then held on for a 20-15 win over East Carolina in front of 80,384 in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.

The Pirates got into position to score time after time, but South Carolina feasted on ECU interceptions and fumbles near the goal line that kept what might have been a high scoring affair in check.

Freshman quarterback Brandon McIIwain played big in his first start as a Gamecock going 16 for 28 for 195 yards through the air and a pair of first quarter touchdowns on the ground. That and a 37-yard Elliott Fry field goal gave South Carolina a 17-0 cushion at the eight-minute mark of the first quarter.

Davis Plowman kept ECU(2-1) in the game with three field goals and trimmed the lead to 17-9 on a 45-yarder with 8:42 to play in the contest.

Fry extended the Gamecock lead to 20-9 with 6:24 to go before the Pirates finally found their way into the end zone when Phil Nelson hit running back Devin Anderson out of the backfield with a four-yard touchdown toss to cap a 13-play, 75 yard drive with just under four minutes remaining.

But the Pirates' onside kick wasn't successful and South Carolina(2-1/1-1 SEC) was able to run out the clock after moving the first down chains on a fourth-and-one late in the contest.

"We had too many missed opportunities. When you turn the ball over inside the five, the three, the one the way we did tonight, it negates the way we would have played offensively," said first year ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery.

"I thought our defense played really, really hard. I'm ready to go back to work, but the biggest thing is we've got to take care of the football. Our penalty discipline has got to be better. I take my hat off to a physical South Carolina team. I felt like after the first quarter we began to take back control of the game defensively."

ECU wide receiver Zay Jones was credited for 22 catches for 190 yards to lead the Pirates which is a new ECU record and just one shy of the NCAA all-time mark. Jones took little consolation since the team came up short on Saturday.

"It's disappointing. Credit Coach Muschamp and his team. They played a great football game. It doesn't matter, it's one L," Jones said, "Our offense didn't get the job done. Our defense played a great game but our offense didn't get the job done today. That's on me, I'm a senior leader."

It turned into a five-point nail biter down the stretch and one that kept the South Carolina coach's attention.

"We've got to get some things ironed out in the run games obviously with the read and the things we are doing," said South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, "We had some looks that we wanted and the kids did a great job. It was a gutty performance and our defense played outstanding."

The Pirates rolled up 519 yards of total offense to just 312 for South Carolina but the Gamecocks were stingy in the red zone and four ECU turnovers proved to be the difference in the game.

Nelson went 45 of 58 through the air, finding eight different receivers in his first 400 yard passing day of the season after coming up just shy of the 400 yard mark in the season opener against Western Carolina. But a pair of timely interceptions in the end zone and at the one-yard line both proved to be the game changers in the end.

James Summers led the ECU ground attack with 71 yards on eleven carries while David Williams ran for 67 yards on just seven carries and Bryan Edwards had five catches 68 yards for the Gamecocks.

T.J. Holloman had nine tackles while Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith had eight each for South Carolina. Jordan Williams led the Pirate defense with six stops.