GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP)Parker White kicked a 36-yard field goal as time expired as South Carolina rallied from 14 down to beat East Carolina 20-17 on Saturday, earning its first road win under first-year coach Shane Beamer.
Damani Staley had a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown just before halftime to give the Gamecocks a needed spark after trailing 14-0 in a mistake-filled opening half. Former graduate assistant Zeb Noland also had a game-tying touchdown pass to Dakereon Joyner in the back of the end zone late in the third quarter.
In the end, the Gamecocks (2-0) did enough to give themselves a shot, then rode the legs of Juju McDowell – who gained 45 yards on six carries on South Carolina’s final 10-play drive – to set up White’s winner that had the Gamecocks spilling onto the field from the sideline to celebrate.
South Carolina won despite committing three turnovers in its first five drives, including a goal-line fumble that went through the end zone for a turnover in the first half.
Tyler Snead hit on a 75-yard trick-play touchdown pass to Jsi Hatfield on the game’s first offensive snap for the Pirates (0-2), while Holton Ahlers also ran for a short touchdown for the 14-0 lead. But East Carolina struggled to generate consistent offense, with Ahlers completing 11 of 24 passes for just 77 yards and two interceptions.
The Pirates were hosting a Southeastern Conference team for the first time since South Carolina’s last visit here in 1997.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks had won their debut under Beamer in a shutout against Eastern Illinois, though the coach was quick to point out the importance of improving smaller details such as cutting out penalties. This time the concerns were more glaring, with Noland struggling to consistently hit targets the Gamecocks didn’t generate much on the ground to help him (106 yards on 39 carries for a 2.7-yard average) and the turnovers piling up. And yet, Noland and the Gamecocks hung in, then pounced when their chance came to win.
ECU: The Pirates had every chance to win this one, starting by hitting that trick-play touchdown on the game’s first offensive snap. They also had the advantage of South Carolina’s turnover-filled start. But ECU’s offense couldn’t do anything with all those extra chances, leading just 14-0 in a game where it could’ve been up more. That proved costly when South Carolina got its momentum-turning pick-six shortly before halftime to make it a one-possession game. And after its opening-play TD, ECU’s offense managed 193 yards the rest of the day.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks play their first SEC game under Beamer with a tough one, visiting No. 2 Georgia next Saturday.
ECU: The Pirates play their first road game by visiting Marshall next Saturday.
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