The game started well for USC Saturday afternoon against NC State at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, but most importantly for the Gamecocks, it ended well. Deebo Samuel took the opening kickoff back 97 yards and the Gamecocks were able to maintain the upper hand the rest of the way for their third straight win over the Wolfpack and their third straight win at BOA Stadium.
Will Muschamp postgame press conference:
NC State answered USC’s opening strike but never could take the lead. The game also was tied at 14 and at 21. That’s win the Gamecocks scored twice in just under three minutes for what appeared to be a comfortable 35-21 lead. But poor field position hampered USC the rest of the way resulting in four punts and a pass interception for the last five possessions.
But what appears to be a much improved defense, which spent 99 plays on the field and yielded 504 yards, had just enough gas in the tank to deny State’s last gasp hope for victory. A fourth down pass in the end zone was tipped away by DJ Smith and the Gamecocks had a most important win to start year two of the Will Muschamp era.
LB Skai Moore on returning after missing last season:
SAF DJ Smith on his performance in the secondary:
How can one say a defense looked improved after allowing 504 yards? You have to consider NC State’s offense is going to run up yards and points on a lot of people. Quarterback Ryan Finley, who passed for 415 yards, has excellent receivers in Jaylen Samuels (15 catches, 85 yards, 1 TD) and in one time USC commitment Kelvin Harmon (10, 114). Yet, after being bullied in the first half, the Gamecock defense dominated State in the third quarter allowing just 46 yards while building that two touchdown lead.
And at the end of the game, when a fumble recovery call was reversed and Finley was moving his team down the field, the Gamecock defense did not collapse. They fought off State four times from the eight yard line getting a sack and three incompletions.
Sophomore linebacker TJ Brunson led the defense with 16 tackles and the Gamecocks rolled up 4 sacks, 5 quarterback hurries, 2 fumble recoveries and 11 tackles for loss.
The offensive numbers overall won’t dazzle anyone and the Gamecocks are going to win many games being out gained 2-1. They knew going in running on State would be difficult and that proved to be the case with only 31 rushing yards. But Jake Bentley was solid passing for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns, and his line gave him plenty of time yielding only two sacks, both coming on blitzes where the Gamecocks did not have enough back to defend.
QB Jake Bentley, WR Deebo Samuel take questions from the media:
OT Malik Young on facing NC State’s defensive front:
Samuel showed why he’s one of the best players in the SEC and Bryan Edwards also had a strong game with 5 catches. However, they were not able to get the ball much to Hayden Hurst who had just one catch and that needs to change moving forward.
One other boost for the Gamecocks came from punter Joseph Charlton. Handling the punting duties for the first time, he averaged 46.7 yards per punt with a best of 64 yards.
There were no injures reported from the locker room and the Gamecocks play their SEC opener next week at Missouri.
Here’s my Periscope recap from Bank of America Stadium:
SportsTalk Live at Bank of America Stadium https://t.co/lK3kbCwtic
— SportsTalk (@sportstalksc) September 3, 2017