After suffering a loss on the road, 27-14, to Mississippi State in Week 2, South Carolina entered its home opener against East Carolina looking for several players to seize the spotlight. The ability to respond when facing pressure is what allowed the Gamecocks to take down ECU, 20-15, and South Carolina’s players and coaches alike noted this fact after the game.
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp specifically highlighted the effort put forth by Gamecocks redshirt junior running back David Williams, a player he recently criticizes when talking to the media.
“David Williams played extremely well,” Muschamp said. “Very proud of David. [He] came in and mad a huge catch on 3rd down, acrobatic catch, ball thrown behind him, Brandon did a nice job of keeping the play alive.
“David and I had a good talk this week about the things he needed to improve on and just his consistency in performance every day,” Muschamp continued. “Give David some credit, it takes a mature young man to respond, and he responded the right way.”
Williams picked up 67 yards on only seven carries against East Carolina, and this performance showed the resolve of the speedy halfback. After the game, Williams described his mindset and spoke about what fueled his explosive day at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“I feel like I had a chip on my shoulder and I wasn’t living up to coach’s expectations– that’s why I didn’t get in the game last week– and I just used it as motivation,” Williams said.
When it comes to which facet of the South Carolina team was most tested on Saturday, the defense is a clear cut choice due to the shear volume of offense it was forced to defend. East Carolina is known for its penchant for the passing game, and the Pirates proceeded to rip off 91 plays in its failed comeback attempt.
“Coach Muschamp told us when ECU comes in, being an uptempo, fast-paced team, it’s a bend-but-don’t-break defense,” junior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams said. “And when they get down to the red zone it’s just a lot more pride that you’ve got to have. I feel like our defense stepped up today, and we really made a statement that we aren’t going to be a slight defense in the red zone especially.”
One trap that many teams fall into when leading at halftime is coming out in the second half with lackluster energy and failing to make adjustments at the mid-point in the game. South Carolina, up by a 17-6 margin at the half, continued to keep its focus geared on pressuring the visiting Pirates.
“We weren’t complacent,” Allen-Williams said. “We looked at it going into halftime that it’s no lead because it’s the SEC and you know it’s college football in general. Regardless of how much you’re up by halftime, the only result that matters is the final score. We had to make sure that we kept going out and being physical and playing our style of football.”
The Gamecocks likely aimed to begin the second half with the same amount of success it did to open up the game when running back A.J. Turner took the kickoff 80 yards into East Carolina territory.
“I think A.J. Turner set the tone first off with the first play off the game, and then I think we just capitalized off that momentum,” Williams said. “We just kept it going and kept it going. The defense also did a heck of a job playing up to, like, 90 snaps and saving us.”
This Saturday, South Carolina faces Kentucky with designs on the Gamecocks’ first winning streak of the Muschamp era.