East Carolina’s first road game of the season will be in a SEC stadium where wins are not easy to come by. On September 17th at 4:00 p.m. the Pirates will take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, SC.
The Gamecocks have had control of the series in recent years. They come into this season’s match up with three straight wins over the Pirates (none of which have been in Dowdy-Ficklen). The last time the two teams faced off was in 2014 in a game which USC won 33-23 giving them their 13th win in the series compared to ECU’s five.
Although history hasn’t been on our side, this game appears to be up for grabs in 2016. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the USC football team this season. This will be the first time in 11 years that the Gamecocks will not have college football legend Steve Spurrier as their head coach to start the season. Last year, Spurrier retired midseason after a rough start for the Gamecocks. They would finish the season 3-9.
They did bounce back with a good hire in the off-season, however. The Gamecocks hired one of the best defensive minds in all of college football in Will Muschamp to take over as head coach. Muschamp spent the previous four seasons as the head coach at The University of Florida where he went 28-21.
He will have his hands full trying to turn around a struggling South Carolina defense from last year. They will be trying to make all of the pieces fit and will be without key defensive player Skai Moore who will miss the 2016 season due to injury. I think that Muschamp will have this defense respectable by their third game of the season, but the Pirates do have the opportunity to take advantage of the Gamecocks adjusting to a new defensive scheme.
Along with the defense, Muschamp will be looking to improve offensively as well. Although their leading rusher David Williams will be returning, the USC offense still has a lot to figure out. It appears that true freshman Brandon Mcllwain will be the starting QB for the gamecocks to start the season. Mcllwain is a dual threat QB who has dynamic speed and impressed coaches during spring ball, but obviously has yet to have any game experience on the college level.
I’m sure ECU will come in as an underdog on September 17th but from where we stand right now I see this game going either way. In recent years the Pirates have been talented enough to hang in there against the Gamecocks but we just couldn’t seem to match up with them across the board.
This year, both teams are under new head coaches and will be trying to make all of the pieces fit. Also, both teams will be coming off of big games the previous week. USC takes on Mississippi State on the road and ECU will be coming off of our rivalry game against NC State.
I think the game will come down to if the Pirates can come out strong and not let the bright lights of an SEC stadium phase them. This will be USC’s first home game of the season and Williams-Brice Stadium will be rocking. If the Pirates can keep that out of the picture and just play ball I think this will be a great football game and one that the Pirates definitely have the opportunity to win. I would suggest any Pirate fan who can make the trip to Columbia for the game to do so and experience one of the best environments in college football.