Pirates never had a chance

East Carolina knew they faced a difficult task in ninth-ranked South Carolina Saturday afternoon. Their worst fear would soon be recognized as Dylan Thompson and the Gamecock offense picked apart the ECU defense and the USC defense shut down the Pirate offense in a 48-10 Carolina win.

East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill knew what his team was up against Saturday when the Pirates traveled to Columbia to take on ninth-ranked South Carolina. It would take a crisp offense hitting on all cylinders and an opportunistic defense that hoped to take advantage of back-up quarterback Dylan Thompson by taking away Marcus Lattimore to knock of the Gamecocks.

It didn't happen.

The Pirates were able to limit Lattimore to just 40 yards rushing and a touchdown, but failed in every since of the word in the other phases in a 48-10 loss to Carolina.

"The better team won this week," Mcneill said. "We played a top-10 team, and they came ready to play. I voted them eighth in the polls last week, and it was an obvious mismatch for us."

Rio Johnson would make his first road start in one of the toughest venues in the SEC against one of the nation's top defenses. Johnson completed 18-of-29 passes, a fairly decent average, for 193 yards. The key stat for Johnson was his three interceptions. Johnson and Shane Carden combined to throw four interceptions and the Pirates turned the ball over five times, something that they could not afford to do.

"We didn't help ourselves at all with turnovers and long plays given up on defense," McNeill said. "Against a great team like South Carolina, they don't need our help. They have the talent on both sides of the ball to accomplish things. Offensively, defensively and on special teams they are a very talented team, and against a team like that you cannot make mistakes on either side of the ball. It was definitely a game where we faced a top-10 team and got outplayed."

After three punts with a missed field goal thrown in on the first four drives, ECU caught the turnover-bug. They would commit all five turnovers in their next six possessions, with the lone possession not resulting in a turnover the final drive of the first half when they ran one play.

After quickly falling behind 21-0, ECU would finally mount a drive in the second half, advancing all the way to the Gamecock 37. With Jadeveon Clowney bearing down on Johnson, he threw one up toward the ECU sideline that Brison Williams picked off at the seven.

Following a Carolina punt the Pirates drove down the field again. Johnson connected with Jabril Solomon for 20 yards down to the Carolina 14, but Reginald Bowens stripped the ball out of Solomon's hands and then fell on it at the 12.

Following another Gamecock punt, Johnson would be picked off by D.J. Swearinger on the third play of the drive, but again Carolina could not make the Pirates pay for the turnover as it settled for a 21-0 halftime lead.

Carden came on to start the second half, and on the second play he was picked off for the first time as Shaq Wilson made a diving catch. Carolina would finally turn that interception into points as Thompson hit D.L. Moore for a 29-yard scoring strike.

On the second play of the very next drive, Johnson would connect with Andrew Bodenheimer, but he was stripped by Jimmy Legree and Legree recovered. The officials would go to replay and overturn the call, but two plays later Legree read the Johnson pass, stepped in front of the defender, picked it off and ran 34 yards for the score as Carolina took a commanding 35-0 lead.

The Gamecocks would rest most of their starters for the remainder of the game, but McNeill saw some good things out of Carden after he replaced Johnson.

"The play of our quarterbacks today was inconsistent," McNeill said. "I've said since the beginning that Shane Carden had the ability to start, and we did not hesitate to put Shane in. I'm not sure if it's a battle at this point because we'll have to go back and evaluate the film. We have no problem putting Shane in the game."

Carden came in and completed 12-of-18 passes for 140 yards and a late touchdown pass to Justin Hardy, and was picked off once. He also carried the ball three times for seven yards.

"I knew when I got my shot, I knew I had to make the best of it," Carden said. "I had to come in and do my best. We don't ever want to play like that. We turned the ball over way too much, including myself. We just have to learn from it, and be ready for our conference game next week."

While the Pirate offense had trouble getting anything going, the defense struggled to try and stop Thompson and the Carolina offense. Thompson threw for 330 yards and three scores on 21-of-37 passing.

"Dylan is a really good quarterback, and he played very well today.," Leonard Paulk, brother of former Gamecock Rodney Paulk, said. "You have to give him a lot of credit for the job he did. He put the ball where it needed to be."

Eleven different receivers caught passes as Carolina racked up 528 yards and five passing touchdowns after not throwing a touchdown pass last week against Vanderbilt. Ace Sanders and Seth Strickland threw the other two touchdown passes.

"They executed their plays really well, and defensively, we didn't," Paulk said. "You have to give them credit for what they did, and we just have to learn from it and be ready for next week."

Despite the humbling beating the Pirates took Saturday afternoon, they still realize that their goal of winning a Conference USA Championship is still in play. The Pirates open up conference play next week.

"It is very hard to lose a game like this, but this doesn't change our goal of winning our conference," Carden said. "We just have to be ready to go next week."


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