Blake Mitchell's 18 of 23 for 330 yards performance looks impressive on paper, but most of it came in the first half, in the first quarter.
And take away Syvelle Newton's 20 yard TD scamper and quarterback Antonio Heffner led the team with a paltry 1.8 yards per carry. Worse yet, the quarterback draws reminded everyone of a Lou Holtz offensive scheme, especially once the Gamecocks had a seemingly commanding lead.
Central Florida extended their losing streak to 16.
None of it matters. It was the opener for both teams and both teams are better, and worse, in ways that were not clearly evidenced Thursday night in front of the ESPN national TV audience.
Mitchell looked sharp early, completing seven passes in a row that included a 49 yard touchdown strike to Noah Whiteside and a 12 yard strike to tight end Andy Boyd with 7:17 remaining on the clock in the first quarter that gave the Gamecocks an early 14-0 advantage.
UCF finally got on the scoreboard with 3:15 remaining in the period when Matt Prater nailed a 37 yard field goal that would have been golden from twice the distance it appeared, cutting the lead to 14-3 in favor of the Cocks.
By the time Mitchell began his second completions streak late in the first quarter, Gamecocks fans were wondering if the rumors about Carolina questionable rushing game were true. Central Florida had dominated the line of scrimmage and neither Mike Davis nor Bobby Wallace had been given much of a slot in which to run.
Mitchell missed a wide open Travis Lee streaking the post route to end his consecutive completions run at seven, but he quickly started another mini streak by hitting Kris Clark for an 11 yard gain followed by a 16 yard hook-up with Noah Whiteside. A 22 yard acrobatic snare by true freshman Carlos Thomas took the Gamecocks to the UCF 16, where Mitchell would be sacked on his next drop-back attempt. An incomplete pass and another sack later and Ryan Succop was called in to attempt a 50 yard field goal to the delight of the crowd.
He missed. But not by much.
Yet the sacks inside the redzone gave reason for pause in Williams-Brice. This team is obviously not perfect and that was all it took for the fans to calm down and regain a sense of reality as the rest of the night set in.
Things settled down on the field too as the next three series saw both teams unable to move the ball. A moment of excitement, a Kenny McKinley punt return that seemed longer than the 11 yards he gained, was negated by an illegal block and the Gamecocks were moved back to their own 8 yard line.
With 8:02 remaining on the first half clock Blake Mitchell completed another pass to Kris Clark for a 16 yard gain, then to Travis Lee for a gain of 40, before taking a seat to Antonio Heffner after both Lee and Mitchell appeared to be hobbled on the 40 yard strike.
Heffner would carry for 2 yards, then 4, then relinquish the ball back to Mitchell who threw three consecutive completions to Whiteside, Clark and Davis bfore Josh Brown came in to nail his first field goal of the season, a 22 yarder that culminated a 12 play, 87 yard scoring drive that took 5:26 off the clock.
Gamecocks 17, UCF 3 with 2:46 remaining in the half.
Steven Moffit drove his Golden Knights down the field and appeared poised to score just before the half when Fred Bennett stepped up and intercepted to end the UCF threat.
Steve Spurrier, surprisingly, was content to run out the clock with 28 seconds remaining in the half and that is how the first half would end.
Central Florida could have changed the outcome of the game when, after receiving the ball to open the second half, they took a 14 play, 57 yard drive that swallowed 6 minutes and 44 seconds of time, yet they came away with nothing after Matt Prater missed a 40 yard field goal wide left.
South Carolina capitalized on the CFU failure by going 77 yards in 5 plays in a mere 1:41 to go up 24-3 on the Central Floridians.
Syvelle Newton accounted for 45 of the 77 yards when on the second play of the series he carried for a 20 yard gain to the SC 44 and on the end of the series he toted the pig in from 25 yards out for the score. Kris Clark had a key 11 yard reception in the process and CFU helped the Gamecock cause with a roughing the passer penalty that was worth 15 yards to the Cocks in the process.
With 6:35 remaining in the 3rd, UCF started yet another drive that would end in failure despite signs of good things to come. Moffett was very good on the drive until it was ended when Fred Bennett sacked him and caused a fumble that was recovered by UCF's Sean Gilhuly. On Moffett's final attempt of the drive he was incomplete and the Knights were again forced to punt taking away nothing from the 11 play series that consumed another 4:49 in UCF's favor while distancing only 45 yards.
Carolina was evidently playing Bend But Don't Break defense.
The next series was a turning point in the game as Blake Mitchell rushed for 4 yards, followed by Mike Davis running for 2, followed by Antonio Heffner rushing for 4 that included a turnover fumble recovered by UCF's Chris Welch on the SC 37 yard line.
Moffett would throw two incomplete passes to end the third quarter, and be sacked by a streaking Stanely Doughty to begin the fourth before punting the ball away to the Gamecocks.
Jonathan Joseph, who was having a rough night anyway covering UCF wide outs, fielded the ball on his own 15 before being hit and fumbled on his 18.
UCF's Ron Ellis recovered and three plays later Moffett hit Mike Walker who had juked Joseph out of his socks for a 13 yard TD strike and Gamecock fans went silent.
It was, thanks to the fumble, only a 17 yard drive that took 3 plays and consumed on 1:09 off the clock.
UCF 10, South Carolina 24
The Gamecocks would hold on the rest of the way.
South Carolina went nil for their next possession and force a Josh Brown punt that was downed opn the UCF 45. It wasn't until then that fans begin to realize that Brown was employing the same soccer style roll out punt first instilled under Lou Holtz two years ago.
UCF managed a 10 play, 43 yard drive that ate another 4:39 off the clock before John Brown nailed a 29 yarder with 6:05 remaining in the game to pull the Knights within eleven, 13 - 24.
Syvelle Newton would field the ensuing kickoff and streak up the middle to his own 20 before being nailed by Ashley Augustus and fumbling. Sean Gilhuly would recover his second fumble of the night and Syvelle Newton would not realize where he was for another twenty minutes. At one time the stretcher was brought out onto the field before Newton finally got up with some help and shuffled into the locker room for a MRI.
It was later determined that Newton has suffered a concussion. His status is doubtful for the Georgia game.
South Carolina's defense stiffened once again in their own redzone and Central Florida was stopped on the Cocks' 1 yard line when Ricardo Hurley went high and Matt Razor went low to prevent a leaping Kevin Smith from entering the endzone on a 4th and goal at the SC 1.
The Gamcocks took over and were unable to gain any breathing room on the ground, and in fact they lost two yards in the series, which led to Josh Brown being called in to take the deep snap twice, running out of the back of the endzone for a safety both times.
UCF 15, SC 24.
Josh Brown kicked out of bounds on the ensuing punt and six plays later this game was over on a Steven Moffett incompletion after a 48 yard drive that took only 57 seconds and ended on the South Carolina 2 yard line.
Final, South Carolina 24, UCF 15.
South Carolina Wins Spurrier Debut Over UCF, 24-15
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