The Gamecocks need work here. They hardly created anything in the first half and were fortunate to be down only 6-0 at halftime. The ground game produced only 108 net yards, with both backs — Buster Pope and Damarcus James — barely getting 50 yards each. They spread the wealth through the air, though, with eight players catching at least one pass.
With the head coach coming from a defensive background, you would think this area would make some of the biggest improvement over a year ago -- and it did in the opener. For the longest time, the defense kept the Gamecocks in the game and saved them after it got close. You couldn’t really blame them for the two touchdowns ASU scored -- both were shorter than 10 yards after a JSU turnover. Brent Tolson secured the win with an interception in the final minute. Before the touchdowns, the Gamecocks held the Hornets to just three field goals.
Punter Hamish MacInnes showed a big leg and kicker Griffin Thomas was reliable, but the special teams became an adventure late in the game. Telvin Brown, who fielded a punt inside his 5 early in the game, fumbled a punt inside the 10 midway through the fourth quarter that set up ASU for its potential tying touchdown.
The first big decision was deciding on a starting quarterback, and that turned out to be Eli Jenkins, although junior Max Shortell came in late in the first half and directed the third-quarter drives that put the Gamecocks over the top. Their first play from scrimmage got off to a balky start by a delay of game penalty, they were stopped on a fourth-down run on the first play of the second quarter and there was a big misstep at the end of the first half when they were in position to score, but got stopped at the goal line twice and failed to call a final timeout in between.
The Gamecocks escaped with a win and, after all, isn’t that the objective. It certainly wasn’t pretty in the overall scheme of things, but they went home happy. The push now is to create a sense of urgency in the offense.
If you’re coming to JSU Stadium next week, check your Jacksonvilles at the door. The Gamecocks play their first of six home games Saturday against Jacksonville University of Florida.
The Dolphins opened their season with a 51-35 loss at Delaware Thursday.