The start of the Gamecocks’ season opener was delayed by 1 hour, 34 minutes because of weather and lightning in the area, as well as pregame ceremonies in Alabama State’s new $62-million, 26,500-seat stadium.
And once the game did get underway, the results were spotty.
The defense gave up a big run to Georgia transfer Isaiah Crowell on the ASU’s first play from scrimmage. When the Gamecocks took over, with redshirt freshman Eli Jenkins at quarterback, their first play was a delay of game.
“I felt so good coming here and then you get here and it’s a delay,” Clark said.
“I talked about that and sure enough you get here and there’s something.”
The players spent the time trying to keep their edge.
“We were just anxious to play,” Brent Tolson said. “We’ve been in camp, we’ve been with the coaches since Aug. 2, we were just ready to play this game. We felt like they were holding us back and we just kept getting up trying to stay warmed up.”
Welcome to the game
Eight JSU players made their first career starts in the season opener — two on defense (DL Chris Landrum and LB Ketrick Wolfe — and six on offense: wide receivers Josh Barge, Telvin Brown and Markis Merrill; quarterback Eli Jenkins and linemen Nick Johnson and Terrence Pendleton.
Jenkins completed his first pass when he hit Telvin Brown for 6 yards on the Gamecocks’ opening drive. Merrill made his first catch in the first quarter and Barge made his first catch in the second quarter.
Although he didn’t start, freshman Anthony Johnson recorded his first catch on a 13-yard pass from Max Shortell in the third quarter.
Three plays later, he scored his first touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Shortell.
Come on down
Alabama State has 16 Division I transfers on its roster, but only one was listed as a starter on the opening-day two-deep — sophomore WLB Daerius Washington (Western Kentucky).
With Saturday’s win, the Gamecocks are now 48-48-7 in season openers.
They have won three of their last four openers.
Breaking the string
When Buster Pope scored JSU’s first touchdown in the third quarter, it broke a string of six consecutive quarters the Gamecocks were held scoreless.
The Gamecocks were shutout by Florida in last year’s season finale. Until Pope’s touchdown, the last time they scored was the fourth quarter against Austin Peay.
The Gamecocks had a chance to score at the end of the first half Saturday night. Max Shortell got stopped short of the goal line, the Gamecocks didn’t call their final time out of the half and Damarcus James was swamped on the final play.
“We knew the clock was running down,” Shortell said. “The bottom line is I should have gotten in the end zone. I should’ve gotten in the end zone when I had the chance.
“The weird thing about this stadium is they don’t havea game clock on that side of the stadium. That kind of messed me up. I was kind of looking around for it and it was behind us. You usually have them on both sides. That was a major problem. We’ve got to be smarter than that. We can’t leave points there like that. That was huge.”