The Daily Gamecock

5 takeaways from South Carolina's win over ECU

South Carolina's 20-15 victory over ECU on Saturday answered one of the team's biggest questions, as Brandon McIlwain solidified his spot as the starting quarterback. Beyond the freshman's breakout, we learned a lot about Will Muschamp's squad during the home opener.

Here are the five biggest takeaways from Saturday's win.

Backfield battle

David Williams had lost his foothold on the starting running back spot as he fell out of favor with the coaching staff throughout the summer, but he gained some traction yesterday, leading the team with 67 rushing yards. Williams saw seven carries, one more than his counterpart A.J. Turner, but he averaged over 10 yards per touch, punctuated by a game-sealing 25-yard burst. Turner got a lion's share of the touches throughout the first two weeks, but going forward, Williams could be in for an increase in playing time after such a strong performance.

Coverage breakdown

ECU's Philip Nelson threw for 400 yards against the South Carolina secondary, but it wasn't long gains that inflated that number. Nelson completed 44 passes, none of which went for more than 28 yards. The Gamecock corners consistently gave a cushion to the opposing wideouts, and the Pirates made them pay, connecting on hitch routes time and time again. Chris Lammons put together a stronger performance than the one last week that prompted Muschamp to publicly call him out, but along with Rashad Fenton, he wasn't able to make an impact against the Pirates' quick passing game.

Bending, not breaking

The Gamecock defense found itself in the shadows of its own goal posts on several occasions against ECU, but the Pirates weren't able to capitalize on four of its six red-zone possessions. South Carolina stood tough when it counted, coming up with a pair of interceptions, a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal to end the threats. The game drew parallels to the 2015 season opener, when three interceptions helped the Gamecocks come up with a win despite giving up 440 yards. Saturday, the Gamecocks allowed 519 yards, 34 first downs and only had the ball for just over 21 minutes but surrendered just 15 points. Muschamp needs to shore up the defense, but his players made the most out of a bad situation.

Pass rush resurgence

Since the departure of Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina had managed just 35 sacks in the 27 games leading up to Saturday's home opener. After recording just one in the first two games of the season, the Gamecocks got to Nelson four times, including a strip sack by Lammons. The pass rush had been nonexistent against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, but it was a major part of South Carolina's 11-win seasons between 2011 and 2013. This solid performance could spell a change in momentum for the Gamecocks' pass rush, and therefore the defense itself.

Tight end trio excels

Hayden Hurst, K.C. Crosby and Jacob August accounted for eight of McIlwain's 16 completions, after making up 12 of 20 for the team last week. Hurst is clearly a major part of the game plan, and Crosby's athleticism makes him a threat on tight end screens. August's strengths come as a blocker, but he has sure hands as well, with the exception of a rare drop on Saturday. With no experienced wide receivers and a true freshman quarterback, three reliable tight ends can create an important safety net for the offense.


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