South Carolina scored early and often on their way a 44-31 win over Western Carolina in their final home game of the season.
The Gamecocks' 44 points were a season high, compared to their previous high of 34 points against UMass.
Rico Dowdle got things going, running in a handoff from 43 yards out. On the following drive, DJ Smith recovered a Western Carolina fumble. Rico Dowdle then ran the ball in for a one-yard touchdown, resulting in a quick 14-0 lead for the Gamecocks.
This contrasted with South Carolina's loss to Florida, where the team was unable to score early. South Carolina failed to score until the fourth quarter when they traveled to the Swamp.
Jake Bentley struggled in his first road game and continued to face difficulty completing passes against the Catamounts. He completed 14 of 23 passes and failed to throw or run for a touchdown in the game.
Saturday’s matchup was a run-heavy game, and the first passing yards did not appear until late in the first quarter. South Carolina accumulated 422 rushing yards, a new season high. Besides Deebo Samuel’s 100-yard touchdown return, the Gamecocks accomplished every touchdown through rushing.
Dowdle and Samuel both made an impact on the game, contributing 322 yards to the Gamecocks’ offense. Samuel scored his first touchdown on a 100-yard kickoff return, then ran for two more 2-yard runs later in the second quarter. Dowdle had the first two touchdowns of the game and rushed for 226 yards, reaching a new career high. This placed him in sixth place for most rushing yards in a single game in Gamecock history.
Head coach Will Muschamp praised Dowdle’s performance.
“The more snaps he takes, the better he’s going to get,” Muschamp said. “He’s a very good football player, he runs through contact, he runs for daylight, and he gets good top-hitting speed.”
Elliott Fry made all five extra point attempts in his final home game. The senior also scored three field goals in the second half.
Senior Perry Orth also saw action in his final game at Williams-Brice, playing quarterback for the last minute of the game.
With the win, the Gamecocks improve to 6-5 and become bowl eligible. This is the first time the Gamecocks will be bowl eligible since
Muschamp said the upcoming bowl game gives the young team a chance to develop.
“I’m excited about where we are, and I’m really excited about where we’re headed.”
South Carolina will travel to enemy territory for the 2016 Palmetto Series as they take on No. 4 Clemson.