South Carolina football rebounded from consecutive defeats against SEC opponents with a 56-20 victory over the Charlotte 49ers Saturday night.
The Gamecocks relied heavily on its run game in the win, eclipsing its season rushing total in just three-quarters of action. After rushing for a combined 211 yards over its first three games, South Carolina’s offense accumulated 295 yards, the ninth-highest single-game total in team history, on 40 carries, averaging 7.4 yards per attempt and scoring six touchdowns.
“I told (offensive coordinator) Marcus (Satterfield) early this week, ‘I want to run the ball 40 times Saturday night', and it looks like we ran 40 exactly,” head coach Shane Beamer said. “The key to the game was going to be to dominate the line of scrimmage, and the way they play their safeties, the running backs were going to have to make one-on-one plays, make people miss."
South Carolina ran a run-heavy offense on its first two drives of the game, exploiting a 49ers' defensive unit that allowed 243.3 rushing yards per game ahead of tonight’s matchup. Redshirt sophomore running back MarShawn Lloyd was the first-choice back on those drives and quickly established himself as the focal point of the offense, tallying 117 yards on 11 carries and finding the end zone once.
Lloyd would finish the game with a career-high 169 yards on 15 carries for an average of 11.3 yards per attempt. He scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter to raise his game total to three, which tied for the second-most rushing touchdowns in a single game in South Carolina history.
“The coaches heaved about running the ball a lot this week just to show everyone that we could run the ball, so just being able to go out there and just execute. So, they put it in our hands, and we did what we needed to do,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd said it was personally fulfilling to have such an impactful performance after a career that has been marred with injuries thus far.
“It feels great being able to go out there and showcase what I can do. A lot of you know what I’ve done coming out of high school, and it’s just finally showing,” Lloyd said. “I’m healthy now, so I”m just able to do the things I was able to do in high school, so know it’s going to get better for all the running backs.”
Beamer added that he was “proud” of Lloyd’s performance and that he “ran the ball with bad intentions” throughout the night.
The Gamecocks' offense also saw valuable contributions from graduate student running back Christian Beal-Smith. Beal-Smith saw action in the second and third quarters and took advantage of the opportunity — the Wake Forest transfer ran for 55 yards on nine carries, scoring twice.
Sophomore running back JuJu McDowell found the end zone for South Carolina in the fourth quarter and finished with 23 yards on nine carries, rounding out a dominant performance on the ground.
“I like all of the backs. I mean, MarShawn, CBS got in there and did some good things, JuJu did some good things — good to see him score late as well,” Beamer said.
Beamer also extended praise to the Gamecocks' offensive line, citing it as an important factor in the team’s ability to run the ball efficiently despite the criticism it has received after recent performances.
“I’m sure people will say, ‘Well, it’s Charlotte, that’s what’s expected' and all that, but those guys tonight … if they play with that energy and competitive spirit, physicality, we’ll be able to run the ball effectively,” Beamer said.
Redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Rattler said the combination of quality on the offensive line and in the backfield helped him play with greater ease in a game he described as a “great team win.”
“It makes my job easier, it makes everybody’s job easier when the o-line is blocking for the running backs, and the running backs are making guys miss and making big plays all night,” Rattler said. “MarShawn went off tonight, CBS played a great game, the running game was on fire tonight, so we really didn’t have to throw the ball tonight.”
South Carolina moves to 2-2 overall and remains 0-2 in the SEC. The Gamecocks will look to carry positive momentum into the final game of its-three game homestand against South Carolina State on Oct. 1. The game will kick off at noon and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.