South Carolina opened its second season under head coach Shane Beamer with a win, beating Georgia State 35-14.
After a scoreless first quarter, South Carolina got on the board early in the second quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back MarShawn Lloyd. The redshirt sophomore had two touchdowns on the day, including a 16-yard touchdown catch. Lloyd tallied 61 total yards in the opener.
"It felt great being out there and just pretty much show what I can do, show what I bring to the table," Lloyd said after the win. "It pretty much is doing anything, like I play punt pressure pressure, so doing anything that can help my team win. So it feels good to finally be out there, be able to showcase the person that came out of high school."
Junior kicker Mitch Jeter extended the Gamecocks' lead after nailing his first ever field goal attempt, a 53-yarder, tied for the seventh longest in school history. Jeter later made another field goal from 51 yards, making him the first player in school history to make two 50-yard field goals in the same game.
"When I hit it, obviously, I knew it was on a good line. And I hit it pretty well, so thankful for that," Jeter said. "But going out there, kind of trying to treat every kick the same way, that's really my mindset on it, whether it's a 20 yarder, an extra point or a 53 — something like that."
The first half was a low scoring affair, with South Carolina taking a 12-7 lead into the break. The Gamecocks had trouble converting on third downs, going 1-8 in the first.
After giving up a touchdown, the second half was all business for South Carolina's defense and special teams, the team held the Panthers to 57 yards and one score in the third quarter. The Gamecocks also registered not one, but two blocked punts returned for a touchdown, the first time the program has done so since Derek Watson's return against Florida in 2000.
Freshman defensive back, and South Carolina native, DQ Smith returned the first blocked punt late in the third quarter.
"It was kind of surprising seeing the ball roll around. I played a lot of offense in high school, so then I kind of forgot how to run the ball," Smith said. "I was able to make a play, thanks to coach (Pete) Lembo for putting so much time into special teams, punt pressure corners. We did a great job executing."
Redshirt Junior quarterback Spencer Rattler had an up-and-down performance in his first game as a Gamecock, going 23-37 with 227 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Beamer said Rattlers performance had to do with his level of comfortability in the offense.
"It's his first year in the offense, and it's not like Luke Doty who was in this offense last year," Beamer said. "Spencer has been in this offense for eight months, and he's not going to have the same understanding and comfort level with it that a quarterback in year two would. We knew that already, don't get me wrong, but I think we just got to continue now that we've been in the game."
Perhaps the largest issue facing the Gamecocks one game into the season is its offensive line. Despite returning all five starters, Rattler was consistently running away from opposing defenders who registered six quarterback hurries and three sacks. Beamer took some of the blame, saying "it goes back to us as coaches" and asserted that they have to get the players to know the answer to blocking consistently.
South Carolina will be back in action when the team travels to Fayetteville on Sept. 10 to take on No. 19 Arkansas in its SEC opener. Kickoff is slated for noon and can be viewed on ESPN.