The South Carolina football team capitalized on turnovers in a too-close-for-comfort 38-28 victory over the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
South Carolina started strong, marching down the field on its opening drive. An explosive 40-yard rush from redshirt senior running back Mario Anderson carried South Carolina to the five-yard line. Senior defensive tackle Tonka Hemingway spun into the endzone to put South Carolina up on the board early.
South Carolina's defense looked complete, shutting down Jacksonville State’s first three drives and forcing it to go three and out. JSU began to revive its offense when 10 minutes into the game, it converted for its first first down on its fourth drive.
Weak secondary coverage gave away a 31-yard pass to Jacksonville State's redshirt senior wide receiver Perry Carter to South Carolina’s 15-yard line. Missed tackles on the following play turned into points for JSU.
“We've got to be a lot better,” head coach Shane Beamer said. “We really made it hard on ourselves at times today, and certainly there is a lot to clean up from today.”
South Carolina put up a quick response on its following drive, which included a 52-yard completion down the middle to fifth-year wide receiver Xavier Legette, who finished with nine catches for 217 yards.
“It gets down to your players got to make plays, and Xavier is a threat every time he touches the ball,” Beamer said. “He is such a deep ball threat.”
Graduate student tight end Joshua Simon initially found the endzone, but upon further review, it was called back to the one-yard line. Redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Rattler finished the job on a one-yard push.
Shortly after, Jacksonville State strung together its second consecutive scoring drive after a turnover on downs from South Carolina. JSU slipped out of missed tackles and weaved through a delicate defense to make the teams even.
South Carolina's defense took the opportunity to make up for its past woes. Hemingway came up with a fumble to give South Carolina the chance to score again before going into the half. Hemingway said he took advantage of playing on both sides of the ball to try to help the team in any way he can.
With another huge haul-in for 44 yards, Legette set up South Carolina in the redzone. He finished what he started with a five-yard catch to the endzone to put South Carolina up 21-14.
“(He’s) just a freak man. You put it up, he's going to go score,” Rattler said. “He puts the work in every day at practice, and it shows up on game day.”
Unlike the first half, South Carolina’s offense came out lackluster in the second. Rattler was intercepted off a lob pass down the field, setting up another scoring drive for JSU. The game was evened once again.
South Carolina's defense continued to struggle, giving Jacksonville State its first lead of the game. South Carolina looked to avenge for the rest of the third quarter on upset watch.
After forcing a three and out, Rattler and Legette connected once again for another quick drive and 65-yard completion. The drive followed suit for South Carolina, who was unable to put together many offensive drives without a lofty throw down the field.
South Carolina turned once again to big plays as redshirt junior linebacker Debo Williams came up with the team's second fumble recovery to get the ball back in its hands. South Carolina tacked on 3 points as a result of the recovery for a slight advantage.
South Carolina didn’t stay out of trouble for long, conceding three consecutive third downs on Jacksonville State's following drive. JSU found itself on South Carolina's 15-yard line with a fresh set of downs.
South Carolina sophomore linebacker Stone Blanton stole the ball on an intuitive play and moved 88 yards down the sideline to the endzone.
“It’s huge for our team to have that momentum swing,” Blanton said. “It's a big momentum swing in the game, and it can change the outcome. So we needed something big, and we were able to get it and get off the field.”
Desperate to shut down any hope of a comeback for Jacksonville State, South Carolina rested on its defense. The turnovers came in clusters today, as redshirt junior defensive back O’Donnell Fortune snagged an interception on the second play of the drive for the defense’s fourth turnover, which put South Carolina one first down away from winning its first game since September.
The Gamecocks (3-6, 1-5 SEC) continue its four-game home stretch next weekend when it faces the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-7, 0-5 SEC) on Nov. 11. Kick-off is set for noon, and the game will be broadcasted on SEC Network.