COLUMBIA, SC — — – South Carolina’s offensive consternation is still not healed. The Gamecocks have scored one rushing touchdown in five games.
But as long as the Gamecocks’ defenses can absorb the slack, as they did with their third touchdown of the year against Troy, they can keep working on it without feeling too bad.
David Spaulding returned an interception from 74 yards for a touchdown, Parker White kicked three field goals, and South Carolina overcame several errors in the second half to hold off the Trojans 23-14 on Saturday.
White started a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter with just over two minutes left to turn it into a two-possession lead and Damani Staley intercepted Taylor Powell with less than 30 seconds to play.
“I don’t know about you guys, I feel like I aged about 40 years in that game,” said South Carolina coach Shane Beamer, who saw his Gamecocks score a defensive TD and should have scored another. “We’re talking about smart football. We didn’t do that great today.”
The Gamecocks (3-2) led 17-7 at halftime after Spaulding’s return. Still, the Trojans (2-3) wouldn’t go away and South Carolina’s inability to take advantage of the numerous scoring opportunities helped Troy stay in it.
“The key to the game, of course, turnover. It seemed to be the difference,” said Troy coach Chip Lindsey. “We matched their intensity, we matched their physicality, I thought. In the end, we can’t put the ball on the ground.”
The Gamecocks still haven’t worked out their sputtering running game, but quarterback Luke Doty completed 20 of 34 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and one fumble.
The Gamecocks blocked a Troy punt in the third quarter, but only conceded a field goal from possession from the Trojans’ 23-yard line. When an interception by South Carolina’s Jahmar Brown was swept by a stand review, the craziness began.
The Gamecocks forced a punt, but Ahmarean Brown muffled the catch. Troy prepared for a third and nine on the next possession. Jaylan Foster of the Gamecocks fired Powell on a safety blitz and the ball flew off. Staley picked it up and tried to run away, but tripped.
The ball tumbled back onto the turf and Brown picked it up and started running. He easily outran the rest of the field for a touchdown, except Brown snapped the ball to the umpire for a split second before crossing the goal line and rolling the ball out of bounds.
touch back. No touchdown.
“You’re talking about an emotional rollercoaster, golly. We went from excited for the play we had, then angry, then relief,” Lindsey said. “It was crazy how that turned out.”
South Carolina again held out, forced a punt and tried to drive again for the deciding score. Doty got the ball knocked out of his hand and the Trojans recovered.
The Gamecocks got it right back after Foster forced a fumble and Zacch Pickens recovered.
South Carolina managed to hold onto the ball, driving 53 yards in 12 plays for White’s last field goal. The sixth-year “super senior” hasn’t missed a kick all year and mentioned Samson in the post-game when he showed up with a bushy beard. He has sworn not to shave or cut his hair until he misses one.
THE TAKE OUT
Troy: The Trojans are 1.4 million dollars richer thanks to the guaranteed contract in which they agreed to the game, but they felt they should have won. The mistakes that gave them the advantage were there, but the Trojans couldn’t make them count.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks won and knew they had more luck than good. For a team not expected to do much in its first season under coach Shane Beamer, some progress was expected to be made. The defense was great, but the attack continued to struggle.
After a series of penalties, including several personal fouls, early in the year, South Carolina had made a concerted effort to clean up the game. The Gamecocks had five flags for 45 yards in last week’s loss to Kentucky.
Against Troy they had 10 for 93 yards. One that inhibited the passer call, and one targeting call, seemed extremely questionable, but the others were procedural penalties or blatant blockages.
Troy lost both fumbles and Powell threw in two interceptions, the most damaging being Spaulding’s pick-six that turned the game upside down. The mistakes and inability to take advantage of all the opportunities South Carolina gave them wiped out the Trojans’ 7-14 conversion rate in third place.
The Gamecocks fumbled five times and lost three.
Troy: host of Georgia Southern on Saturdays.
South Carolina: Goes to Tennessee on Saturday.