Pirates’ upset bid falls short

Published 12:02 am Sunday, September 4, 2011

South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram (6) tries to put pressure on East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis (4) during the first half in Charlotte Saturday. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

It’s safe to say there won’t be much of a quarterback controversy in South Carolina this time next week. After sitting out the first quarter in favor of Connor Shaw, Stephen Garcia entered the game in the second quarter and rallied the No. 12 Gamecocks from a 17-0 deficit to top East Carolina 56-37 in both teams’ season opener on Saturday in Bank of America Stadium. The Pirates new 3-4 defense impressed as it was able to force and recover four fumbles and get pressure on the USC passers, but a horrible stretch at the start of the third quarter saw the Pirates (0-1, C-USA) go from holding a 24-14 lead to trailing 35-24 by the 10:29 mark. ECU was hot early as Terry Williams recovered a fumble by South Carolina (1-0, SEC) super sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore to set up a 25-yard touchdown pass from Dominique Davis (35-54, 27, 4 TD, 1 INT) to freshman wideout Justin Hardy (10-101, 1 TD) to take a 7-0 lead at the 3:13 mark in the first quarter. After forcing a stop, the Pirates added to that lead when Davis connected with senior WR Lance Lewis (13-109, 2 TDs) on a 19-yard fade route down the left sideline to score over Gamecocks star CB Stephon Gilmore to take a 14-0 advantage. Both Lewis and Hardy were a force for the offense, which was boosted by solid running by JUCO transfer RB Reggie Bullock who ran for 82 yards on 17 carries in his ECU debut. That lead would increase to 17-0 when Antonio Allison recovered a USC fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which led to a 24-yard field goal by Michael Barbour with 9:45 to go in the first half. Garcia (7-15, 110, 1 TD) checked into the game on the following possession and immediately had an impact as he would score from 32 yards out on a designed run play. The Pirates fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and after a 21-yard pass to star WR Alshon Jeffrey (5-92) and an 18-yard run by WR Bruce Ellington, Lattimore dashed into the end zone from four yards out to make it a 17-14 game. Lattimore would rush 23 times for 112 yards and three scores. The Pirates stopped the bleeding and recaptured momentum right before the half when they recovered a Gilmore fumble on a Ben Ryan punt and turned it into points. Davis marched ECU down field and connected with Joe Womack over the middle for an 8-yard TD pass on third down as the clocked clicked to :03 and the Pirates were without any timeouts. That momentum would not make it out the locker room at halftime. East Carolina entered the third quarter with a 24-14 lead and would receive the ball to start the half. By the 10:29 mark they trailed 35-24. Lance Lewis fumbled the opening kickoff, which set up a Garcia 3-yard TD pass to Ace Sanders. On the next possession, a bad snap by center Doug Polochak on third down gave USC the ball at the Pirates’ nine-yard line setting up another Garcia touchdown run and gave the Gamecocks their first lead, 28-24. USC kept attacking as Antonio Allen recovered a fumble by sophomore running back Michal Dobson on the first play of the possession and ran it back 25 yards to go up 35-24. East Carolina would never recover from that stretch as it entered the fourth trailing 42-31.