|| By FITSNEWS || In what was billed as a battle of high-octane offenses, the University of South Carolina football program managed to survive a defensive struggle against a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic Coast Conference squad.
Head coach Steve Spurrier‘s Gamecocks (1-0, 0-0 SEC) outlasted the University of North Carolina 17-13 in Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday night – a shaky season opener for a pair of teams looking to rebound from disappointing 2014 campaigns.
Making his first career start for the Gamecocks, redshirt sophomore Connor Mitch completed nine of 22 passes for 125 yards and his first career touchdown – an 11-yard strike to preseason All-SEC wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. Mitch also showed surprising mobility – rushing ten times for 44 yards.
Backup quarterback Perry Orth completed his only two passes for 24 yards.
Still, it was a depressing effort for Spurrier’s offense – which put up big numbers a year ago only to be sabotaged by a porous defense.
This year’s defense looks pretty porous, too … relying on mistakes by North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams to steal a win in this rekindled rivalry.
Looking on the bright side, junior linebacker Skai Moore had a huge 2015 debut – recording ten tackles and making two clutch end zone interceptions to kill North Carolina drives. Thanks to Moore – and junior college transfers Marquavius Lewis and Dante Sawyer – South Carolina shut out head coach Larry Fedora‘s up-tempo offense during the second half.
It wasn’t pretty though …
Despite putting up only 13 points, the Tar Heels (0-1, 0-0 ACC) wound up exceeding their average per game yardage from a year ago – amassing 440 yards against a unit led by the much-maligned Lorenzo Ward and his new co-coordinator, former Chicago Bears’ defensive coach Jon Hoke.
Where do the Gamecocks go from here? Well, we can tell you where they won’t be going: The Top 25, where Spurrier’s program was a fixture from 2010-13.
Spurrier and Co. will have nine days to work out the kinks before opening Southeastern Conference (SEC) play at home on September 12 against the University of Kentucky – one of the three teams which stole wins from South Carolina a year ago.
After that, the Gamecocks go on the road against ninth-ranked Georgia on September 19 before returning home to play unranked Central Florida on September 26.