East Carolina looks to topple another Power 5 foe: Gamecocks
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — For a team outside the Power Five, East Carolina has done a great job of taking down some marquee programs.
The Pirates have won six of their past eight Power Five matchups, including last week’s 33-30 victory over North Carolina State. Next up, the Pirates (2-0) take on a Southeastern Conference opponent in South Carolina (1-1).
East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery said the challenge for his team is using the confidence gained from defeating the Wolfpack at each practice, film session and workout until the team arrives at South Carolina for Saturday’s game.
“I’m not really concerned with last week as much as people probably think,” the first-year Pirates coach said. “It means a lot more outside of the building than it does in the building because we’re in season. We’re so focused on the day and that’s kind of the way we’re trying to raise our kids.”
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp, also in his first season, couldn’t agree more with his counterpart. South Carolina is searching for consistency on offense and defense and it matters little that this will be his first time on the Williams-Brice sidelines since taking over the permanent job from Steve Spurrier.
South Carolina has yet to score in the opening half, trailing Vanderbilt 10-0 and Mississippi State 24-0 at the break. The Gamecocks rallied to beat the Commodores 13-10, but fell last week in Starkville, 27-14.
“At the end of the day, it’s about playing the right way,” Muschamp said. “It’s about playing with effort and toughness and discipline and representing this university the right way, and we didn’t the other night”
East Carolina, part of the American Athletic Conference, completes a three-game stretch against Power Five teams next week at Virginia Tech. Montgomery knows it will be difficult to add to the program’s Power Five success.
“We’re going into a big-time SEC environment against a big-time SEC school with a big-time SEC coach and some big-time SEC talent,” he said. “We are looking forward to the challenge of going on the road with our guys.”
Some things to watch when East Carolina faces South Carolina:
WHO’S QB? Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp is again playing coy with his starting quarterback choice. Senior Perry Orth started the first two games, but freshman Brandon McIlwain played the entire second half against Mississippi State and led his team to two touchdowns. Smart money says McIlwain will see his first start at sold-out Williams-Brice Stadium for the team’s home opener.
ZAY’S STREAK: East Carolina receiver Zay Jones has caught at least one pass in 37 straight games is fourth among current Football Bowl Subdivision wide outs. The senior has 258 career catches, most among active FBS receivers.
SOUTH CAROLINA’S RUN GAME: The Gamecocks have started slowly on the ground this season, ranking 124th out of 128 FBS programs with 155 yards on 61 carries — less than 2.5 yards per rush. Freshman A.J. Turner leads with 102 yards. “Nobody likes to see that,” guard Zack Bailey said. “We know that’s on us.”
FAST START: East Carolina quarterback Philip Nelson, who started nine games at Minnesota in 2013, has picked things up quickly with the Pirates. He threw for 398 yards and five TDs in an opening win over Western Carolina and 297 yards with a touchdown to beat North Carolina State.
BAD HOME RUN: Things haven’t gone well at home recently for South Carolina. Besides losing their past two openers at home, the Gamecocks closed last year’s 3-9 season with consecutive defeats to FCS opponent Citadel and then-No. 1 Clemson.
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