COLUMBIA (WLTX) - Head Coach Will Muschamp and his squad took the Gamecock Walk for the first time this season and they walked right into Williams Brice Stadium and earned their first win of the year in their home stadium.
The Gamecocks got off to a near perfect start in a 20-15 victory over the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday night.
AJ Turner returned the opening kickoff to the East Carolina nine yard line. That set up a touchdown run by freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain. He scored his first touchdown as a starter less than a minute into the game.
McIlwain ran for a 10 yard score to cap a high 82 yard drive after the defense forced a three and out. It was a high octane first five minutes for South Carolina.
The home fans were going crazy in the Brice and rightly so. The Gamecocks were up 17-3 by the end of the first quarter.
Then the South Carolina defense took center stage. This was their best game as a unit. They forced a season high four turnovers on the Pirates. Each one came at a critical time. Out of the Pirates first three red zone attempts two ended up in interceptions for USC.
Jamarcus King picked off ECU's Phillip Nelson right before halftime and Chris Lammons had one in the third quarter as the Pirates threatened.
Perhaps the biggest turnover was USC's DJ Smith recovering a fumble as Anthony Scott drop the ball on the grass as he was trying to score for the Pirates early in the fourth quarter.
Elliott Fry would nail a field goal two possessions later to give the Gamecocks a 20-9 lead with 8:42 to go.
The way the defense was flying around this looked like it was in the bag. But things got interesting late.
ECU quarterback Phillip Nelson finds David Anderson for a short TD pass to make it a 15-20 game with 2:29 remaining.
The Pirates go for two and try a half back pass back to Nelson. He attempts to catch an under thrown ball and there was some contact and but there was no pass interference call. ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery was upset to say the least.
The Gamecocks would recover the onside kick and run out the clock after a fourth and one conversion to ice the game by David Williams.
Muchamp wins his home debut which ends two straight losses in home openers for the Gamecocks. This is also ECU's first loss of the year. They came in averaging 42.5 points per game.
The Pirates generated a game high 512 yards but couldn't overcome the Gamecocks' fast start and the four turnovers.
The Gamecocks did not turn the ball over in and McIlwain gets his first win as the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks.
USC improves to 2-1 and heads into Lexington, Kentucky next Saturday.
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