Panthers beaten by Gamecocks 46-0

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Sandy King | Eastern Athletics

Eastern defensive lineman Justin Growel drags down a South Carolina ball carrier in the Panthers game against the Gamecocks Sept. 4. Eastern lost the game 46-0.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

The SEC is known for football, and the South Carolina Gamecocks showed the Eastern football team Saturday night that the conference has certainly earned its considerable reputation. 

The Gamecocks came out strong and did not let up for 60 minutes, beating the Panthers 46-0 in Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia in front of nearly 65,000 fans.

It was only the second time in program history that Eastern played an SEC opponent. They previously lost 55-20 against Arkansas in 2018. 

Eastern head coach Adam Cushing said a combination of South Carolina’s talent and Eastern’s lack of execution led to the loss. 

“Well, that was a really good football team we ran into out there on the field, and we didn’t do very many things well, certainly offensively we couldn’t get much going on third down,” he said. “I’ve got to give them credit, South Carolina made a bunch of big plays in this football game. They made the big plays that were needed to sustain the drives and just kind of wear us down.”

The Panthers gained 109 yards of total offense in the game and, to Cushing’s point, were 0-of-9 on third down. 

As a result, Eastern ran 44 plays compared to South Carolina’s 77. The Gamecock offense gained 443 yards of total offense. 

Quarterback Chris Katrenick got the start for Eastern, going 13-of-22 passing for 78 yards and 2 interceptions, one of which was run back for a touchdown. 

The running game never got going for Eastern, with running back Harrison Bey-Buie running for a team-high 12 yards on 5 carries and Markenzy Pierre running for 11 yards on 6 carries. 

Wide receiver Tyler Hamilton, a South Carolina native, led the team with 5 catches and 32 yards.

For the Gamecocks’ quarterback Zeb Noland got the start and was 13-of-22 passing for 122 yards and 4 touchdowns and running back ZaQuandre White ran for 128 yards on 12 carries, including a 63-yard touchdown.  

South Carolina took advantage of some Eastern mistakes on special teams, blocking two punts and rushing punter Logen Neidhardt on another, forcing a 20-yard kick and giving the Gamecocks good field position. 

Cushing said that key adjustments were not made in punt coverage both on the field and on the sideline, which led to the struggles. 

“We missed an adjustment to be honest, the guys out on the field” he said. “Early we made a mistake as players, and then as coaches we didn’t make the final adjustment. So there’s a little bit of both there. We got it cleaned up as the game went along, obviously they stopped rushing it, but we fell that we made the adjustments that were necessary and got the right guys coached up and all those things.”

In addition to the blocked punts, Katrenick’s first pass of the game was tipped into the air and intercepted, giving the Gamecocks great starting field position throughout the first half.

For South Carolina’s first four touchdown drives, their average starting field position was Eastern’s 40-yard line. 

Cushing said that he thought the defense played well despite the final score, and the unit was put in a tough spot with field position and the amount of time they were out on the field. 

“Obviously our defense did some really nice things,” he said. “We kept making them snap the football over and over and keep making plays, and just give (South Carolina) credit. They kept making the plays that we kept forcing them to make.”

For the Panthers, freshman safety Jordan Vincent led the team with 9 total tackles while safety Kaelin Drakeford, defensive back Tyris Harvey and defensive lineman Tim Varga had 5 tackles apiece. 

Drakeford also had the Panthers’ only sack of the game and forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Blake Ruffin. 

Going forward to next weekend’s road game against Dayton, and throughout the rest of the season, Cushing said that he thinks the team can be productive if they are able to cut down on unforced mistakes. 

“The bottom line is that we beat the Panthers today in a major way, and South Carolina took advantage and finished the job for us,” Cushing said. “Every time we’d get a drive going on offense we would shoot ourselves in the foot. The good news is there that if we avoid those things we’re really going to be pretty good on offense. And obviously defensively, the offense put them in a bad spot. They were just on the field a ton. If we could sustain some more drives I think our defense giving us a chance to the football game.” 

 

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]