QB Lorenzo Nunez's first start better than most expected for Gamecocks
Did South Carolina find its savior on offense during Saturday’s win over UCF? Freshman Lorenzo Nunez wasn’t perfect, but proved he was a ‘gamer’ according to Steve Spurrier and helped the Gamecocks find a rhythm in the second half with 23 unanswered points.
- Nunez gives Gamecocks a chance: In need of a spark offensively early this season, Spurrier went with his dual-threat playmaker and Nunez provided as much, accounting for just over 300 yards of total offense and two touchdowns. On his first pass of the game, Nunez looked out of sorts and nearly threw an interception, but settled down and seemed to gain more confidence with every hit he took and pass he completed.
- Pharoh Cooper atones for mistake: South Carolina’s best player made an uncharacteristic mistake in the second quarter when he attempted to lackadaisically field a punt inside the Gamecocks 5-yard line. UCF recovered Cooper’s fumble at the 1 and scored on the ensuing play. Cooper responded with two touchdowns during the third quarter to highlight the team’s rally and apologized for his previous mental error after the game.
- Jon Hoke’s defense flexes muscle within front seven: South Carolina gave up zero points in the second half, recorded two sacks, forced two turnovers and limited the Knights to just 230 total yards. It was a total team effort defensively, especially up front where the Gamecocks established a strong presence throughout.
Offense: (B) — No mistakes, 400 yards and 31 points is more than Spurrier could’ve asked from a freshman-led attack. Running backs Shon Carson and David Williams never got going, but Nunez’s 123 yards on the ground was the most by a South Carolina quarterback in more than two decades. Tight ends Jerell Adams and Jacob August combined for 68 yards receiving and a touchdown — an ideal security blanket for a young passer.
Defense: (A) — After not forcing a first-half punt the entire season coming into Saturday, the Gamecocks forced three punts and managed a safety from Boosie Whitlow during UCF’s first four possessions. The Knights’ seven-play, 93-yard touchdown march in the second quarter was the only drive of the game that UCF gained more than 39 yards. It was a dominant effort defensively for a unit mixing in several new players, including linebacker T.J. Holloman.
Special Teams: (B) — Sean Kelly pinned UCF three times inside the 20 on four punts and Elliott Fry made 3-of-4 field goal tries including a 52-yarder. He missed a 49-yard try in the first quarter wide right and a bad snap on a third-quarter PAT led to an incomplete pass and Fry sprawling out-of-bounds.
Coaching: (B) — Credit South Carolina’s coaching staff for sticking to its run-heavy game plan and generating pressure defensively despite a lackluster effort in the first half. Spurrier mentioned that Skai Moore and other veterans were vocal inside the locker room at intermission, a great sign for a team in search of an identity this season. For assistant Deke Adams, his defensive line showed signs of promising entering next week’s game at Mizzou.
Overall: (B+) — It went from ugly, to salvageable, to satisfying for South Carolina on an overcast and wet afternoon at Williams-Brice. By halftime, social media had pinned the Gamecocks’ ineptitude on Spurrier. But a resilient team showed some fight in the third quarter and dominated the final 30 minutes of the contest.
Spurrier kept the game plan relatively vanilla for Nunez, catering to the quarterback’s strengths in the zone read. He even gave up first-half play-calling to assistant coach G.A. Mangus, but said after the game that he handled the majority of the decisions after intermission.
- QB Lorenzo Nunez: 184 yards passing, 2 TD; 123 yards rushing
- WR Pharoh Cooper: 96 yards total offense, 2 TDs
- LB T.J. Holloman: Six tackles, two interceptions