Central Florida made a statement in the first half, but South Carolina made the adjustments and got the last laugh. The Gamecocks focused more on the run game and it paid off as the Gamecocks stormed back for a 28-25 victory on the road Saturday afternoon. They had to hang on for it too.
South Carolina running back Mike Davis rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns to fuel the second half charge. Dylan Thompson stepped in for an injured Connor Shaw and passed for 261 yards as South Carolina scored 28 straight points to take what seemed to be a commanding 28-10 lead in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks were just a couple yards away from making it a 35-18 game in the fourth quarter but a fumble b Davis gave Central Florida a late chance for a rally, and they nearly managed to pull it off. Blake Bortles led a long scoring drive against the Gamecocks to make it a one-possession game, with a huge completion to Rannell Hall picking up 79 yards in a hurry. It took three plays to score the touchdown, allowing UCF to go for an onside kick for one last attempt with no timeouts remaining.
South Carolina recovered the kick and took a knee to wind down the clock and pick up what turned out to be a hard-fought victory.
Where South Carolina goes from here remains to be seen. The loss of Shaw under center could put the Gamecocks in an uphill battle in the SEC, already with a loss to Georgia in the standings as well. The defense was shredded at times by Bortles, who passed for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but when South Carolina was at their best they managed to limit the impact of Bortles. South Carolina is not going anywhere in the SEC East, but they may have been fortunate to escape with a victory on this one. Before that last touchdown by Central Florida, the Knights had come up with zero points off three turnovers by the Gamecocks.
What may have become evident, if not already, is that Central Florida is going to be a tough out in The American this season, and that includes Louisville. Central Florida travels to Louisville on October 18. That game could turn out to be the conference’s game of the year.