I had high hopes for this game, what with East Carolina's offense looking like the stud unit that it was projected to be, and South Carolina getting absolutely waxed by Texas A&M. Well, it turns out that ECU's offense is on a completely different level than "Kenny Trill"'s squad.
I think the fourth quarter serves as a nice microcosm for this game. When the quarter started, the Pirates trailed by two scores and were facing a third and eight at the South Carolina 44. Three minutes and seven plays later, Shane Carden had his first touchdown pass to cut the deficit in half.
The Pirates offense would not touch the ball again for almost eleven minutes.
The Gamecocks rattled off an 18-play, 86-yard drive during which they not only ran the ball on nine consecutive plays, but ran the ball from the exact same formation nine consecutive times, and gained positive yards on all but the first carry.
It was close-but-not-quite all night for ECU, as their opening drive started at their own three yard line and stalled out inside the South Carolina 10 with an eventual field goal. They repeated the process with a 35-yard field goal on the next drive. Those two drives - where an additional 26 yards of offense would have put them up 14-0 instead of 6-0, would come back to haunt them as they visibly wore down against a more physical Gamecock team over time. Another missed field goal in the second quarter, and a game that could have been 27-20 at the half was 20-16 USC instead.
It got even worse in the second half, as a pressure-weary Shane Carden launched a pass falling backwards off his back foot while rolling out (a bad time to let loos a throw) to end their first second-half drive with an interception. He then tossed another over the middle on their next drive, and it looked to be all but over.
That early fourth quarter touchdown put a glimmer of hope back into ECU's plan, but the epic Gamecock "run the ball down your throat" drive against a visibly gassed Pirate defense silenced that very quickly.
The good news for East Carolina is that South Carolina is a sizeable margin better than every team they'll play in conference. The bad news is, they don't start conference play until after two more games against Virginia Tech and North Carolina, and if they play like they did today they could be reeling in a few weeks.