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Gamecocks defeat ECU on game-winning field goal

“I’ve never been more proud of a football team than I have right there,” head coach Shane...
“I’ve never been more proud of a football team than I have right there,” head coach Shane Beamer said.(South Carolina Athletics)
Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 1:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Gamecocks traveled to Greenville, North Carolina on Saturday to take on the ECU Pirates.

“I’ve never been more proud of a football team than I have right there,” head coach Shane Beamer said in a press conference after the game. “There’s not a team in America I’d rather be the coach of.”

The Pirates came out of the gates with trickery -- wide receiver Tyler Snead came off an end-around and threw the ball on the first play of the game to Jsi Hatfield for a 75-yard touchdown.

On the ensuing drive, ECU safety Warren Saba read Gamecock quarterback Zeb Noland’s throw intercepting his pass on what looked to be a promising Gamecock drive.

“It ain’t always gonna be pretty,” said Noland. “But at the end of the day, a win is a win.”

After receiving the ball on a short field, Pirates kicker Owen Daffer would miss a field goal try from 44-yards out. The Gamecocks would gain an immediate spark from the missed kick when Zeb Noland completed a 48-yard pass to receiver Jaheim Bell.

In the next play, Noland completed a 26-yard pass-and-catch to receiver Josh Vann who looked to have a clear path to the endzone for six. At the last second, ECU cornerback Nolan Johnson punched the ball from Vann’s grasp, forcing a touchback. This gave the ball back to the Pirates, leaving the Gamecocks with nothing on the board on yet another drive.

In the second quarter, after a fumble by Gamecock receiver Dakereon Joyner on a controversial call, the Pirates would capitalize on a 3-yard touchdown rush by quarterback Holton Ahlers putting ECU up 14-0.

Gamecocks cornerback Darrius Rush would pick off Saba late in the second quarter to give the Gamecocks life again. Even with that life, the Pirates defense sent blitzes and sacked Noland on third down when it mattered most.

With the Pirates driving in the last minute of the half, after a ricocheted pass at the line, Gamecock linebacker Damani Staley would take it 63 yards to the house for a pick-six.

In the third, it was all defense until about 3 minutes remained.

Noland would connect on a vertical with Josh Vann for 45 yards. Two plays later on the opposite side of the field the two did the exact same thing for a touchdown -- but upon the review, the pass was ruled incomplete.

The review ultimately would not matter, a few plays later Noland would find Joyner for a 13-yard touchdown and the Gamecocks finally caught up at 14 apiece.

In the fourth quarter, ECU possessed the ball for the first 7 minutes and ended the drive on a chip-shot field goal by Daffer to put the Pirates up by three.

On the ensuing kickoff -- JuJu McDowell would put the Gamecocks in phenomenal field position with a 63-yard return to the Pirates 33-yard line. The Gamecocks would settle for a 39-yard field goal from Parker White to tie the game at 17.

In the final minutes of the game, the Gamecocks would lean on JuJu McDowell who tore apart the ECU defense on the final drive to put the Gamecocks in field goal range.

After being iced by the Pirates, White booted a game-winning field goal from 36 yards.

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