The junior from Ashland broke through untouched and basically took the ball off punter Jordan Berry’s foot.
Dustin Gayton recovered the loose ball at the 15. Two plays later, Troymaine Pope scored the first of his two touchdowns — and his first since the home opener Sept. 7 — to give the Gamecocks a 9-0 lead.
“The coaches specify to us every week that special teams can change a game and I felt that was a pretty big shift in momentum,” Endress said. “I definitely think that turned the game around a little bit.”
It was the second time this year Endress has blocked a punt. He also knocked one down at Georgia State in September.
What gave him the sense it changed the game?
“I felt like the crowd go a little more into it at that point,” he said. “You can ask any of these guys, crowd support is a huge thing and when they get up, we get up. It’s a big help for us.”
The Gamecocks went on from that point to build a 40-3 halftime lead.
Barge gets his TD
Josh Barge was a little upset when he missed out of scoring his first career touchdown last week at Austin Peay, but he got it Saturday.
Barge hauled in a 9-yard pass from Max Shortell late in the third quarter. It was the first of three touchdowns the Gamecocks scored in a 2:46 stretch that extended their lead to 61-10.
He tried not to make it out as a big deal.
“It was a touchdown,” he said. “Going from high school I was used to scoring, so it was stressful. Finally getting the first touchdown out of the way is a big deal, but Max made the throw, I made the catch. Nothing amazing, I felt like.”
Barge was on the verge of scoring last week when he was either knocked out or stepped out of bounds.
“That was a crooked sideline,” Shortell said. “I’d never seen anything like that before.”
Barge caught five passes for 106 yards in the game – both game highs.
It was his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the year and second in a row.
He now leads the Gamecocks with 45 catches for 675 yards and — now — one touchdown.
James on the move
DaMarcus James added two more rushing touchdowns to his impressive season total Saturday.
He scored on an 11-yard run late in the first quarter and a 9-yard run late in the second. He finished with 88 yards on 18 carries.
The junior from Demopolis now has 17 rushing touchdowns for the year, tying Oscar Bonds for the school’s single-season record.
He has scored in seven straight games.
The Gamecocks travel to second-ranked league-leading Eastern Illinois for their final regular-season road game.
The Panthers (9-1, 6-0 Ohio Valley Conference), winners of six straight, have one of the most dynamic offenses in the country.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is the OVC career leader in total offense, completions, passing yards and touchdowns. Receiver Erik Lora is the OVC all-time leader in catches and receiving touchdowns.