The wind played havoc on anything the Gamecocks wanted to do.
They managed just 253 yards, rushing for 155 and completing only eight passes for 98 yards.
They opened the game with Max Shortell at quarterback, hoping to establish something through the air, but when he wasn’t effective into the wind, they adopted a plan in which Shortell would play in quarters with the wind and running quarterback Eli Jenkins in quarters the wind was against them.
Still, they were so far behind after the first quarter, it wouldn’t have mattered much what they did.
Whether it was by design or because of the wind, the Gamecocks did a nice job containing Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and wide receiver Erik Lora.
Garoppolo passed for 169 yards and Lora caught only five balls. But what the Panthers weren’t getting through the air, they were making up on the ground.
They rushed for a school-record 413 yards, with Shepard Little going for 245. The Gamecocks did make adjustments that seemed to help. They weren’t credited with any sacks or takeaways.
The wind — again — negatively impacted the special teams.
When you had it, you were kicking balls out of the end zone for touchbacks. When it was against you, you just kicked it and hoped for the best.
JSU punter Hamish MacInnes had the worst of the wind situation, but did a nice job driving the ball and trying to keep it away from EIU’s top-ranked punt return team.
MacInnes did kick a 50-yarder, but he also had one held up for 15. There were no appreciable returns to speak of.
The Gamecocks hoped to hit the Panthers early, but losing the toss and being forced to play into the wind at the start hurt more than you might think.
Eastern Illinois called two time outs in the first quarter to help keep a favorable wind en route to 35 points, then were content to let the clock run in the quarters the Panthers had the wind against them.
This game was a complete opposite of what the Gamecocks did to Eastern Kentucky the week before.
Although no one outside the room knows what the FCS playoff selection committee is thinking, you have to think a loss like this is detrimental to the Gamecocks’ chances of making the 24-team field.