The Gamecocks scored on their first play from scrimmage and controlled the game from there. Eli Jenkins once again was a dual threat. He threw for 120 yards and ran for 97. DaMarcus James was again his punishing self, rushing for 127 yards to set the JSU single-season record, and scored three touchdowns. Whenever the Gamecocks got a turnover, they went for the big play right away and it worked. Jenkins threw a TD pass the first time and nearly had a touchdown run the second.
Once again the Gamecocks came after the quarterback hard and rattled a conference offensive player of the year into a below-average night. The Gamecocks held one of the best overall offenses in the country to 301 yards, 46 yards rushing and one third-down conversion. They had 11 sacks. They also held the nation’s fourth-best scoring team scoreless in the first half and to one touchdown in the game.
Griffin Thomas set JSU single-season records for field goals (23) and extra points (59). The Gamecocks blocked a punt, although they fumbled back the return and Kelvin Brown had a big kickoff return. The coverage teams kept McNeese receiver Diontae Spencer’s impact to a minimum. Spencer scored three return touchdowns in a game earlier this year.
The Gamecocks played their game plan for the Cowboys to a T. When McNeese went with two tight ends and two receivers, they brought in an extra linebacker to help defend the run. When the Cowboys went with three receivers and one tight end, they tried to mix their scheme. With four receivers in the game, they played a lot of man coverage. It worked. They had 11 sacks.
For the second week in a row the Gamecocks jumped on their playoff opponent early and didn’t let them up. The road is expected to get tougher — and colder — from here on out, but the Gamecocks are playing their best ball of the season at the right time.