The Gamecocks started off the game moving the ball effectively both in the air and on the ground, matching Eastern Washington score for score, even scoring a touchdown on a gadget play.
In the first half, before Eli Jenkins and DeMarcus James got hurt, they racked up 312 yards and were locked in a 21-21 tie. All of their effectiveness changed when Jenkins twisted his knee and James suffered a deep thigh bruise.
The loss of Jenkins cut out a rushing threat by the quarterback and reduced JSU to a running back-thrower offense, but the Gamecocks needed to make up for James’ power. Max Shortell replaced Jenkins and passed for 173 yards, but was intercepted twice, with the second one returned for a back-breaking touchdown.
The Gamecocks faced one of the most prolific offenses in the country and while they gave up 545 yards, it was their adjustments in the second half that kept JSU in the game.
The Eagles opened up the their air attack with Quincy Forte on the ground and Vernon Adams, a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, had ample room to find receivers.
Adams was 18-of-29 passing for 324 yards. The Gamecocks did, however, force two turnovers in the end zone (fumble, interception), and Jermaine Hough delivered a fourth-down sack from the JSU 20 in the fourth quarter that kept them within four.
There were some rocky moments, but nothing that really affected the outcome. The Gamecocks probably shouldn’t have returned the opening kickoff from the end zone (and definitely should’ve avoided the hold on the return), and fair catching a kickoff in the third quarter probably wasn’t the smartest thing, either.
Griffin Thomas missed a field goal try on JSU’s first possession, but hit one in the third for the Gamecocks’ only points of the second half. They almost caught a huge break on a fumbled punt, but Eastern’s Ashton Clark was able to swipe it back from a JSU defender who had his hand on it.
The Gamecocks had an effective plan and it was working well until Eli Jenkins got hurt. They had to change it on the fly, but no longer had the element of a rushing quarterback to aid it.
The Gamecocks proved they could play one of the best teams in the country. The way the game evolved, it left everyone to wonder what would have happened if they had all their pieces in place for the whole game