ORLANDO, Fla. (USC Release) - Behind a huge second half from sophomore running back Mike Davis, South Carolina (3-1) picked up a hard-fought 28-25 road win at UCF (3-1) at Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In front of a broadcast TV audience on ABC, Davis ran for a career-best 167 yards on 26 carries, scoring three times to lead South Carolina's comeback effort after being down 10-0 at half. Junior quarterback Dylan Thompson came in after an injury to senior Connor Shaw and threw for 261 yards while also running for a score in the victory.
Davis put the Gamecocks on the board just four plays into the second half with his 53-yard dash to the end zone. Davis had three of the four carries in the quick scoring drive. After the Gamecock defense forced a three-and-out, South Carolina drove again until another fumble, this by sophomore running back Brandon Wilds, ended the chance. But South Carolina's defense stepped up again and stopped the Knights from getting a first down.
The Gamecocks took the lead on the next drive when Thompson ran for two-yard score after rolling out right and seeing the opening. Freshman Elliott Fry's PAT capped an 11-play, 97-yard drive, the longest drive of the year by yards for South Carolina. Senior cornerback Jimmy Legree intercepted a Blake Bortles pass and returned it 21 yard, setting up the next Gamecock score, as Davis carried a defender for the last bit of his 13-yard score that after the Fry kick became 21-10 for the visitors.
Davis put his third ball in the end zone with another 13-yard score, giving South Carolina a 28-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. UCF kept fighting, getting big throws from its senior quarterback Bortles in scoring the final 15 points of the contest. Bortles twice found Rannell Hall for scores, first a 73-yard catch-and-run before a seven-yard strike with 1:54 remaining in the game. The ensuing onside attempt by the Knights was gathered by Gamecock junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who returned it 31 yards. The Gamecocks took a knee three times to run out the clock to take the win.
The Knights held a 10-0 lead at halftime, scoring on the first drive of the game in 4:55 after Storm Johnson's one-yard run and a second-quarter Shawn Moffitt 27-yard field goal. UCF had fortunes on their side, recovering both of their own fumbles while getting the lone Gamecock fumble of the first half, which came on the play that knocked South Carolina's starting quarterback Shaw from the contest with a strained right shoulder.
The Gamecocks had a chance toward the end of the second quarter after junior cornerback Victor Hampton intercepted the Bortles pass with 1:17 left. Thompson drove the Gamecocks to the UCF 28 before a penalty ended the momentum and took the Gamecocks out of field goal range. The final play of the half saw Thompson get hit as he threw, altering the flight of the ball to allow Sean Maag to intercept it at the UCF 20. The Knights only had 32 more yards of offense (196-164) than the Gamecocks in the first 30 minutes of play but held the 10-0 lead.
South Carolina picked off three passes in the contest, one each for Hampton, Legree and redshirt freshman T.J. Holloman, the most by a Gamecock team since last season's East Carolina contest. Sophomore Gerald Dixon also picked up a fumble recovery. Both teams forced three fumbles, but the Knights kept two of theirs.
Offensively, Ellington's 88 receiving yards put him over 1,000 for his career, while junior Damiere Byrd had a career-best five receptions.
Williams Brice Stadium hosts the next South Carolina contest on Sat., Oct. 5, as Kentucky comes to town for the 7:30 p.m. EDT contest. FSN regional outlets will carry the contest live.
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