– This was a victory Steve Spurrier wasn’t about to downgrade.
Mike Davis rushed for two touchdowns and Dylan Thompson threw for a pair of scores in South Carolina’s 41-10 victory over FCS opponent Furman on Saturday, ending the Gamecocks’ two-game losing streak.
“I know it wasn’t pretty, but when you haven’t won in about a month, it feels good to win,” Spurrier said.
That was a far different attitude than a month ago when an angry and disgusted Spurrier took apart his team after a 48-34 win at Vanderbilt when the Gamecocks allowed two kickoff-return touchdowns and didn’t put away the Commodores until late.
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But that was back when South Carolina (4-3) was still in the thick of the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division race, something that all but slipped away the following two weeks with fourth-quarter collapses against Missouri and Kentucky.
It moved Spurrier to 51-0 all-time against teams outside the Power 5 conferences or BCS-qualifying leagues.
Davis finished with 111 yards and first-half touchdown runs of 5 and 2 yards. Backups David Williams had 110 yards and Shon Carson 85 as the Gamecocks took control on the ground. It was the first time in seven years South Carolina had two runners over 100 yards.
“Really proud of the team,” Spurrier said. “We got a win.”
Things will be more difficult next week when the Gamecocks return to SEC play at No. 6 Auburn. South Carolina was picked this summer as the preseason favorite in the East and this contest figured to be a top-10 showdown when the year began.
Despite the losses, Davis said the players will be ready to compete.
“I think we have a big chance against anybody,” said Davis, who went over 100 yards for a third straight game. “We’re not going to doubt ourselves.”
The Paladins (2-5), the defending Southern Conference champions, have lost five straight.
Thompson finished 14 of 22 for 262 yards, his highest total in four games since passing for 271 yards in a 38-35 win over Georgia on Sept. 13.
Hank McCloud had 106 yards rushing for Furman, including its lone touchdown as he outran South Carolina’s defenders on a 60-yard burst. The Paladins managed just a Hunter Townes’ 29-yard field goal the rest of the way.
Furman coach Bruce Fowler thought his team’s mistakes hurt. “Some of ours were unforced errors and that cost us an opportunity to get a score or two more,” he said. “We have to regroup. We have five conference games (remaining) so we have to focus on that
The Gamecocks came in off a bye week, hoping to get back on track after squandering a 13-point lead in the final 7 minutes in a 21-20 loss to Missouri and a 14-point lead in the last 12 minutes of a 45-38 loss at Kentucky.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward simplified his group’s schemes and moved to the press box from the sidelines to more quickly identify adjustments.
The defensive moves seemed to work. The Gamecocks forced a pair of fumbles – both which led to South Carolina touchdowns – and pushed Furman back after reaching the South Carolina 2. Townes missed a field goal to end the drive.
The Gamecocks allowed Furman 302 total yards, only 102 coming in the second half.
Ward was happiest with his group forcing three turnovers, including a fumble recovery by first-time defensive end starter Michael Washington, a 27-year-old former Marine who transferred after a year at South Carolina State.
Washington learned Friday night he’d get the start. “I was surprised,” he said. “I didn’t want to get out there and mess up.”
South Carolina’s offense took charge early behind Thompson and Davis.
Furman came in leading the FCS in fewest passing yards allowed, but Thompson was comfortable and confident throwing from the pocket. He connected on TD passes of 14 yards to Shaq Roland and 45 yards to Jerrell Adams.
Davis, coming off a 183-yard, three-touchdown performance against Kentucky two weeks ago, continued that success against the Paladins. He had 81 yards and both his touchdowns in opening half.
Things will get much tougher when South Carolina returns to SEC play next week at No. 6 Auburn.
Furman has lost both meetings against South Carolina since 1982 when it shocked the Gamecocks at home 28-23. The Paladins received $250,000 for the matchup.