Bullets: Game news and notes
News, notes and highlights from Saturday's South Carolina-Central Florida football game. A complete game story will be posted soon.
FINAL SCORE: USC 31, UCF 14.
-- Freshman quarterback Lorenzo Nunez made his first career start for USC, which bounced back from last week's lopsided loss at Georgia by outscoring the Knights, 23-0, in the second half.
-- Nunez made his starting debut memorable by completing 12-of-22 passes for 184 yards and rushing for 123 yards on 18 carries as he was the focal point of the Gamecock offense throughout the game.
-- Pharoh Cooper caught four passes for 69 yards and one touchdown, while rushing three times for 27 yards and another TD.
-- The USC defense blanked UCF in the second half, limiting the Knights to 112 yards over the final 30 minutes. USC outgained UCF, 400-230, including 216 yards on the ground. It is the second time this season USC rushed for more than 200 yards. They have gained at least 174 yards on the ground in all four games this season.
-- USC scored on four of five possessions in the second half - three touchdowns and a field goal. USC scored 13 points off UCF turnovers.
INJURIES: No major injuries were reported.
-- Nunez dropped back to pass on the first snap of the game and nearly threw an interception without a Gamecock receiver in the area. But he redeemed himself by throwing a completion to Cooper for 11 yards on third-and-11. Three plays later, Nunez completed another third down pass to Jerell Adams to keep the chains moving.
-- The drive stalled at the UCF 34 and Elliot Fry came on for a 52-yard field goal try. The junior drilled the kick through the uprights to surpass the career-long standard (51 yards) he set last week at Georgia. The field goal capped a 12-play, 40-yard drive in which USC was 2-of-3 on third downs. Nunez was 2-of-5 passing for 26 yards and ran for 13 yards. SCORE: USC 3, UCF 0.
-- On the first play of USC's second possession, Nunez hit TE Jacob August for 8-yards. On third-and-2, Nunez ran around the left side for 23 yards and a key first down at the UCF 35. But again the drive stalled, sending out Fry for a 49-yard field goal. The kick banged off the right upright with 4:20 left in the first quarter. Through two possessions, Nunez was 4-of-7 passing for 39 yards with 32 yards rushing on five carries.
-- Freshman DE Boosie Whitlow registered his first career sack on UCF's second possession as the Gamecock defense forced a three-and-out, giving the USC offense the ball back with 2:22 left in the first quarter. Whitlow led USC with 2 quarterback pressures (QBH) coming into the game.
-- Nunez connected with Adams for the second time, this time for 15 yards. USC crossed midfield on an 8-yard run by Nunez. When UCF buried Williams for no gain on third-and-2 from the UCF 43, USC punted.
END FIRST QTR: USC 3, UCF 0. Nunez was 5-of-9 passing for 54 yards and ran six times for 40 yards in the first half. Adams had two catches for 30 yards. USC outgained UCF, 98-5, in the first quarter. UCF had minus-7 yards rushing.
-- Sean Kelly's punt was downed at the UCF 2 on the first snap of the second quarter. The play was reviewed and the call upheld.
-- UCF RB Taj McGowan was tackled in the end zone by Whitlow for a safety on the first snap as USC increased the lead by two points. USC scored a safety for the first time since 2009 vs. UGA. SCORE: USC 5, UCF 0.
-- Perry Orth took over at quarterback for USC's first possession of the second quarter. But the redshirt junior threw three straight incompletions (DJ Neal dropped a short pass on 2nd down) as USC went 3-and-out.
-- When UCF started its fifth possession with 14:02 left in the second quarter, the Knights had 3 yards in total offense. A 13-yard pass to tight end Jordan Franks gave UCF its second first down of the game out to the 41-yard line. But UCF failed to pick up another first down and punted with 11:30 left in the second quarter.
-- Disaster ensued when a backpedaling Cooper muffed the UCF punt inside the 5-yard line and the Knights recovered at the 1-yard line. The next play, UCF wildcat quarterback Nick Patti took the shotgun snap and raced around left end for the short touchdown, giving UCF a stunning two-point lead with 11:04 left in the second quarter despite having just 31 yards in total offense. SCORE: UCF 7, USC 5.
-- Nunez returned at quarterback for USC on the Gamecocks' second possession of the second quarter. Shamier Jeffery caught his first pass of the season on second down to give the Gamecocks a first down at the SC 36. But USC soon punted for the third straight time.
-- Unable to run the ball, UCF turned to the pass with positive results for the Knights. Schneider completed four mid-range passes for 12, 11, 12 and 14 passes before lofting a 30-yard TD pass to WR Tre'Quan Smith intot he left corner of the end zone with 5:18 left in the second quarter. Schneider was 5-of-5 for 79 yards on the 7-play, 93-yard drive. A facemask penalty on Larenz Bryant on the first play nullified a 3-yard loss and moved the ball out to the UCF 22. SCORE: UCF 14, USC 5.
-- Trailing by two scores, the stagnant USC offense needed a spark in the worst way and Nunez provided it, first by completing a 17-yard pass to Adams on third-and-9 and then scrambling 29 yards to the UCF 24. After Williams was tackled for a 6-yard loss, Nunez sidestepped multiple UCF rushers and lofted a pass to Carlton Heard for 15 yards to the UCF 15.
-- An encroachment penalty on UCF gave the Gamecocks first-and-goal at the 10-yard line, but a short run and two incompletions (UCF defender got lucky on third down when pass deflected off his arm when he wasn't looking) brought out Fry for a 27-yard field goal with 1:04 left in the second quarter. SCORE: UCF 14, USC 8.
HALFTIME: UCF 14, USC 8. USC outgained the Knights, 167-118, in the first half. UCF had 7 yards rushing on 12 attempts. Nunez was 8-of-16 passing for 95 yards at halftime, Orth 0-3. In addition, Nunez rushed 10 times for 71 yards as the freshman accounted for all but one of USC's 72 rushing yards.
-- The USC defense started the third quarter well by forcing a 3-and-out on UCF's first possession of the second half.
-- Nunez completed an 18-yard pass to Cooper on USC's first snap of the third quarter, but the freshman was sacked for a 9-yard loss on second down, putting USC into a third-and-16 hole. Nunez's third down pass fell short of the target as he continued to struggle throwing on routes beyond 15 yards downfield.
-- Nunez began USC's second possession of the third quarterback by faking a handoff and scampering 23 yards around right end for a first down at the USC 49. Shon Carson, who has just four rushing yards in the first half, came alive with runs of 8 and 14 yards to give USC a first down at the UCF 29.
-- On first down, Cooper caught a lateral on the right side from Nunez and looked throw downfield. When nobody broke open, Cooper took off through the left side. Eluding multiple tacklers and getting a great block from Nunez downfield, Cooper raced into the end zone, redeeming himself for the first half muffed punt. SCORE: USC 15, UCF 14.
-- Moments later, T.J. Holloman made a diving interception on a tipped pass to give USC the ball at the UCF 40 with 6:15 left in the third quarter.
-- Demonstrating confidence, Nunez fired a 23-yard pass to Carlton Heard to move the ball into the red zone. On third-and-6, Nunez stepped back and laser beamed a pass down the middle to wide open tight end Jacob August inside the 5-yard line. August turned and stepped into the end zone for his first career TD catch, capping a 4-play, 40-yard drive. SCORE: USC 22, UCF 14.
-- Holloman came up with his second interception of the third quarter on UCF's third play of the ensuing possession when Schneider airmailed a pass into his arms, setting up USC at the SC 46 with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
-- USC needed just four plays to score its third touchdown of the third quarter when Nunez found a leaping Cooper in the middle of the end zone for a 35-yard score with 1:47 left in the third quarter. However, the PAT failed. SCORE: USC 28, UCF 14.
END THIRD QUARTER: USC 28, UCF 14. USC scored three touchdowns and outgained UCF, 180-73, in total yardage in the third quarter. The Gamecocks converted two interceptions by Holloman within a span of 3:03 into touchdowns to change the course of the game.
-- Trailing by two touchdowns, UCF drive as far as the USC 36 with 11:37 left in the fourth quarter when they gambled on fourth-and-6. A pass into the flat produced nothing as sophomore D.J. Smith made a nice open field tackle to give the Gamecocks the ball.
-- Looking to put the game away, the Gamecock offense quickly moved into UCF territory with 9 and 15 yard runs by David Williams, who had been held to 4 total yards previously. Then, the USC offensive line continued to exert their dominance as Williams gained 5 yards on third-and-4 as USC kept draining the clock. When USC called timeout with 7:10 left, the drive TOP had reached 4:20.
-- With 5:36 left, USC gambled on fourth-and-1 and Williams plowed ahead for 3 yards and a precious first down to take more time off the clock. Since UCF had just one timeout left, the Knights could do little about the clock running down.
-- When the drive finally stalled at the UCF 15, Elliott booted his third field goal of the game, a 33-yarder with 2:53 left. More importantly, the 13-play drive took 8:37 off the clock as the Gamecocks kept the ball on the ground for the entire drive. SCORE: USC 31, UCF 14.
-- Dante Sawyer recorded his second sack of the season on UCF's final drive, which ended with less than a minute left. USC ran one play from Victory formation to run out he clock.