Five-hundred thousand dollars well spent.
On a night normally reserved for digesting game plans, Thirsty Thursday deals and quite literally anything but Southeastern Conference football, South Carolina handled S.C. State 50-10 in a game USC administrators paid their willing visitors half-a-million dollars just to show up.
Initially scheduled for Saturday, the third meeting between inter-state foes was bumped up 48 hours due to the impending impacts of Hurricane Ian, which ripped through Florida on Wednesday night and is headed for a second landfall in the Palmetto State.
It also marked the last of South Carolina’s three nonconference games against Georgia State, Charlotte and S.C. State — each of which received the standard checks for such games ranging from $500,000 to $1.45 million for their participation.
Thursday’s contest looked and felt like the last-minute meeting of SEC and FCS squads it was.
USC announced an official attendance of 61,551, marking the first non-sellout of the 2022 season. The stands, too, mostly cleared out by the beginning of the fourth quarter as South Carolina raced to a 36-7 lead.
Quarterback Spencer Rattler flashed the precision that made him one of the more sought after quarterbacks in last year’s transfer portal cycle, completing 17 of his first 22 throws and 22 of 27 overall en route to a second consecutive game with a completion percentage of 73% or better.
Rattler’s two interceptions, too, fell more on receiver Xavier Legette than anything South Carolina’s gun-slinging quarterback did on either play. Both throws, Legette watched balls go right through his hands before being deflected into the lap of Bulldogs defenders Duane Nichols and Zion Keith.
South Carolina running back Christian Beal-Smith also looked increasingly like the version of himself that led Wake Forest in rushing each of the last two seasons. Beal-Smith plowed over S.C. State’s Jamer Benjamin for a nine-yard third quarter reception. He followed that up with a one-yard plunge for his third touchdown over his last two games.
Defensive coordinator Clayton White’s squad rebounded from a sluggish start to last week’s win over Charlotte with another productive night.
The Gamecocks limited the Bulldogs to just 160 yards of total offense through three quarters. They also notched a trio of interceptions for the second consecutive week — giving South Carolina six picks in its last eight quarters of football.
Head coach Shane Beamer can now exhale. The Gamecocks are above .500 and have back-to-back victories for just the second time in his 18-game tenure.
South Carolina hasn’t exactly beat up on the nation’s best, downing Charlotte and S.C. State the last two weeks, but it’s better than the alternative.
With two largely comfortable wins in their pocket, SEC play begins in earnest at No. 7 Kentucky next week.
Having lost seven of the last eight in the series, South Carolina certainly won’t have to shell out $500,000 to ensure UK shows up in Lexington.
South Carolina was without offensive line coach Greg Adkins on Thursday as he’s temporarily stepped away from the program due to minor health issues, USC announced pregame.
Adkins previously dealt with a minor health scare last season and missed South Carolina’s 2021 win over Auburn as a result.
Offensive analyst Lonnie Teasley will coach the offensive line in Adkins’ absence.
The Oklahoma connection was on display Thursday.
Sooners transfer Austin Stogner connected with his old OU teammate in Rattler for a 15-yard third quarter touchdown pitch and catch. The score marked the first of Stogner’s career in Columbia.
Stogner previously caught eight touchdowns over three years at Oklahoma.
3 — South Carolina recorded three interceptions for the second week in a row. The Gamecocks now have seven picks on the year.
70 — Spencer Rattler completed at least 70% of his passes for the second-straight game
Next USC football game
Who: South Carolina at Kentucky
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8
Where: Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky.
TV: SEC Network