Knights can’t hold halftime lead against South Carolina

Produced by Bryce Brimhall

Lorenzo+Nunez+out+gained+the+entire+UCF+offense+307-230+in+total+yards.

Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Lorenzo Nunez out gained the entire UCF offense 307-230 in total yards.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Bo Schneider threw two crucial interceptions in the third quarter as the South Carolina Gamecocks scored 26 unanswered points to run away with a 31-14 win over the UCF Knights at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.

Schneider had been playing his best game yet in a UCF uniform going into halftime, as the freshman signal called had gone 8-13 for 111 yards and a touchdown during the opening 30 minutes of play.

“I think he was pushing the ball instead of reading coverage,” said UCF head coach George O’Leary of Schneider’s third quarter performance. “The second one he should have never threw, they had two guys sitting right on him, that ball should have been outside and that’s where the young kid has to learn to read, don’t let your eyes deceive you, throw the ball where you eyes take you, don’t guess or don’t pre-read stuff based on the coverage you see.”

The Knights went into the half leading the Gamecocks 14-8 but 23 unanswered points in the third quarter from South Carolina took all the momentum away from UCF and the offense couldn’t regather themselves after the two interceptions.

“Tough one,” said coach O’Leary following the loss. “You play a good first half, did thing you had to get done, second half you go out and you can’t turn it over, missed tackles, those are things that cost you ball games.

“That was really the difference in the second half I thought was field position because of our turnovers and then missed tackles.”

South Carolina scored two out of of their three third quarter touchdowns on the arm of Lorenzo Nunez, who went 4-6 for 89 yards and two touchdowns through the air after going 8-16 for 95 yards and no scores during the opening half.

The Gamecocks added another score when Pharoh Cooper broke multiple tackles on a busted trick play and rushed 35 yards for the touchdown to give South Carolina a 28-14 lead.

“With a person like that you can’t give him a lot of room and that’s what he had, he a lot of room,” said Jamiyus Pittman about the Cooper touchdown. “You feel good about that just knowing they scored a touchdown like that on a busted play but at the same time somebody has to make that play, we missed a lot of tackles on that.”

UCF scored their first touchdown of the game on a Nick Patti 1-yard rush, which gave the Knights’ their first lead of the game. UCF then extended their lead to 14-5 with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Schneider to Tre’Quan Smith with 5:23 remaining in the second quarter.

South Carolina held the Knights scoreless after the Smith touchdown and allowed UCF to only gain 112 yards of total offense in the entire second half.

The Gamecocks out gained UCF 400-230 in total yards while the Knights rushed for only 26 yards on 23 carries for the game, which is UCF’s lowest rushing total of the season so far.

The Knights lost the turnover battle 2-1 but the legs and arm of Nunez are what sealed the game for South Carolina. The freshman quarterback went 12-22 for 184 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 123 yards on 18 carries in his first collegiate start under center.

“Give him credit, I think he’s a good athlete,” said O’Leary about South Carolina’s quarterback. “He’s only a freshman, he’s going to be a good player. I thought the game plan against him was fine and I think we hurt ourselves with a lot of misplay on our part.”

With the loss UCF’s record falls to 0-4 for the first time since 2004 but all hope isn’t lost for the Knights as they’ll open up conference play on Saturday when they travel to Tulane to take on the Green Wave in the team’s first American Athletic Conference game of the season.

UCF players know they haven’t played to their full potential yet this season and with conference play about to start it’ll be the beginning of eight one-game seasons come Monday for the Knights. Justin Holman could be back under center for UCF when they take on Tulane, the sophomore was suited up and did some drills on Saturday, but did not play.