Originally created 09/06/98

Gamecocks rampage through Ball State



COLUMBIA -- It wasn't Florida, Tennessee or any of the other upper echelon teams against which South Carolina routinely struggles.

But that hardly seemed to matter to 78,830 screaming Gamecock faithful Saturday night.

USC's 38-20 rampage through Ball State on Saturday night carried important ramifications. Not necessarily the result, but in the way it was produced.

Quarterback Anthony Wright, who underwent reconstructive knee nine months ago, fashioned one of his better performances in his first appearance since tearing his ACL last November.

Wright completed his first eight passes en route to a 14-of-21, 180-yard, three-touchdown performance at Williams Brice Stadium.

While Ball State presented little defensive trouble for Wright and the Gamecocks, the senior quarterback displayed enough variety to show that he's virtually recovered.

Wright took the Gamecock's first play from scrimmage, faked a handoff to Boo Williams then sprinted for a 7-yard gain. Five plays later, he escaped from the pocket as it collapsed and darted 30 yards, his longest career rush.

On the next drive, he kept the ball on the option and plunged into the line for a first down.

The Gamecocks scored a touchdown on each of their first four drives, as Wright tossed TD passes to three different receivers.

Wright hit Zola Davis with a 9-yard TD pass less than four minutes into the game to give USC a 7-0 lead.

On the next drive, Wright hit Steve Mixon with 15-yard pass for a 14-0 margin. It was the first TD reception of Mixon's career.

After Ball State's LeAndre Moore scored on a 4-yard rush, Wright hit Jermale Kelly an 11-yarder for a 21-7 lead.

Mixon, who had only two touchdowns in his first two seasons, matched that total midway through the second quarter, when he converted a 5-yard TD run to give USC a 28-7 margin.

In all, the former North Augusta star rushed for 73 yards (33 more than he accumulated all of last season).

But he fumbled twice, with the second leading to a Ball State touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Moore scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:37 left in the second quarter to cut USC's lead to 28-14, before Courtney Leavitt connected on a 33-yard field goal to for a 31-14 halftime lead.

Running back Boo Williams started in place of Troy Hambrick, who was suspended for one game for violation of team policy, scored on an 8-yard run with 6:21 left in the third quarter to give USC a 38-14 lead.

The Gamecock defense stood tough on two occasions in the fourth quarter. Ball State took the ball 64 yards down to the Gamecocks' 7-yard line. But on the 17th play of the drive -- a fourth down from USC's 7 -- linebacker Corey Atkins stuffed Cardinal quarterback short of the first down.

After Courtney Leavitt had a punt blocked, the Cardinals took over on USC's 6-yard line. On fourth down from the 1, freshman linebacker Kenny Harney, the former Allendale-Fairfax star, tripped up Cardinal quarterback Clay Walters to prevent a touchdown.