When things crumbled, they did so swiftly for Sumter at Aiken on Friday.
And the Hornets obligingly pounced, blocking a field goal and taking advantage of two quick turnovers to grab a 21-0 first-quarter lead that evolved into a 54-7 blowout win.
"We came out kind of light, but we had to get our intensity up," said quarterback Corey Ready, who passed for 112 yards and rushed for 72. "Once we did, it went our way."
The game had promising beginnings for the Gamecocks, who had little trouble marching to the Hornets' 5-yard-line on their opening drive. But Sumter stalled thereafter; a holding penalty pushed the Gamecocks back to the 14-yard-line, then a 30-yard kick by Tim Yount was blocked.
Aiken wasted little time going to the air, as Brian Staley hauled in a pass from Ready on the Hornets' second play from scrimmage and bolted 76 yards for a score.
On the next possession, Sumter quarterback Bryan Wilson scrambled and fumbled into the end zone, where Aiken lineman Fielden Coleman pounced on the ball to help the Hornets to a 14-0 lead.
Aiken took advantage of another fumble, this one by Tramaine Smith, two possessions later and had to move just 16 yards for its score. Running back Josh Nicholson barreled off guard for a 9-yard score that put the hosts up 21-0 and effectively ended it.
"We always have the bend, but don't break attitude," said Aiken coach Carey Johnson, whose squad entered halftime with a 34-0 lead. "I wouldn't have been worried if they would have scored that first possession."
The Hornets successfully bottled up Jamacia Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 203-pound running back who has been touted as one of the best athletes in South Carolina.
Jackson appeared headed for big things by rumbling for 27 yards on his first three carries, but the Hornets' defense stuffed the senior for the rest of the first half. He finished with 66 yards on 14 carries.