COLUMBIA - Lou Holtz swore no opening-day team had ever caused him as much fear as Boise State. He said the Broncos were capable of giving his team all it could handle, but few believed him.
It turns out the South Carolina coach was half right. Boise State created some anxious moments in the first half before the No. 21 Gamecocks pulled away to a 32-13 victory before 83,019 at Williams-Brice Stadium, the largest opening-game crowd in the school's history.
"Everybody thought this was going to be an easy game," Holtz said. "But I knew it wouldn't. Our coaches knew it wouldn't."
The Gamecocks made it look almost sinfully easy early when they shot to a 13-0 first-quarter lead. But the Broncos pulled within 13-7 early in the second quarter, and they were poised to cut it to three points when Nick Calaycay lined up for a 30-yard field goal with fewer than 10 seconds remaining in the half.
But South Carolina nose tackle Langston Moore got a hand on the kick, and the ball bounded into the hands of junior safety Rashad Faison. The 5-foot-9, 200-pounder had nothing but wide-open space down the left sideline, but somehow Calaycay closed the gap quickly and had a favorable angle.
If Calaycay makes the tackle, the half is over and Faison never hears the end of it in the locker room from his coaches and teammates. Caught by a kicker?
"I told some of the guys I was running so slow, I had a lot of time to think," Faison said. "He had an angle, and I wasn't going to outrun him."
So Faison cut back at the 30-yard line, eluded Calaycay and skipped into the end zone to put the Gamecocks up 19-7 with no time on the clock. The game was essentially over.
"If you get caught by a kicker and you're a DB, that's not saying too much about your speed," Faison said.
Junior running back Derek Watson capped a 14-play, 79-yard march with a 6-yard scoring run to help put South Carolina up 26-7. The Gamecocks scored on their next two possessions - 28- and 29-yard field goals by Daniel Weaver - to create a 32-7 cushion.
The Broncos entered having scored 30 or more points in 18 consecutive games, but they never seriously threatened to extend the streak.
"What really got us was the long second-half drives by South Carolina," said Boise State coach Dan Hawkins. "They just wore our defense down."
The Gamecocks' offense operated almost exclusively from spread formations, but they offered few variations. Likely seeking to give Georgia as little information as possible for next week's Gamecocks-Bulldogs showdown in Athens, Ga., South Carolina kept it simple with quick handoffs and dump passes.
"We didn't show much," said Watson. "We were running the same plays over and over again."
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com
South Carolina 32, Boise State 13
Who shined: Phil Petty. The Gamecocks quarterback was sharp from the start. He showed his arm is stronger by tossing several deep passes and finished with 220 yards on 18-of-25 passing.
What worked: Derek Watson's hamstring. The junior running appeared to be in midseason form by rushing for 71 and one touchdown on 13 carries. He also had a 16-yard scoring reception.
What didn't: The kicking game. Daniel Weaver missed an extra point in the first quarter, and Gamecocks coaches opted against kicking a 44-yard field goal. Weaver did redeem himself a bit with 28- and 29-yard field goals in the second half.
What's next: South Carolina plays at Georgia on Saturday at 7:45 p.m. (ESPN).
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.