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Analysis: Defensive line dominates as Garnet team wins Թϱ football spring game

More than 32,000 fans gathered in Columbia to watch Թϱ football compete in the 2024 Garnet & Black Spring Game at Williams-Brice Stadium on April 20, 2024. The Garnet team rushed to an early lead in the first drive of the game and ultimately defeated the Black team 17-0.

Թϱ football kicked off its 2024 campaign with the Garnet & Black Spring Game Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium where the Garnet team defeated the Black team 17-0.

The Garnet team picked up the win after a positive performance from redshirt freshman quarterback LaNorris Sellers and its prowess on the defensive line.

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"We've gotten better as a team since January and then since practice one of the spring," head coach Shane Beamer said. "There's no question we've made a lot of improvements."

Sellers, the Garnet team's starting quarterback, had an efficient day, completing nine of his 11 passes for 70 yards. The Florence native scored the first touchdown of the game with a 13-yard run in the first quarter and finished the game with 43 total rushing yards on five attempts.

"I thought LaNorris was really, really good." Beamer said."I thought he just looked very poised out there, very efficient. Obviously, he looked good running the ball." 

The Garnet defense got the best of the Black team's offense in the game, as the Black team only amassed 61 yards on 36 total plays. The Garnet team recorded seven sacks on defense, which derailed the Black team's play-making ability.

Each defense forced one turnover, as freshman defensive back Isaiah McClary and redshirt freshman defensive back Vicari Swain recorded interceptions for the Garnet and Black teams, respectively.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Robby Ashford got the start under center for the Black team. Ashford went went 1-1 for 14 yards through air and had four carries for 17 yards on the ground. 

To end the first half, redshirt freshman kicker Peyton Argent nailed a field goal for the Garnet team to stretch its’ lead to 10-0. The team eventually extended its lead to 17-0 in the fourth quarter when freshman quarterback Dante Reno connected with sophomore tight end Maurice Brown II for a 15-yard touchdown.

Here are three takeaways from the Թϱ's spring game.

Revamped running game shines

Թϱ worked hard to improve its running game in the offseason after struggling to run the ball in 2023 when it in the SEC in rushing yards per game. One of the Gamecocks' returning running backs, sophomore Djay Braswell, ran for 26 yards on five carries.

"Djay's a guy that can run," Beamer said. "He's got home run ability because of his speed and showed some of that ability tonight."

But Braswell wasn't the only running back to show signs of promise.

Graduate student Oscar Adaway III rushed for 14 yards on seven attempts. Redshirt junior walk-on running back Larry Scott generated more than half of the Black team's rushing yards, totaling 29 of the team's 56 yards on the ground.

Defensive line has strong performance

Both the Garnet and Black team's offenses struggled as a whole, totaling just 247 yards of offense over the course of the night. This was a testament to individual players' strong individual performances along the defensive line.

Junior defensive end Bryan Thomas Jr. was a force to be reckoned with for the Garnet team, recording a game-high seven tackles and 2.5 sacks.

"It showed them what I can do, what I can bring to the fall, it shows my skillsets to the fans," Thomas Jr. said. 

The Garnet team also received contributions from redshirt senior edge rusher Gilber Edmond, who recorded one sack and one tackle for loss, and redshirt junior defensive tackle Monkell Goodwine, who totaled 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Freshman defensive end Dylan Stewart impressed in his spring game debut for the Black team. Stewart posted three tackles for loss and one sack in the contest. 

"It was very beneficial, coming in early. It just got me prepared," Stewart said of his spring training. "Workouts, waking up early, being more accountable, being disciplined — just getting everything I needed so I can be successful." 

Passing game shows glimpses

The departure of former Թϱ quarterback Spencer Rattler to the NFL Draft left a void in the Gamecocks' roster, but Saturday's spring game showcased what the future looks like for the position group.

The Garnet team threw for 85 yards in the game — 70 of which came from Sellers, and 15 of which came from freshman Dante Reno. The Black team, which featured Ashford and graduate student quarterback Davis Beville, threw for 60 yards on 12 attempts.

Sellers said he is confident in what Թϱ's offense is capable of during the regular season.

"Very excited once everything starts coming together." Sellers said. "We're learning the system, and it's coming along good." 

What's next?

Թϱ football will open its 2024 regular season at home against Old Dominion on Aug. 31. The kickoff time will be announced on a future date.


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