South Carolina 14, Louisiana-Lafayette 7
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- It's the milestone, not the performance coach Lou Holtz will remember about South Carolina's 14-7 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday night.
The win gave Holtz 239 career victories, passing his mentor Woody Hayes. But the offense sputtered, leaving the Gamecocks' stingy defense to save the game.
South Carolina allowed 272 yards and 12 first downs in the opener for both teams, but the Ragin' Cajun offense didn't score a single point as their lone touchdown came when a blocked field goal attempt was returned 89 yards. Louisiana-Lafayette made it to near midfield or beyond six times, but the defense forced two turnovers and three punts to go with a missed 52-yard field goal.
"It's always good to win," said Holtz, whose melancholy tone betrayed his positive words.
Holtz's mood just turned bleaker as he continued to answer questions about how his team struggled so bad against a team expected to be an also-ran in the Sun Belt Conference.
"I don't think we have a chance," Holtz said when asked to talk about South Carolina's chances next week against No. 18 Virginia. "We might as well fold it up and take the week off and get some sleep."
In the end Saturday, it was one third-quarter drive that saved the game, as Holtz kept true to a promise to use tight end Hart Turner.
Turner, a senior who came into the game with five career catches, got two of his three receptions on a 6-play drive that ended with a 7-yard scoring run by sophomore Kenny Irons and gave South Carolina a 14-7 lead.
Otherwise, the offense struggled. Dondrial Pinkins went 16-of-34 for 185 yards, but overthrew open receivers several times and was a beat late on others, allowing defenders to catch up and break up long gains. His receivers didn't help though, dropping a few well-thrown balls.
"We missed several big plays that could have turned the game in our favor," Turner said.
At times, South Carolina's young backfield looked solid. After the second touchdown drive, Daccus Turman had a 12-yard run and a 13-yard catch and freshman Syvelle Newton ran 32 yards on a reverse. But the drive ended with Josh Brown missing a 38-yard field goal.
Brown, the starting punter, was kicking in place of Daniel Weaver, who missed the game because of eligibility issues.
Turman would end the game as South Carolina's leading rusher with 40 yards on nine carries. The Gamecocks finished with 141 yards on the ground.
"We just couldn't get the running game going," Holtz said.
Louisiana-Lafayette's only score came when Michael Adams blocked Brown's 29-yard field goal attempt and Patrick Lamy scooped it up. The Ragin' Cajun coaches could be heard screaming in the booth as Lamy ran 89 yards along the Gamecock bench as the half expired.
"Everything looked fine,"Brown said. "I guess we'll find out on Monday what happened."
Travis Smothers ran for 113 yards on 19 carries and freshman quarterback Jerry Babb went 12-for-25 for 134 yards and an interception for Louisiana-Lafayette.
"I don't like to talk about moral victories, but tonight was one of them," Ragin' Cajun coach Rickey Bustle said.
Bustle noticed how quiet the 82,227 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium were. Some scattered boos were heard in the middle of the third quarter with the game still tied at 7.
Louisiana-Lafayette had chances. But the Ragin' Cajuns turned the ball over three times, including a Chester Johnson fumble recovered at the Gamecock 2 in the first quarter.
Johnson also fumbled the ball away on the Ragin' Cajun 28, leading to a 4-play drive capped by Pinkins 8-yard touchdown pass to Troy Williamson to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead.
The team gave Holtz the game ball in honor of his milestone win. "This one means a lot for me because of the respect I have for Woody," the coach said.
Holtz coached defensive backs for Hayes in 1968, when Ohio State won the national championship.
But Holtz said he doesn't fixate on the number of wins or losses he amasses in his career. "If you did, you wouldn't take over six losing situations," Holtz said.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
- Baylor WRs take a starring role
- Dynamic duo