South Carolina flying high entering East Carolina game

NCAA Football

Regional bragging rights will be at stake this Saturday when South Carolina travels to play East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. in the second game for both schools.

The Gamecocks (1-0, 0-0 SEC) thrashed visiting Eastern Illinois 46-0 in new head coach Shane Beamer’s debut with the SEC school last Saturday.

The squad displayed its own version of “Beamer Ball” — made famous by the head coach’s father, Frank, at Virginia Tech. South Carolina blocked a pair of punts and scored on defense to easily dispatch of the FCS opponent, which has lost 18 of its last 20 games.

Grad assistant-turned-starting quarterback Zeb Noland was 13 of 22 for just 121 yards but connected on four first-half touchdown passes.

Competing for his third school, Noland started for North Dakota State this past spring as FCS schools delayed their season. The 24-year-old was at Iowa State from 2016-18.

His improbable Week 1 contribution even shocked him.

“I never thought I was going to get to do it again, just being on the players’ side of it and going through the pregame warm-up,” Noland said. “Little things like that make the win just a little bit better.”

The homestanding Pirates (0-1, 0-0 American) led Appalachian State 6-0 early Thursday in Charlotte as quarterback Holton Ahlers hit Keaton Mitchell on a 63-yard passing touchdown, but ECU was dominated the rest of the way and lost 33-19.

Whatever success the Pirates find — they went 3-6 last year — will probably hinge on Ahlers’ performance.

A local product from Greenville, Ahlers is the third-leading returning passer in the conference — 240.1 yards per game.

In the loss, the left-hander was good on 22 of 40 passes for 295 yards, two TDs and an interception.

Ahlers, whose family had ECU season tickets when he was a youngster, said he has a clear goal: Put his hometown team back on the football map.

“Hopefully this year takes a huge step in that direction,” Ahlers said. “I think (of) this year being the year that we get to a bowl game and get us a win. Honestly, I think about that every single day.”

The Gamecocks have won 14 of 19 games between the schools, including the last four meetings.

ECU’s last victory over South Carolina was on the road, 21-3, in 1999.

–Field Level Media

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