Nearly two years after he came to revive South Carolina's stumbling program, coach Lou Holtz and the Gamecocks took their first steps to success Saturday, breaking their 21-game losing streak with a 31-0 victory over New Mexico State.
Derrick Watson ran for 114 yards, Andrew Pinnock scored two touchdowns and the Gamecocks pestering defense kept the Aggies off-balance in the opener. It was South Carolina's first win since beating Ball State - which now inherits the nation's longest losing streak at 18 after falling to Florida 40-19 on Sept. 5, 1998.
As time and the losing streak ticked away, fans couldn't take it, swarming the field with 36 seconds to go. Holtz and his coaches helped clear the field for the final plays.
It was bedlam when the game ended with fans chanting, cheering and ripping down both goal posts.
Then, Holtz talked to about 5,000 fans in Williams-Brice Stadium of Southeastern Conference and national titles. But his 0-11 season brought injuries and questions to Gamecocks and their fans.
The 80,814 in attendance knew early that things would be different. The Gamecocks' used a four-receiver spread offense that took them places like the end zone they didn't see very much in averaging less than 8 points a year ago.
South Carolina scored two rushing touchdowns and got two interceptions of New Mexico State's K.C. Enzminger to lead 17-0 by halftime. In 1999, it took the Gamecocks two games to score a touchdown, five to do it on the ground and six before the defense got an interception.
Holtz, who paced the sidelines like he has for six teams over 29 seasons, fretted about team unity and a lack of confidence that comes from two years of losig. He worried the Aggies, who knocked off then-ranked Arizona State in their 6-5 season last year, would use the multifaceted Enzminger and a Nebraska style offense put in by coach Tony Samuel to pick his club apart .
But the Gamecocks put his fears and the Aggies in the first half.
New Mexico State reached South Carolina's 9 on its first series, but defensive lineman Cecil Caldwell caught Enzminger for an 18-yard loss. Dario Aguiniga missed a 43-yard field goal.
Gamecocks quarterback Phil Petty led a 13-play, 73-yard drive that ended when Pinnock pushed through for a 4-yard touchdown. The offense smothered Pinnock as fireworks shot off from the scoreboard for the 6-0 lead.
Watson, who jilted Tennessee for South Carolina in 1999, got going two series later. His 24-yard run got the Gamecocks past midfield and a 7-yard run brought it to New Mexico State's 1.
After two false start penalties, Watson hurdled the pile from 2 yards out and South Carolina had its biggest lead, 14-0, in two seasons.
Watson's game was his second career 100-yard game. He had 36 yards on the drive that ended with Pinnock's 3-yard TD run in the third quarter.
New Mexico State had only 112 yards at halftime. It gained only 18 yards in the third quarter.
Enzminger threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns in New Mexico State's 35-7 victory last year over Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium. But here, he rushed throws, missed receivers and was hit for four sacks.
Enzminger fumbled after one sack that was run in for a third-quarter touchdown by linebacker Andre Offing and a 31-0 lead. Enzminger was 6 for 14 for 59 yards.
The Aggies hadn't been shutout in Samuel's four seasons.
South Carolina faces No. 10 Georgia next week. The Gamecocks still have lost 18 straight Southeastern Conference games.
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