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August 29, 2013
South Carolina defeated North Carolina 27-10, and here are five key plays that helped the Gamecocks defeat the Tar Heels.
Three and score. Favored and at home against North Carolina's explosive offense, the Gamecocks wanted to play from ahead. A lead would allow South Carolina to grind the clock and control the pace, keeping the Tar Heels off the field. The Gamecocks didn't control the clock on their first drive, but they got what they wanted. After a pair of carries by Mike Davis to start the game, Connor Shaw went deep. He found Shaq Roland behind single coverage and dropped the ball in. It was a 65-yard scoring strike for the Gamecocks, and it allowed them to play the game at their pace - control the clock and dominate the line of scrimmage.
Thompson to Whitehurst. Dylan Thompson took just a single snap in the game, but he made it count. Everything was going right early on for the Gamecocks, and it was most obvious with 44 seconds left in the first quarter. Shaw had South Carolina driving, but he headed for the sideline as Thompson jogged to the huddle. He dropped back and fired a strike to wide-open walk-on Kane Whitehurst for a touchdown. The score gave the Gamecocks a 17-0 lead and the eventual margin of victory.
Damiere Byrd recovers a muffed punt. In his three seasons at USC, Byrd has made a habit of coming up with big special teams plays. He's had several open-field tackles on returns, and Thursday he added a turnover. The Tar Heels finally got on the scoreboard with a touchdown and followed it by forcing a three-and-out. UNC should have gotten the ball around midfield with a chance to score again and seize momentum.
Instead, T.J. Thorpe muffed the punt and Byrd pounced on the loose ball. The Gamecocks still ended up punting on the possession, but North Carolina started on its own 7 instead of at midfield and were unable to move the ball. South Carolina had successfully flipped field position and added a field goal on the next possession.
Davis goes the distance. UNC got the ball to start the second half and marched the length of the field. It wasn't always pretty - the Tar Heels had to convert on fourth down twice and still only got a field goal - but they went 67 yards on 17 plays, chewing up over seven minutes. They had the Gamecock defense on its heels, and if they could get a stop they had a golden opportunity to make it a one score game.
Steve Spurrier decided to call a conservative play: a simple I-formation off tackle run to the right. But the play virtually sealed the game. Davis took the handoff, fullback Connor McLaurin sealed the edge, and Davis burst into the open field, pulling away from defenders on a 75-yard touchdown run. The score put the Gamecocks up 27-10 and out of reach. It also established the play-calling for the remainder of the game: pound away until North Carolina figures out a way to stop the run.
Clipping. After an hour and 44 minute weather delay, the game resumed with both teams slow to regain their rhythm. The Gamecocks ran a couple plays for no gain and punted. A long return gave the Tar Heels a chance for one last charge, and they looked ready to capitalize with a long pass play on third-and-10. But tackle Kiaro Holts was called for clipping against Jadeveon Clowney.
North Carolina was sacked on third-and-25 and after the punt, South Carolina milked the clock to eliminate any chance for a comeback. What made the penalty especially tough for the Tar Heels was that it was totally unnecessary: Bryn Renner had already released the ball and Clowney was only watching the play.
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