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August 27, 2012

Total Recall: 2011's top plays, No. 4



As the start of the 2012 season nears, GamecockCentral.com's David Cloninger takes a look back at the top plays of 2011, South Carolina's finest year. The No. 1 play from last year will be revealed on Aug. 30, USC's season-opener.

NO. 4: Rise

The game: No. 15 South Carolina at Mississippi State, Oct. 15

The scene: Mississippi State 10, South Carolina 7, 4:09, fourth quarter

The cast: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, quarterback Connor Shaw, Mississippi State cornerback Corey Broomfield, Mississippi State free safety Nickoe Whitley

The setup: In an offensive struggle where USC had lost Marcus Lattimore to what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury, the Gamecocks finally managed to mount a drive. Chipping away at MSU's defense from its own 21-yard-line, USC dinked and dunked downfield, milking as much clock as possible, Brandon Wilds and Bruce Ellington doing most of the damage.

A Wilds run got the Gamecocks to the 5, but he was held up on first-and-goal for no gain. Ellington checked in as the "Wildcat" quarterback but only got a yard. Shaw checked back in at QB and the play call was one of Steve Spurrier's favorites - the fade to the end zone.

The play hadn't worked a whole lot more than it had, and Spurrier was often criticized for calling the play two or three times in a row. What he figured, and he was right, was that the play's intended target, Jeffery, would come down with the ball a lot more often than he wouldn't.

The Gamecocks needed a touchdown, with time running out. They didn't want to give the ball back to the Bulldogs with time to move the ball and kick a field goal. It was TD or bust. Don't get that six points, with Lattimore ailing, and the season might be gone.

The play: Jeffery lined up left and took his time getting to his spot. Shaw took the snap, set his feet and lofted a wobbler to the side, not quite to the corner but plenty over the goal line.

Jeffery had Whitley behind him and Broomfield in front of him. He leaped, stretching his 6-foot-4 frame as high as he could and extending his arms, to neatly snare the ball as it came to him. The catch, as it turned out, was the easiest part of the play.

Whitley was draped on Jeffery's back, closer than an ill-fitting suit jacket. Broomfield's leg smacked Jeffery's as Jeffery was coming down, knocking his feet out and forcing him to land on his back. Whitley never let go of Jeffery as they descended, his arms ripping Jeffery's helmet off as they touched down.

Jeffery landed, his eyes suddenly blinking in the sunlight as his helmet was gone. Whitley, with Jeffery on top of him, and Broomfield, stumbling over Jeffery's akimbo legs, couldn't believe it. Sans helmet, with blatant interference, the ball was still cradled in Jeffery's right hand.

That guy …







The aftermath: The Gamecocks eked out a 14-12 win, made a bit closer than the score indicated by an intentional safety, and improved to 6-1. Even with their offensive workhorse sidelined, USC had won, and went into its bye week thinking that it could find an answer for Lattimore's missing production.

But there was more credit due, before the final horn, thanks to another Top 25 play.



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