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December 12, 2013

Top five plays of 2013...No. 2

This week, Gamecock Central is counting down the top five plays of 2013 as we prepare for the Capitol One Bowl against Wisconsin on Jan. 1.

Today, No. 2, Chaz Sutton's strip of Tajh Boyd and fumble recovery in the Clemson game.

With eight-plus minutes left in the fourth quarter, Gamecock fans were nervous. Leading by just a touchdown, there was Clemson, driving. There was Boyd, converting a critical third-and-12 with a 12-yard run. There was Rod McDowell, who had given the Gamecocks fits all night, gashing the USC defense for 22 yards to the South Carolina 34.

And then, there was Chaz Sutton.

One of only five seniors, by most any measure Sutton had a disappointing 2013. Expected to have a monster season playing opposite everyone's focus of attention in Jadeveon Clowney, Sutton instead had had a mostly forgettable campaign, finishing with only two sacks on the year despite starting every game.

Against the Tigers, Sutton hadn't done much, either, recording just two tackles up to that point. But his third, well, it was the charm.

Facing second-and-9, Boyd took the shotgun snap and looked downfield. Pressured on his left by Clowney, Boyd tucked the ball and ran early, before the pressure actually became dangerous - a habit he's had in every rivalry-game performance.

Boyd ran the three yards to the line of scrimmage unopposed, then another three without contact before Sutton, who had dropped back into a zone coverage, saw him and charged forward, colliding with him like a truck at the 30 and in one move, stripping the ball right out of Boyd's arm, collecting it and changing the game in a play so clean no challenge was remotely possible.

Ten plays and one fumbled punt return later, Pharoh Cooper made a case for this spot in our countdown with a run out of the Wildcat formation on third-and-2 where he pulled up before crossing the line of scrimmage and hit Brandon Wilds for an electrifying 26-yard-touchdown pass that sealed the game and sent Williams-Brice Stadium into an uproar.

But it was Sutton, the senior, who made it possible by stopping Clemson when they were driving to tie. If he doesn't strip Boyd, the game is far different, the pressure far greater. But he did, and in doing so helped secure both Boyd's legacy and his own place in rivalry lore forever.

The play:



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