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. 14: 6 For 6
The game: Vanderbilt at No. 12 South Carolina, Sept. 24
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The scene: Vanderbilt 3, South Carolina 0, 12:12, second quarter
The cast: Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, spur Antonio Allen, Vanderbilt wide receiver Wesley Tate, defensive end Melvin Ingram
The setup: Sitting at 3-0 and playing a usual SEC cellar-dweller, the Gamecocks could see that glittering 4-0 record brightly shining at the end of the night. It was Vanderbilt - USC could sleepwalk through this one and still win comfortably.
Nobody told Vanderbilt - or USC quarterback Stephen Garcia - that.
Garcia threw three interceptions in just over one quarter, one leading directly to a Commodores field goal and the other killing a drive and giving Vanderbilt possession at its own 36-yard-line. A sack from Byron Jerideau set up a third-and-7, and the Gamecocks went with their usual beefy defensive line to put some pressure on Smith. Ingram, in particular, lined up at defensive tackle.
The play: Smith took the shotgun snap and Ingram charged into his man, spinning around him and drawing a bead on Smith. Smith eluded Ingram as Ingram futilely stretched a hand out, but Clowney shed his man and jumped toward Smith.
One of Clowney's oversized paws knocked the ball loose and Allen, the man always in position, scooped it on a sprint and headed for the end zone. Tate, having already spied trouble and abandoning his route, chased and tackled Allen at the 13, jarring the ball loose one more time.
The ball once again bounded free, heading into the end zone and appearing to be going out-of-bounds. Ingram, though, had beelined toward the end zone as he saw Allen running - the ball bounced in, Ingram dove, rolled and came up with it for the touchdown, something that he had also done against Georgia.
The aftermath: The TD woke the Gamecocks up, the defense continuing its lights-out play and Garcia getting himself together to toss a safety outlet pass to Marcus Lattimore, who cut through the defense for a 52-yard touchdown before halftime. USC won 21-3, improved to 4-0 and cemented Ingram as a bona fide star, one who would explode onto NFL draft charts and stay there until his name was called by the San Diego Chargers.
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