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. 15: Remember Me?
The game: No. 14 South Carolina at Tennessee, Oct. 29
The scene: South Carolina 14, Tennessee 3, 12:27, fourth quarter
The cast: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley
The setup: In the first game after Marcus Lattimore was lost for the year, USC looked predictably rusty. The offense couldn't get going, despite Brandon Wilds admirably filling in for Lattimore, and the Gamecocks couldn't put a struggling Tennessee team away.
Two touchdowns had put USC ahead and a D.J. Swearinger interception at USC's 2-yard-line had squelched a Volunteer possession, but Worley was still trying to right the ship. A freshman making his first start, against a defense stocked with many of the same athletes that he had faced in high school, Worley got another chance after Wilds fumbled at the USC 28, and Tennessee recovered.
There was still plenty of time to mount a comeback and the Vols were only 11 points behind. Here was a gift-wrapped possession.
Worley doubtless noticed the junior wearing No. 5 walking onto the field. If there was anybody who knew Worley's tendencies, it was Gilmore, who had shut the big signal-caller down during their high-school careers, including once for the state championship. Gilmore had an up-and-down career but always seemed to make big plays when the Gamecocks needed them - as Worley barked the signals, Gilmore thought he knew what was going to happen.
The play: Receiver Da'Rick Rogers ran off the line and Gilmore covered him outside, until Rogers cut in just before the end zone. Worley had already launched as Gilmore turned around and saw that the pass was intended for Rogers at the goal line.
With Brison Williams also converging, Gilmore leaped and snared the errant pass, as he and Williams neatly cut Rogers out of the picture. Williams actually knocked the pass into Gilmore's arms as the two fell for an interception and a change of possession.
It may have been two states away from the playing fields of Rock Hill, but Gilmore had whipped Worley one more time.
The aftermath: The two teams traded possessions until the Gamecocks ran out the clock for an ugly but still satisfying win. USC showed that it could win without Lattimore and embarked on a season-ending stretch where it would only lose one game, while the Vols went back to the drawing board when it came to quarterbacks.
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