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. 16: Wheels
The game: The Citadel at No. 14 South Carolina, Nov. 19
The scene: South Carolina 14, The Citadel 10, 1:33, second quarter
The cast: Quarterback Connor Shaw
The setup: The Citadel wasn't supposed to be putting up this much of a fight, but the Bulldogs knew they had nothing to lose in the game - lose, and they were supposed to. Win, and shock the world. It's why after USC took a quick 7-0 lead, The Citadel intercepted Shaw and turned it into a touchdown, and after the Gamecocks scored another seven points, the Bulldogs drove downfield and hit a field goal.
Shaw, kicking himself because he knew that he had let the Bulldogs believe they had a chance at the upset, got ready to take the team back out just as Victor Hampton fumbled the kickoff (Stephon Gilmore) recovered. Shaw hit Ace Sanders for a short completion, but it was wiped due to a holding penalty on Alshon Jeffery. Kenny Miles re-established the running game with a 15-yard jaunt, but the Gamecocks were still sitting on their own 40-yard-line with time in the half running out.
It was like there was a visible word bubble over Shaw's head - you want something done correctly, do it yourself.
The play: Shaw took the snap, held the ball as if he was going to throw for a split second, and saw the hole open on the right. Sprinting from the start, Shaw hit the gap and saw nothing but green grass in front of him. The sophomore was already at full speed by the time the Bulldogs' spread-out secondary, expecting a pass, figured out what was going on, and they were too far behind to catch up.
Shaw crossed the goal line, flipped the ball to the referee, briefly pointed at the south stands and then ran down the length of the end zone, clapping his hands. Yeah, he can loosen up on occasion.
The aftermath: The resilient Bulldogs scored a field goal before the half ended but USC scored the next two touchdowns and put the game away. The Gamecocks won 41-20 and set up their rivalry matchup for the next week.
More importantly, Shaw started a three-game run of stellar play. The interception was the only one he would throw in his final three games, compared to eight touchdowns, 657 passing yards and 41-of-55 passing (74.5 percent completion rate).
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