USC RULES ROOST
North Carolina may have improved in its second season under Larry Fedora — that will be clarified in the upcoming weeks. What was clear Thursday night is that the Tar Heels still aren’t nearly good enough to beat a top 10 opponent on the road.
No. 6 South Carolina opened with 17 straight first-quarter points and cruised to a 27-10 win in a weather-delayed game at Williams-Brice Stadium that served as the opener of the 2013 college football season.
The first meeting between the teams in Columbia in 23 years was stopped for an hour and 44 minutes when a thunderstorm struck with 8:20 remaining, but that only delayed the inevitable as the Gamecocks showed their superiority throughout.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to play, obviously,” Fedora said. “We knew it would be tough coming here to their stadium, and I just was disappointed in the way we played in all three phases of the game.”
UNC’s defense, which focused in the offseason on not allowing big plays, allowed a 68-yard touchdown catch on the third play of the game and a 75-yard touchdown run on South Carolina’s first play of the second half.
The offense put up 35 yards in the first quarter and was held to its lowest point total in 13 games under Fedora.
Even the punt return team, which Fedora coaches himself, had a breakdown when T.J. Thorpe — a Jordan High graduate who missed last season with a broken foot — couldn’t field the ball on UNC’s first punt return of the game.
As a result, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier improved to 23-1 in season openers and 5-0 against UNC, including three wins when he coached Duke from 1987-89.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels failed to beat a top 10 team for the first time since 2004 and still have never won a road game against a team ranked better than eighth.
UNC tried neutralizing Heisman candidate Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina’s junior defensive end, with quick passes. Along with some solid blocking by left tackle James Hurst, Clowney had a relatively quiet game, with three tackles and three quarterback hurries but none of the big hits that made him a fixture on offseason highlight reels.
Still, the Tar Heels struggled to move the ball, especially during a first quarter when South Carolina put up 203 yards and ran out to a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I think we were sporadic with our tempo,” said quarterback Bryn Renner, who completed 26 of 43 passes for 194 yards. “I think sometimes we could have done a better job of getting to the line and calling plays. But that comes with first downs.”
On the third play of the game, receiver Shaq Roland flew past cornerback Tim Scott, who had no safety help, for a 65-yard touchdown.
The Gamecocks muscled their way to a field goal and a 10-0 lead on their next drive. Running back Brandon Wilds appeared to be stopped at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-2 from the 30, but bulled his way forward for eight yards, leading to a 39-yard field goal.
After UNC went three-and-out, South Carolina drove down the field again. Starting quarterback Connor Shaw was shaken up after a scramble, but backup Dylan Thompson came in and threw a 29-yard touchdown pass on his first snap to Kane Whitehurst, who got behind cornerback Jabari Price.
The Tar Heels finally got on the board at the start of the second quarter on a four-yard touchdown catch by sophomore receiver Quinshad Davis, the only South Carolinian on the UNC roster.
Helped by a 15-yard facemask penalty by South Carolina on third-and-20 and an 11-yard slant to Jack Tabb on fourth-and-2 from the Gamecocks’ 25, the Tar Heels went 70 yards before cutting the deficit to 17-7.
UNC stopped South Carolina at the USC 10 on the ensuing possession, setting its offense up for great field position. But Thorpe dropped the punt, and while the Tar Heels defense held again, UNC wound up getting the ball back its own 7.
The Tar Heels’ quick-throw offense — he had 13 completions for 79 yards in the first half — finally led to another score to start the second half. UNC went 67 yards on 17 plays and had second-and-goal on the 2, but had to settle for a 20-yard field goal from East Chapel Hill High graduate Thomas Moore.
After UNC’s methodical drive, which took more than seven minutes, the Gamecocks needed just one play in their first possession of the third quarter. Mike Davis ran through an attempted tackle by Jabari Price and then out-raced Malik Simmons, who appeared to have an angle on the play, for a 75-yard touchdown that put South Carolina up 27-10.
That ended the suspense, though there was a bit of controversy after the game was finally restarted. UNC right tackle Kiaro Holtz was called for clipping when he dove at Clowney’s legs after Renner had released the ball. Clowney walked gingerly off the field, and Kelcy Quarles sacked Renner for a 22-yard loss on the next play, bringing up a fourth-and-47.
Both coaches made one last display of gamesmanship in the border-state rivalry game. South Carolina tried throwing the ball deep from its 1 in the final seconds, and North Carolina called timeout with five seconds left to force a final play.
The teams won’t meet again until 2015 in Charlotte.
|No. 6 SOUTH CAROLINA 27, NORTH CAROLINA 10|
SC_Roland 65 pass from Shaw (Fry kick), 13:41.
SC_FG Fry 39, 4:53.
SC_Whitehurst 29 pass from Thompson (Fry kick), :44.
NC_Q.Davis 4 pass from Renner (T.Moore kick), 9:35.
SC_FG Fry 26, 1:32.
NC_FG T.Moore 20, 7:51.
SC_Davis 75 run (Fry kick), 7:38.
|Time of Possession||30:27||29:33|
RUSHING_North Carolina, Morris 15-69, Blue 8-37, Q.Davis 1-2,
Williams 1-2, Renner 11-(minus 11). South Carolina, Davis 12-115,
Wilds 12-64, Shaw 12-43, Carson 2-6.
PASSING_North Carolina, Renner 26-43-0-194. South Carolina,
Shaw 11-20-0-149, Thompson 1-1-0-29.
RECEIVING_North Carolina, Q.Davis 4-39, Thorpe 4-9, Ebron 3-32,
M.McNeill 3-24, Switzer 3-15, Howard 2-32, Morris 2-18, Blue 2-13,
Tapley 2-1, Tabb 1-11. South Carolina, Jones 4-21, Roland 2-75,
Byrd 2-22, Whitehurst 1-29, Ellington 1-17, Brent 1-9, Owens 1-5.