Jadeveon Clowney got tired; Mike Davis got more than 100 rushing yards, and South Carolina got a win – after a nearly two-hour weather delay.
Those were the headlines Thursday night as the No. 6 Gamecocks beat North Carolina 27-10 in the season-opener for both teams. Williams-Brice Stadium was packed beyond official capacity with 81,572 fans for the first three quarters but a one-hour, 44-minute delay midway through the fourth quarter cleared out most of the weeknight crowd.
Clowney, the Gamecocks junior All-America defensive end, acknowledged being “exhausted” and said a stomach virus was partially to blame. A heat index above 100 degrees and the Tar Heels’ no-huddle offense also played a part.
North Carolina, which averaged more than 40 points per game, ran 79 plays but gained only 293 yards. South Carolina gained 406 yards on 59 plays and led 20-7 at halftime, which allowed it to hold on in a second half in which it completed only one pass.
“Winning is the name of the game,” said head coach Steve Spurrier, who improved to 23-1 in season openers. “The team that has the most plays doesn’t always win. The team with the most points wins. That’s where we’re at as far as what we do around here. We can win sort of ugly-looking games. That’s OK. Hopefully, we can improve and get ready for Georgia because that’s going to be a big one.”
South Carolina takes on No. 5 Georgia on Sept. 7 at 4:30 p.m. in Sanford Stadium. Georgia native Davis will go into the game on a roll. The sophomore rushed 12 times for 115 yards in his first collegiate start and had a 75-yard touchdown run with 7:38 left in the third quarter that took all the suspense out of the outcome.
“I wanted to set the tone early,” Davis said. “I was trying to go out and punish guys and then later use some finesse.”
The Gamecocks rushed for 228 yards on 38 carries overall.
“We knew that coming in the week, watching film that we had a size advantage over them and were going to try to run the ball a lot,” senior quarterback Connor Shaw said.
Shaw softened up the defense with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Roland on the third play of the game to put the Gamecocks up 7-0 with 13:41 left in the first quarter. Junior backup Dylan Thompson played only one snap during the game, and it resulted in a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kane Whitehurst.
“We are happy to beat them,” Spurrier said. “Who knows how good a team they or us will be, but it was a good first game.” One of the biggest topics of the game was Clowney’s conditioning. When he took his seat in the postgame interview room, he said, “Ready for all the questions about conditioning. Let’s go. Let’s get it.”
Clowney finished the game with three tackles and no sacks after letting North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner escape his grasp late in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t want him to touch the quarterback,” North Carolina offensive tackle James Hurst said. “That was my goal. I didn’t want him to harm our quarterback, and I’m happy about that.”
Second-year Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora pointed to his team giving up two touchdowns on long plays and fumbling away a punt at midfield as the keys to the game.
“I don’t want to take credit away from what they accomplished. They won the football game and did a great job, but we have to execute. If we execute like we did tonight then it won’t matter for us because we won’t have a chance. We need to make better decisions with the ball, we have to block better, and we have to run harder.”
USC: Roland 65 pass from Shaw (Fry kick), 13:41.
USC: FG Fry 39, 4:53.
USC: Whitehurst 29 pass from Thompson (Fry kick), :44.
UNC: Q. Davis 4 pass from Renner (T.Moore kick), 9:35.
USC: FG Fry 26, 1:32.
UNC: FG T. Moore 20, 7:51.
USC: 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.