With Steve Spurrier heading into his 10th season at South Carolina, Josh Kendall takes a look back at the top 10 plays so far under the Head Ball Coach.
1. THE HIT
Eight minutes, 22 seconds left in the 2013 Outback Bowl. Michigan leads South Carolina 22-21 and has a first-and-10 after a controversial spot. An unblocked Jadeveon Clowney blasts Wolverines running back Vincent Smith 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, knocking Smith’s helmet another 3 yards back and causing a fumble which he recovers with one hand. Gamecocks win 31-28.
2. FOURTH AND GOAL
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The Miracle at Mizzou – a 27-24 double overtime victory against Missouri in 2013 -- would never have happened if Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington hadn’t saved the Gamecocks in the first overtime. The Tigers held a 24-17 lead and South Carolina faced fourth-and-goal from the 15-yard line when Shaw found Ellington for a touchdown that gave the Gamecocks one more chance.
3. IT’S A TRAP
In 2011, South Carolina trailed Georgia 14-7 late in the first half and faced fourth-and-7 from its own 32-yard line. It seemed to be a spot even Spurrier would not call for a fake punt, but it was – and to 264-pound defensive end Melvin Ingram no less. “It’s a fake executed to perfection and it’s a touchdown,” was the television call as Bulldogs coach Mark Richt flung his laminated call sheets 20 yards onto the field in disgust. The Gamecocks won the game 45-42.
4. LAST GASP
Even after The Hit and taking a fourth quarter lead, South Carolina found itself trailing Michigan 28-27 with 11 seconds left in the 2013 Outback Bowl, and the ball rested at the Wolverines’ 32-yard line. Dylan Thompson, who had just entered the game for an injured Connor Shaw, dropped back and lofted a ball toward Bruce Ellington, who was circled by three Michigan defenders but settled under the ball to grab a 32-yard touchdown that created the 33-28 final score.
5. POWER PLAY
The game was probably over anyway, but Marcus Lattimore deserves a spot on this list, and this play is as emblematic as any. South Carolina led Florida 29-14 in 2010 with 2:50 remaining. The Gamecocks could taste a spot in the SEC championship game, when they handed the ball to Lattimore at the 11-yard line. The freshman running back juked a defender, broke three tackles and carried five defenders into the end zone for a touchdown that sealed the win and capped his 40-carry, 212-yard day.
6. ONE-HANDED GRAB
South Carolina seemed like it might be on the verge of upsetting No. 1 Alabama, leading 28-21 midway through the fourth quarter in Williams-Brice Stadium in 2010. It didn’t seem real, though, until Stephen Garcia lofted a sideline pass toward Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina’s 49-yard line. With Dre Kirkpatrick, who would go on to be the No. 17 pick in the NFL Draft, holding his jersey and his left hand, Jeffery made a one-handed catch and raced to the 6-yard line to set up the game-clinching touchdown. “Kirkpatrick did everything he could, interfered, covered him and did everything,” CBS announcer Gary Danielson said.
7. RUN THE FOOTBALL?
In 2007, South Carolina led Kentucky 17-10 with 4:53 left in the fourth quarter and faced third-and-2 from the Wildcats’ 23-yard line. ESPN analyst Andre Ware said this: “I think he’s going to run the football here, maybe kick the field goal, go up by two scores. I look for him to be a little conservative in this situation.” Instead, quarterback Syvelle Newton pitched a toss sweep to running back Cory Boyd, who gave the ball on a reverse to wide receiver Kenny McKinley, who threw a touchdown pass to the Newton in the back of the end zone. “Wow,” Ware said.
8. ACE TO THE HOUSE
Georgia still had a chance in 2012 when Ace Sanders dropped back to his own 30-yard line to take a punt. The Gamecocks led 14-0 but it was still the first quarter, and the Bulldogs weren’t dead yet. And then they were. Sanders initially dropped the ball and then picked up before zig-zagging 70 yards to give the No. 6 Gamecocks a 21-0 lead on the way to a 35-7 blowout of the No. 5 team in the country. As the replay rolled, ESPN announcer Brent Musburger said, “Sit back and enjoy folks, this is a 70-yarder and South Carolina is sending shock waves through the SEC.”
9. SILVER LINING
The most memorable thing that happened when South Carolina traveled to Mississippi State in 2010 was Marcus Lattimore suffered a torn ACL, but Alshon Jeffery made sure the day wasn’t a complete loss when he saved the Gamecocks from a terrible offensive day with another spectacular catch. South Carolina trailed 10-7 and Jeffery had four catches for 20 yards as the Gamecocks faced third-and-goal from the Bulldogs’ 4-yard line. Shaw, making his third career start, lofted the ball up to a covered Jeffery, who leapt and made the game-winning catch despite having his helmet pulled off in the process. “Connor did a great job of seeing it and just throwing it up. I had a terrible game so I had to make a play,” Jeffery said.
10. OVER THE HILL
South Carolina’s 36-14 win over Florida in 2010 to clinch the SEC East title was punishing in almost every sense, and nothing illustrated that more than when Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia finished off an 8-yard touchdown run by pushing Gators safety Will Hill the final 3 yards into the end zone to put South Carolina up 29-7 early in the fourth quarter. It was the only touchdown of the game not scored by Marcus Lattimore.