IF THE ACC was hoping one of its up-and-coming teams would make a statement Thursday night in SEC country, North Carolina said all the wrong things at Williams-Brice Stadium.
A league that is longing to close the gap, in perception and reality, between itself and the SEC was hoping the Tar Heels’ no-huddle offense would prove a tougher test for No. 6 South Carolina. Instead, the Gamecocks’ offensive line pushed around the Tar Heels in the first half on the way to a 20-7 halftime lead.
“We played a really good football team tonight,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “They have some really good players and coaches, and we didn’t play the way we wanted to play. We knew it would be tough coming in here to their stadium and playing a game in this situation, and I was disappointed in the way that we played in all three phases of the game, but you have to give South Carolina credit. They are a good football team.”
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier lamented his team’s missed chances after the game, and there were a few, and pointed out the Tar Heels could have been much closer had a few plays gone a different way, which is also true.
Still, the outcome did not feel in doubt for the final 20 minutes, and South Carolina, despite what defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward described as a winded unit, gave up 3.7 yards per play to the Tar Heels.
“I think next week we will be a little more conditioned,” cornerback Vic Hampton said. “I don’t think Georgia moves the ball as fast as UNC does, and I don’t think they will be able to get the ball out as fast as (UNC quarterback Bryn) Renner did just because of the system that they use.”
Now the ACC’s weekend is left to No. 8 Clemson, which hosts No. 5 Georgia, and unranked Virginia Tech, which is trudging like a lamb to slaughter into Atlanta to play No. 1 Alabama. It could get uglier from here.