Unranked Tar Heels lose season opener in Columbia following rain delay
COLUMBIA, S.C. — At the end of the first half, Jadeveon Clowney’s name had been called just three times — twice for tackles on North Carolina’s Romar Morris and once for an off-sides penalty — hardly what was expected of the Heisman hopeful.
Instead Connor Shaw, Shaq Roland and Mike Davis — all members of South Carolina’s offense — were repeated over and over throughout Williams-Brice Stadium in UNC’s 27-10 loss Thursday night.
“We played a really good football team tonight,” coach Larry Fedora said. “No. 6 in the country and we didn’t play the way we wanted to play.”
The high expectations of Clowney seemingly overshadowed South Carolina’s offensive players, but as Clowney’s imposing silhouette waned Thursday night, the likes of Davis, Shaw and tailback Brandon Wilds stepped out and brought the sell-out, garnet-clad crowd to its feet.
It only took three plays to expose the glaring holes in North Carolina’s green defense that included five first-time starters, Ethan Farmer, Dominique Green, Norkeithus Otis, Jeff Schoettmer and Brandon Ellerbe.
In the first series of the game, the Gamecocks made it from the 18-yard line to the end zone in 1 minute, 19 seconds with two Davis rushes and one long touchdown pass from Shaw to Roland. Roland exploited UNC cornerback Tim Scott’s poor position and beat him to the ball, easily catching it and running into the end zone.
The score was the first of three Gamecock scoring drives in the first quarter.
“I just had missed leverage,” Scott said. “I was there, but the way the ball was thrown, I couldn’t get there to get to it. It was just a messed-up play.”
The defense seemed to settle down in the second quarter, only giving up one field goal. But on South Carolina’s first play from scrimmage in the second half, Davis streaked down the right side line and into the end zone, a trio of UNC’s secondary fading behind him.
Minutes earlier, UNC failed to convert on a first-and-goal from the 6-yard-line and had to settle for a field goal.
All momentum the Tar Heels could have carried into the next drive was squashed by Davis in a mere 13-second run.
UNC’s defense allowed South Carolina’s offense 406 yards, and gave up three touchdowns.
Part of the problem for UNC was its inability to match up with South Carolina’s offensive line. The Gamecocks were significantly bigger than UNC’s defensive line, and it showed. South Carolina used its size to pick up first downs by using sheer strength to force the running backs forward.
“They’re bigger than we are,” Fedora said. “That’s all I can say. I’d have to go back and look at the film and see if we were getting mashed.”
And Fedora also gave Davis credit for breaking tackles on his own.
“I want to give the running back a lot of credit. That guy broke some tackles. We hit him in the backfield and he’s still picking up four or five yards. Mike Davis, he did a nice job. We’ve got to do a better job tackling.”
On a night where the primary concern was South Carolina’s defense, it was North Carolina’s own that caused the most damage.
“We worked a lot on eliminating big plays and limiting plays and you can’t give up two big plays like that,” Fedora said. “You can’t do that. Those were disappointing.”