After months and months of waiting, college football has finally returned. The No. 6 Gamecocks and Tar Heels kicked off the season Thursday night in Columbia, and USC’s start was almost as hot as the weather in the famously hot capital city.
The first quarter was all Cocks. USC took a 7-0 lead less than a minute and a half into the game, when Connor Shaw threw his first pass of the game and hit Shaq Roland for 65 yards and a touchdown. It was a thing of beauty.
The Gamecocks hit double digits a little less than 10 minutes later, when freshman Elliot Fry, making his first appearance (and sporting a uniform that said “Carolin”) banged home a field goal from 39 yards out. With under a minute remaining in the quarter, South Carolina tacked on another touchdown, this time courtesy of Dylan Thompson and Kane Whitehurst, who hauled in a 29-yard pass in the end zone and put his team up 17-0.
The Heels ended the shutout and got on the board in the second quarter, when Quinshad Davis grabbed a four-yard pass from Bryn Renner. The Gamecocks put up three more points shortly before halftime thanks to another Fry field goal, giving them a commanding 20-7 lead heading into the locker room.
The third quarter saw the final scoring drives for both teams. North Carolina’s Thomas Moore kicked a field goal and South Carolina’s Mike Davis took a ball 75 yards to the house, making it 27-10 in favor of the home team.
As if it wasn’t enough that it was insanely hot in Columbia, Mother Nature added some lightning and rain to the mix, which delayed the game (I thought storms only affected baseball games for the Gamecocks, but apparently not). After almost two hours of waiting, play resumed. The Tar Heels marched down the field and came this close to scoring, but the USC defense stepped up and stood their ground, stopping Renner on the 1-yard line.
One of the biggest stories out of this game was the impact of Jadeveon Clowney. No. 7 was relatively quiet during the night, and the announcers called him out for showing a lack of effort. He was also panting and sweating and tired out for the majority of the night, which obviously didn’t help his production.
While the ESPN guys seemed to this his lack of a monster influence was a horrible issue for the Cocks, I don’t think it was really something to be concerned about. If it becomes a trend, then yes, it’ll need to be looked at. But this was the first game of the season, it was almost 100 degrees, and Clowney was running all over the field. Let’s not crucify him just yet.
Plus, it’s almost a good thing that Clowney didn’t have a huge night against UNC. After all, this team is the South Carolina Gamecocks, not the South Carolina Clowneys. For as much talent and publicity and hype as No. 7 brings in, there are plenty of other guys on both sides of the ball who are playmakers, and they’re no less important.
The Cocks and Heels were pretty evenly matched in first downs, notching 17 and 18 respectively, but USC outgained North Carolina 406-293 in total yards and the Tar Heels were held to under 100 yards rushing. UNC also turned the ball over once.
Shaw was 11-of-20 for 149 yards and a touchdown, and had 12 carries for 43 yards. Renner went 26-of-43 for 194 yards and a TD. Speaking of QBs, I have to say that the bromance between Shaw and Thompson is my favorite thing ever. They’re so happy and excited for each other and it’s just the best.
Mike Davis led the Gamecocks in rushing with 12 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown, while Roland led them in receiving, with two catches for 75 yards and a TD. Romar Morris had 69 yards on 15 carries and Quinshad Davis totaled 39 yards and a touchdown on four receptions for North Carolina.
South Carolina is now 1-0 on the season, while the Tar Heels are 0-1. USC’s next game will be next Saturday, when they go on the road for an SEC East showdown to take on No. 5 Georgia. The game will begin at 4:30 ET and be televised on ESPN.