6:02 p.m., it’s hot, but not humid. Just about everybody in the country is watching South Carolina take on North Carolina because frankly, there’s not much else on at 6:02 p.m. on a Thursday evening.
In a thrilling contest, South Carolina edged the Tar Heels 17-13 after junior linebacker Skai Moore's fourth and goal interception with less than four minutes left in the game.
North Carolina won the toss and deferred, giving the Gamecocks the ball on the 25 yard line after a touchback on the kickoff.
The Gamecocks looked lost to begin the game. South Carolina began the game with a three-and-out, stopped by North Carolina's defense. The Tar Heels got to the eight yard line before junior linebacker Skai Moore’s interception ended the scoring threat.
After another three-and-out, head coach Steve Spurrier gambled by calling a fake punt on his own 21 yard line. Junior punter Sean Kelly’s 17 yard run gave the Gamecocks their first first down of the night.
North Carolina struck first on a 21-yard touchdown reception by junior Bug Howard. South Carolina answered with a methodical 11 play, 75-yard drive capped by sophomore quarterback Connor Mitch’s first career touchdown pass, an eight yard slant to junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper.
The Gamecocks trailed 13-10 for most of the game after a scoreless third quarter.
Brilliant First ImpresShon
Third-string running back Shon Carson did not enter the game for the first time until 11:57 into the third quarter, but he quickly took over.
The senior tailback took his first carry of the night 48 yards for a touchdown, the fourth of his career. Carson has remained patient throughout the year, losing his starting role as the kick returner to redshirt freshman Deebo Samuel.
Carson has spent his career behind the likes of Marcus Lattimore and Mike Davis, and was the sixth Gamecock to record a rushing attempt Thursday.
Carson finished the game with 75 yards on four carries, but it was his touchdown that completely turned the tide of the game.
Skai’s the Limit
There was no one in better than Skai Moore Thursday night. Not only did his 10 tackles lead both teams, but his two interceptions completely changed the course of the game.
The first prevented North Carolina from seizing early control. Moore stepped in front of North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams’ throw to get the pick in the Tar Heel end zone.
On fourth and goal late in the fourth quarter, Moore again jumped into the passing lane to seal the game for the Gamecocks. It was a team-leading ninth of Moore’s career.
Gamecocks Dominate in the Trenches
On offense, the line gave Mitch and junior Perry Orth more than enough time to throw. The Gamecocks surrendered just one sack, a two-yard loss on a Mitch scramble.
South Carolina bullied the Tar Heels with 254 rushing yards, essentially wearing the defense down in the second half.
The Gamecock defensive line recorded four sacks, including two by junior Kelsey Griffin. Griffin was listed as the third-string defensive tackle coming into the game.
Junior college transfers Marquavius Lewis and Dante Sawyer both played well. Sawyer recorded a sack on third and goal during North Carolina’s final drive, and Lewis had a key stop on a fourth down and inches in the third quarter.
Though the Gamecocks surrendered 440 yards, the defensive line got pressure all night and forced Williams into some bad throws.
Mitch did not play particularly well Thursday, going just 9-22 with 122 yards and a touchdown. Mitch did add 44 yards on the ground before leaving the game with a hip pointer.
Orth entered the game and finished with 24 yards on 2-2 passing.
Head coach Steve Spurrier said that he would be sticking with Mitch next week, but that the sophomore would have to play better.
Quote of the Night
“Well, I’m encouraged we played so poorly and still won.” - Head coach Steve Spurrier