After injuring his hand in week three against top-ranked Georgia, graduate quarterback Zeb Noland did not know when his next opportunity to would come.
As fate would have it, his number was called in the final minutes of Saturday's matchup against Vanderbilt. With an offense that was struggling, Noland led an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that gave South Carolina its 13th consecutive victory over the Commodores, winning 21-20.
On the final drive, Noland completed 4 of 7 passes for 66 yards before capping it off with a 9-yard strike to junior wide receiver Xavier Legette for the game-tying score.
"It's those moments you dream of as a kid. You always think about it," Noland said at a postgame press conference. "I'm in my whatever year of playing and you still dream about those moments. Even at practice everyday, you still think about making those throws and doing your job, and that's what it came down to."
Normally starting slow, the Gamecock offense dominated in the first quarter as sophomore quarterback Luke Doty threw touchdown passes to fifth-year tight end Nick Muse and sophomore tight end Jaheim Bell on the first two drives of the game.
From there, however, the offense failed to capitalize on multiple occasions, allowing Vanderbilt to take the lead in the third quarter.
To say the least, there were still plenty of problems offensively, as the Commodores forced four turnovers on the night.
During the fourth quarter, Doty threw two interceptions, leading to head coach Shane Beamer substituting Doty for Noland.
Beamer said postgame that Doty's foot was bothering him as the game progressed. Before relieving Noland in Athens, Doty missed the first two games of the season with a foot injury he suffered during fall camp.
Beamer said he has not yet decided if Noland will take Doty's place as starting quarterback.
"[Doty] was having some trouble making throws — and he made some great throws as well. It's a shame because we had some big explosive passes," Beamer said. "So, like every game we'll go back and look at the video of the game, but Luke did a lot of good stuff, and Zeb did a lot of good stuff. He's a phenomenal teammate."
Along with the pair of interceptions, Doty finished his night completing 17 of 27 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. When it came down to it, Beamer opted to take him out.
"We just needed a spark to finish some drives," Beamer said. "Then right after that last interception, we knew that if we're going to win the game, we were going to give Zeb an opportunity, and we needed a healthy quarterback in there as well. Zeb has got a great fuel for our passing game and protections."
Looking ahead to the Gamecocks' upcoming matchup against Texas A&M, an important decision will have to be made at quarterback, following Noland's late-game heroics.
Noland said he will continue to take his opportunities as they come and enjoy the time he has left playing football.
"I never thought I'd put on the pads again and never get the opportunity to do this again, and I came back because I love these guys. I truly love every one of them. I try to celebrate with them more than they celebrated me after that touchdown," Noland said. "It doesn't matter who the opponent is — going in and doing that — it's a childhood dream."