COLUMBIA – There must be something about Atlantic Coast Conference football teams and spread offenses that bring out the best in South Carolina’s defense.
Mike Davis rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Connor Shaw threw for 149 yards and a touchdown to lead No. 6 South Carolina past North Carolina, 27-10, Thursday night in the season opener before a crowd of 81,572 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The game was halted with 8:20 left in the fourth quarter because of lightning and heavy rain. The game was suspended for 104 minutes before resuming at 10:30 p.m. The last time a game was delayed because of weather at Williams-Brice Stadium was in 2002 against Georgia.
The Gamecocks, who have managed to shut down Clemson’s high-scoring spread offense for the last two years, did the same thing Thursday night against North Carolina. The Tar Heels averaged more than 40 points and nearly 500 yards a game in 2012. The Gamecocks limited UNC to 293 yards and a single touchdown.
“I got to take my hat off to my defense,” said South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. “We held them to half of what they did last year.”
It was far from a perfect performance for the Gamecocks on the offensive side of the ball. Two plays – a 75-yard run from Mike Davis and a 65-yard pass play – accounted for almost half of the Gamecocks’ offense.
“It was a good win,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. “It wasn’t always very pretty, but it was a win. North Carolina played hard. They just gave up too many big plays for us.”
For all the preseason hype surrounding Clowney, the All-American defensive end was almost a non-factor most of the game. Clowney finished with three tackles and three quarterback pressures and appeared to be fatigued throughout the game.
“It wasn’t just Clowney that got winded,” said South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. “I think the entire defense got winded. We knew they’d run the hurry-up and we tried to simulate it in practice, but that was the fastest team I’ve ever seen.”
Shaw completed 11 of 20 passes, but the senior had just one completion in the second half.
“Connor did OK,” Spurrier said. “He was just OK. Besides that one throw to Shaq (Roland) we didn’t do much throwing the ball. We were just not very good.”
Backup quarterback Dylan Thompson was in for one snap and made the most of it, throwing a 29-yard TD strike to Kane Whitehurst.
The Gamecocks got off a fast start, scoring on four of their first five possessions.
It took the Gamecocks just three plays to score as Shaw connected with sophomore wide receiver Shaq Roland on a 65-yard TD pass. Roland faked UNC cornerback Tim Scott to the outside and then cut toward the post. Shaw hit Roland in stride.
The Gamecocks pushed their advantage to 10-0 when place kicker Elliott Fry capped a 13-play, 58-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal with 4:53 to play in first quarter.
After a four-yard TD pass by UNC’s Bryn Renner to Quinshad Davis, the Gamecocks pushed their advantage to 20-7 with a 26-yard field by Elliott.
The Tar Heels opened the second half with a 16-play, 70-yard drive that resulted in a short field goal from Thomas Moore.
The Gamecocks answered immediately, as Davis burst over the right side of the formation and sprinted 75 yards untouched into the end zone.
“That was a big run from Mike,”Spurrier said. “I thought Mike and Brandon Wilds both ran the ball well.”