COLUMBIA — Sophomore tailback Mike Davis’ 75-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter — extending South Carolina’s lead to 27-10 vs. North Carolina on Thursday — was the Gamecocks’ longest rushing play from scrimmage since Bobby Wallace in 2006.
South Carolina’s longest rush of the 2012 season was actually in 2013, when quarterback Connor Shaw traversed 64 yards in the Outback Bowl against Michigan on New Year’s Day.
Davis was the Gamecocks’ fourth-leading rusher last year, with production against Arkansas (13 rushes, 53 yards, 1 TD) and Clemson (12 rushes, 43 yards) in games after Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Davis’ older brother, James, was a sixth-round NFL draft selection by the Cleveland Browns out of Clemson in 2009.
Dylan Thompson was on the field for one play in the first three quarters, and he made the most of it.
With a 10-0 lead, Thompson took over for quarterback Connor Shaw on a first-and-10 play from the Tar Heels’ 29-yard-line. He rolled to his right and found Kane Whitehurst open for an easy touchdown.
That gave the Gamecocks a 17-point lead after just 11 minutes, 43 seconds of gametime.
Leading 17-0 after a quarter, South Carolina scored its highest first-quarter total in a season opener since 1996. The UNC sideline was baking in the sun through the first quarter — the kickoff temperature was a scalding 95 degrees — which may have aided the home team’s quick start.
North Carolina was a solid first-quarter team last year, outscoring opponents by an average of 4.7 points in the opening 15 minutes.
Wide receiver Bruce Ellington (Berkeley High School) has been slowed by a hamstring injury and missed the first quarter. But he took the field in the second quarter.
Sophomore wideout Shaq Roland, on South Carolina’s first pass of the game, matched his touchdown total from last season. It was a 65-yard strike from Shaw on the third snap.
Whitehurst, the Gamecocks’ sophomore wide receiver who caught a first-quarter touchdown pass, is a transfer from Arkansas. He’s also the cousin of former Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who went 4-0 as a starter against South Carolina.
Better late than never
Gerald Dixon Jr. recorded the first sack of the season for South Carolina, with six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Tar Heels, with Bryn Renner entering his third year as the starting quarterback, allowed just 11 sacks in 12 games last season.
Starting strong safety Kadetrix Marcus dislocated his shoulder and is expected to miss several weeks. Marcus’ back-up J.T. Gurley finished with a team-high nine tackles against the Tar Heels.
Defensive tackle J.T. Suratt suffered a foot contusion and his status for next weekend’s game with Georgia is uncertain.
Jadeveon Clowney left the field for a few plays during UNC’s first touchdown drive, treated for cramping as he was stretched out by the trainers. He later sat out multiple consecutive snaps in the fourth quarter, grabbing his left hamstring.
Punt returner Victor Hampton left with a sprained neck at the end of a return, but came back during the third quarter.
Still the one
Steve Spurrier is now 23-1 in season openers, and it remains ironic that the only team to beat a Spurrier-coached team to start a season is South Carolina.
Duke, led by the head ball coach in 1989, lost 27-21 to the Gamecocks in Columbia 24 years ago.
Spurrier is 9-0 in openers at South Carolina.