Defense dominates as South Carolina beats UNC, 17-13

The South Carolina Gamecocks and North Carolina Tar Heels renewed their rivalry Thursday night as the college football season kicked off with a bang. It was a defensive battle all night long in Charlotte, as the SEC got the better of the ACC in the opening game of the FBS season.

The Tar Heels were led by quarterback Marquise Williams on their first drive after a 15-yard catch and run by Ryan Switzer. Running back Romar Morris took a 15-yard and eventually set up his team with a goal-to-go situation. Williams looked for a man in the endzone, but found Gamecock defensive back Skai Moore for his first of three interceptions on the night.

The Gamecocks, led by first-year quarterback Conner Mitch, struggled to get anything going on their first drive as they went three-and-out to open the game. The Gamecocks’ defense made another big play as they forced a punt by the Tar Heels.

Steve Spurrier’s offense found itself in another fourth down situation, but the HBC gave us the first trick play of the season. Punter Sean Kelly looked like he was going for a rugby-style punt, but he found an opening as he raced 17 yards to the South Carolina 38.

The drive stalled as the Tar Heels took over at their own 9. Williams found Bug Howard on the first play for forty yards and the Tar Heels were in business. Williams found Quinshad Davis for 28 yards to the South Carolina 28. Two plays later, Williams found Howard in the endzone from 21 yards out for the first touchdown of the FBS season.

Mitch opened his career in South Carolina with a delay of game penalty. He started the second quarter with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Pharaoh Cooper, which was set up by a beautiful pass to Brandon Wilds for 20 yards.

The Tar Heels answered with a 47-yard field by Nick Weiler on the next drive. The Gamecocks kept their offense rolling as they were able to set up a 25-yard field goal by Elliot Fry after a 27-yard reception by Cooper.

The Tar Heels again found their way into field goal position after a long run by T.J. Logan for 28 yards. The Gamecocks could not connect on a career-long field goal to end the first half.

It was a back-and-forth third quarter as defense again dominated both side of the ball, with the Gamecocks snagging their second interception of the game, this time by Jordan Diggs. The Gamecocks opened the fourth quarter by taking their first lead of the game after a 48-yard run by Shon Carson, making the score 17-13.

The Tar Heels finally got a drive going late in the game as Williams had his team in another goal-to-go scenario. The Tar Heels were forced into a fourth down situation from the seven yard line. With just under four minutes left in the game. The team elected to go for the win instead of trying to cut the deficit down to one.

Moore came up big again as he snagged his second interception of the game in the game. The Gamecocks ran the clock down as they moved onto the 17-13 win.

Howard had a big game for the Tar Heels as he caught six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Running back Elijah Hood led all rushers with 138 yards on the ground.

For the Gamecocks, Mitch had a decent showing in his first game of his career with 122 yards and a touchdown as well as 40 yards on the ground. Carson had a big showing in the fourth quarter, rushing for 60 of his 75 yards in the final period.

The Gamecocks struggled with penalties with eight on the night and their offense seemed to leave a lot of points on the field. The Tar Heels also struggled with turnovers with three interceptions and almost losing two more fumbles. Both teams have a lot to be happy with on the defensive side of the ball.

South Carolina next matches up with Kentucky at home and North Carolina plays North Carolina A&T at home as well. Both of those games happen on Sept. 12.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports

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