SPARTANBURG — South Carolina held off North Carolina 23-19 in the 76th annual Shrine Bowl on Saturday at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg. Both teams offenses slogged through quicksand, combining for seven turnovers, but the feisty Sandlappers emerged victorious courtesy of some timely defensive plays and a little bit of attitude.
When they start that ballgame, the scoreboard says 0-0, S.C. coach Ray Stackley quipped. All the prognosticators and all the experts said we cant win the ballgame. We wanted to come out, be classy, support the Shriners, but the No. 1 goal is to win the ballgame.
North Carolina had one of the biggest offensive lines in the long history of the all-star football game, averaging about 6-foot-5, 315 pounds per man, and the Tarheels had enough recruiting stars at the skill positions to fill a small galaxy.
The plaudits only seemed to poke and prod a tough-nosed South Carolina squad throughout the week of practice. Saturday was the time to unleash the pent up frustration.
Its fun proving everyone wrong. Their whole team was highly recruited four and five-star guys, said linebacker Ben Boulware, a Clemson commit who was named South Carolinas defensive MVP. They base it all off height, weight, 40 (-yard dash times) and thats why those guys are four and five stars. A lot of our defense and offense are not highly recruited dudes, and we kind of proved the doubters wrong today.
South Carolina fumbled a pair of kickoff returns early in each half, but ultimately pulled off the upset win by scoring points in the red zone. The Sandlappers were 4-for-4 inside the North Carolina 20, while the Tarheels had two costly red-zone turnovers, including a pick by Yorks Lee Wright in the third quarter after North Carolina picked up a short field courtesy of Chocolate Wilsons fumbled kickoff return.
South Carolina knew it would be a tough day when Goose Creek star Tramel Terry fumbled the opening kickoff, while injuring his knee seriously enough that he left the field on a cart. Still, South Carolina led 9-6 after a first half best characterized as sluggish. North Carolina mustered just 41 yards on 26 plays, while the Sandlappers racked up 104 yards on 36 plays, though 45 of those yards came from one pass play. Stackleys crew picked it up in the second half though.
I thought our defense played well the whole game and our offense made some good adjustments at halftime and was able to come back and score some points, said Stackley.
Back-to-back scoring drives in the fourth quarter put South Carolina up 23-13, a lead they held for good. Wrights pick in the end zone set up the first scoring march. A 16-yard Harold Atkinson run got South Carolina over midfield, before Northwestern receiver Rontavious McClure picked up 10 yards and then was horse-collar tackled for an additional 15 yards down to the North Carolina 25. Several plays later, Conways Mykal Moody took a sweep right side five yards into the end zone for a 16-13 South Carolina lead.
North Carolinas next possession stalled out at the South Carolina 31, and Matthew Wogans ambitious 48-yard field goal barely got off the ground. South Carolina took advantage of the momentum, and marched 80 yards on 11 plays. Hilton Head quarterback Michael Julian scrambled on a third and goal at the 14, then pulled up and lobbed a scoring pass to Belton-Honea Paths Keinan Lewis, who peeled away from his man for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
North Carolina still had time to drive down the field and score with 36 seconds left on a 4-yard run by Noah Suber, but South Carolina recovered the onside kick to seal the win.
Bret McCormick 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T