Sports

Ugly win came down to one drive

South Carolina's Jason Barnes hauls in a 38-yard pass from quarterback Stephen Garcia in front of Kentucky defender Robbie McAtee to set up the winning touchdown.
South Carolina's Jason Barnes hauls in a 38-yard pass from quarterback Stephen Garcia in front of Kentucky defender Robbie McAtee to set up the winning touchdown.

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Forget the four turnovers, the three botched punt returns and the innumerable passes that just missed receivers. South Carolina's mystifying 24-17 victory over Kentucky on Saturday came down to one drive.

Call this the anatomy of a game-winning drive.

The score was tied at 17 when USC took possession of the ball at its 42-yard line with 9:40 remaining in the game. Steve Spurrier had called Stephen Garcia from the bullpen midway through the third quarter after Chris Smelley had proved ineffective as the starter.

Mike Davis was dropped for a 2-yard loss on first down and Garcia's pass to Moe Brown on second down was long and incomplete. On third down, a play was sent to Garcia from the sideline.

"He told me to look over to him after every play to see if he wanted me to audible or anything," Garcia said. "(Spurrier) checked to a little streak by Jason Barnes and he's been playing tremendous the last two weeks."

Garcia "zinged" -- Spurrier's word -- the pass toward Barnes, who was running a 15-yard slant route.

"(Kentucky) hadn't been playing much zone most of the game, but they decided to switch it up and go zone late in the fourth quarter," Barnes said. "So, (Spurrier) told me to go ahead and run that. I was wide open and Garcia gave me a nice throw."

Actually, the throw was low and in front of Barnes.

"If I can get it, it's a good pass," said Barnes, who made a diving catch.

The play went for 17 yards and USC had a first down at the Kentucky 43. Again, Davis was dropped in the backfield for a 2-yard loss. Then Spurrier could not get a play changed at the line of scrimmage and USC took a timeout with 7:40 remaining.

On the sideline, Spurrier talked to Barnes.

"If they keep manning you up, we're going to keep throwing it to you," Barnes recalled Spurrier saying. "If they man up with the safety over there, we're going to throw it up."

Sure enough, the Kentucky safety moved to the line of scrimmage, a signal he was going to play man-to-man defense against the 6-4 Barnes.

"As soon as I saw that, I made a good move off the line and had to go get the ball," Barnes said.

Garcia lofted a perfect spiral, a beauty of a pass, to a streaking Barnes, who was running a deep fade route on the right sideline.

"It felt good throwing it," Garcia said. "As soon as it went out of my hand, it felt good."

On the sideline, Spurrier said he knew the throw was good as soon as Garcia released it. Barnes made a spectacular catch with his fingertips, and the play went for 38 yards to the Kentucky 7.

Then came the play of the game. "Cajun" was named in honor of LSU, which ran the play for a touchdown against Ohio State in the national championship game in January. Spurrier immediately put the play into his book and USC began practicing it during training camp.

It essentially is the old "tackle eligible" play, except that a tight end lines up in the tackle position. Tight end Weslye Saunders was the tackle on the right side of the line, and he crouched down to hide the No. 88 on the front of his jersey.

"Hopefully, they don't see he is an end," Spurrier said.

The center, both guards and another tackle also lined up with Saunders in front of Garcia. Davis was split to the far right. Three receivers and tackle Justin Sorensen were bunched close to the left sideline.

Garcia said he did a double-take when he saw Sorensen split to the left. Then he checked his wristband to see what play was called.

"For a second there, when he called the play and I looked at my wristband, I didn't think we were running the right play," Garcia said. "I thought my wristband was wrong, or something. So I kept looking over to the side."

From the sideline, Spurrier and assistant coach David Reaves frantically waved to Garcia to run the play that was called.

Garcia stepped under center and saw a Kentucky safety had moved out to where USC had its three receivers. A Kentucky linebacker moved up near the line of scrimmage and Saunders was left unattended.

Kentucky had not noticed Saunders was an eligible receiver.

"It was just wide open," Garcia said. "There was nobody over there to check off. It was wide open."

Garcia lobbed the ball to Saunders who must have felt lonely in the end zone until he was mobbed by teammates. The touchdown pass culminated a six-play, 58-yard drive. Garcia engineered the drive. Barnes played the starring role. Spurrier was the magician for calling the trick play.

As a result, USC was the winner and all of the many foibles throughout the game were long since forgotten.

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