College Sports

Carolina black and blue

South Carolina's Kenny McKinley, top left, breaks up a pass on the final play of the game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.
South Carolina's Kenny McKinley, top left, breaks up a pass on the final play of the game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- There was no need -- or desire -- to pose under the scoreboard this time.

"Amazing we still won the game," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said, shaking his head after a hanging-by-the-fingernails 21-15 win at North Carolina on Saturday. "We got a lot to yell and scream about at some guys.

"Don't know if it will do any good ... been doing that all season."

The No. 7 Gamecocks became bowl-eligible with their sixth win. They also improved Spurrier's lifetime record against UNC to 4-0, including 3-0 at Kenan Stadium.

But anybody expecting a performance like the last time Spurrier was at Kenan -- the 41-0 drubbing his Duke team laid on the Tar Heels in 1989, where they posed under the scoreboard for a picture afterward -- was shocked. The Tar Heels (2-5) stormed back from a 21-3 halftime deficit to trail 21-15 with four seconds to play, only 31 yards away from the tying touchdown and go-ahead PAT.

T.J. Yates' desperation flare into the end zone fell incomplete, although it appeared Greg Little might have snared it at the 1-yard line. Regardless, USC walked out of Kenan with a victory.

A very chagrined one.

"I just think sometimes we're inconsistent at times," said defensive end Eric Norwood, who finished with six tackles and a sack. "If we're going to be a Top-10 team, (that's) just something we got to correct, if we ever want to excel with the elite."

Even with the Gamecocks' offense stonewalled, they still had a 21-9 lead through the first 11 minutes of the fourth quarter. But then UNC scored a touchdown to make it 21-15 and USC was forced into panic mode, again trying to run and bleed the clock.

The plan almost worked. USC moved to UNC's 31 and faced fourth-and-three. With 41 seconds to go, place-kicker Ryan Succop jogged onto the field for the cushioning 48-yard field goal.

The ball clanged into the right upright and fluttered harmlessly back on the field. The Tar Heel faithful, sensing another second chance in two quarters full of them, went nuts.

Yates only needed four plays to get the Heels in striking distance, setting up at the 31 with 11 seconds to go. The first Hail Mary was batted away and the second, although it was close, followed suit.

The expressions on the Gamecocks' faces afterward were a mixture of relief and disbelief. Cory Boyd waved off reporters, stalking to the locker room and screaming about the team's lack of commitment.

Spurrier said he was glad to get the win, which was what mattered. He stayed away from the downside -- yet another poor performance against a supposed pushover.

"I'm responsible for that putrid offense," he said. "I'm calling that conservative run-run crap, and then we tried to throw, couldn't hit anything, either. They did a good job defensively in the second half and fortunately, we got 21 in the first half."

The Gamecocks (6-1) got three touchdowns in the first, the last coming 15 seconds before the bell when Jared Cook caught a 12-yard bullet from Chris Smelley. At that point, it was 21-3 and it looked like it might be a laugher.

Instead, as UCF and Wofford and Louisiana-Lafayette did before them, the Heels decided they might as well show up for the second half.

USC couldn't run or pass in the second half, posting 62 yards in the final two quarters. And when UNC posted one touchdown as the fourth quarter began and immediately forced another punt, the momentum turned.

The Heels' first attempt at getting closer failed, Yates pitching a flea-flicker to Joe Dailey, who overthrew Little near the goal line and was intercepted by Emanuel Cook. The second try likewise flunked, Yates' perfect fade slipping right through Little's arms as he ran into the end zone ahead of Mike West.

But the third try hit paydirt, Yates spinning into the end zone to complete a four-play, 62-yard drive. Succop's attempt failed and UNC was back on the field, hitting more of its whopping 45 plays in the second half.

The Gamecocks won, and kept alive a season that might end up being pretty special. The players that spoke afterward seemed to realize how close they'd come and only talked about the future, instead of the ugliness that just happened.

"A win's a win in college football," said Smelley, who finished 17-of-26 for 172 yards, three TDs and an interception. "It doesn't matter how pretty it is, it doesn't matter how ugly it is."

South Carolina 14 7 0 0 -- 21

North Carolina 0 3 0 12 -- 15

• South Carolina just happy for win, ugly or not • 2D

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