COLUMBIA, SC –The discussion of which Carolina is the “Real” Carolina may be for the pundits and radio shockjocks, but there was no joke about who played the Real Football Thursday night. Spurrier’s Gamecocks dominated UNC in all three phases of the game in the way that most SEC schools do when they go outside their conference — and in the way that Vegas and the experts certainly predicted. The Gamecocks only had to cover 11.5 points and did so with ease, 27-10.
The Tar Heels are certainly talented in their own right, but when playing a top five squad any analyst in the country is going to give an underdog one piece of advice: don’t give up big plays. It took UNC a total of three snaps for that to go out the window. The Gamecocks struck first on a 65-yard touchdown that set the tone for the rest of the game, and even when Fedora was making a second half push that might have cut the game to six points, his defense gave up a 75-yard touchdown run just a few plays later that would seal the deal.
While it was expected for South Carolina to put points, the most disappointing aspect of the Tar Heels opener was their total lack of offense — ten points was Fedora’s lowest output since coming to Chapel Hill. It was obviously early that UNC’s game callers would be substituting first down running plays for bubble screens to their receivers in an effort to circumvent SC’s size up front — or more specifically, Jadeveon Clowney’s size. It would suffice to say that this strategy was not successful as the Heels failed to gain 300 yards on offense.
Fedora’s 4-2-5 defense performed mildly well — holding Spurrier’s offense to a relatively pedestrian 27 points — but proved why it will be difficult for UNC to beat too many teams this season unless they outscore their opponents. It’s fair to say that the coaching staff hasn’t had the time to fully recruit for their system, but bigger SEC teams that can dominate the line are simply always going to give the 4-2-5 scheme problems, and South Carolina manhandled UNC in the box all night.
Speaking of manhandling, one of the bright spots (for fans at least) was South Carolina’s star player — and media darling — Jadeveon Clowney’s relatively pedestrian night. Though Clowney said in the post game press conference that he was “not impressed” with UNC’s future NFL draft pick and left tackle James Hurst, some might argue he should have been. Hurst dominated Clowney, holding the defensive end to three tackles, no sacks, and generally no impact on the football game.
—Though it didn’t matter. UNC was unable to force any turnovers and third-year starting QB Bryn Renner looked lost all night. In the end, South Carolina was simply bigger, faster and stronger than UNC in every way, and the SEC will continue to rule college football (and the ACC) until that simple fact starts to change.