By Rixon Lane
With South Carolina preparing to face Miami in the Independence Bowl, now seems like a good time to step back and reflect on how the Gamecocks wound up heading to Shreveport.
A team that began the season with a top-ten ranking sputtered to a .500 record and three wins in the conference.
ow did it happen? Here are the 10 plays that shaped the 2014 campaign for South Carolina.
1. Touchdown Tra
Texas A&M's offense had no trouble moving the ball during the season opener, but South Carolina managed to keep the game within reach for the majority of the first half. Then, the Aggies drove 80 yards in 2:19, culminating with an option pitch to Tra Carson on 3rd-and-goal for a touchdown. A&M went up 31-14 and was never threatened from then on, cruising to a 52-28 win.
2. Fry-Bye, Pirates
East Carolina had pulled within a touchdown of the Gamecocks early in the fourth quarter and appeared to be close to handing South Carolina an 0-2 start. However, the Gamecocks answered with an 18-play, 86-yard drive that ate over ten and a half minutes off the clock. Elliott Fry capped the drive with a 20-yard field goal, giving the Gamecocks a 33-23 lead and ending ECU's upset hopes.
3. A Game of Inches
South Carolina held a 38-35 lead with under 1:30 to go over 6th-ranked Georgia. Facing fourth down and a yard, the Gamecocks rolled the dice and elected to send Dylan Thompson into the pile. After a lengthy measurement and a challenge from the Bulldogs, the officials confined that Thompson had picked up the first down by a fingernail, giving South Carolina the victory.
4. Brison Quiets the Commodores
Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 14-0 lead on South Carolina, causing some to wonder if the Gamecocks would suffer a letdown after the emotional win over Georgia. However, South Carolina answered with 17 points in the second quarter to take the lead. No score was bigger than the 53-yard interception return for a touchdown by Brison Williams, which gave the Gamecocks a lead they would not relinquish.
5. Murphy's Law
The Gamecocks had led Missouri 20-7 midway through the third quarter, but the Tigers were rallying late in the game. Down 20-14 at the Gamecock 24, Mizzou tailback took the ball off right tackle and glided through the South Carolina defense for a 22-yard gain. From there, the Tigers punched in the winning score to stun the Gamecocks.
6. Tip Drill
For the second consecutive week, South Carolina had squandered a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. With the ball deep in their own territory, Dylan Thompson's pass was tipped in the air and intercepted by defensive lineman Alvin Dupree, who rumbled six yards for the game-winning touchdown and handing the Gamecocks their second loss in three trips to Lexington.
7. One Isn't the Loneliest Number
After a heart-stopping offensive showcase between South Carolina and Auburn, the Gamecocks had one final crack at the end zone. A 40-yard Hail Mary attempt was intercepted, giving Auburn a 42-35 victory. However, it was later noticed that the Tigers had two players on the field wearing #1. By rule, the Gamecocks should have been given five yards and one more shot at the touchdown.
8. Dobbs Throws the Dagger
South Carolina watched another two-score lead vanish in the fourth quarter against an SEC East foe, as Tennessee erased a 42-28 lead with less than five minutes remaining. The Volunteers drove 85 yards in 72 seconds and quarterback Josh Dobbs tossed the game-tying touchdown pass with 11 ticks remaining on the clock, paving the way for a 45-42 overtime win for the Vols.
9. Block Party
With South Carolina's offense struggling, the defense and special teams carried the day against Florida. Leading 17-10, the Gators had a chance to give the Gamecocks a long field with under a minute remaining, but Carlton Heard came free up the middle to block Florida's punt. Given great field position, South Carolina scored and eventually won the game in overtime.
10. Can't Catch Him
Clemson led 21-10 late in the third quarter and had not been able to put South Carolina away. However, the Tigers fixed that when Artavis Scott took a toss from Deshaun Watson and went 70 yards, dancing out of a Skai Moore tackle at the goal line to give Clemson a 28-10 lead that would prove too much for the Gamecocks to overcome.