South Carolina’s defense was able to bend but not break on several occasions. The Tar Heels drove inside the South Carolina 31 yard line four times in the fourth quarter– only to come away with 1 TD.
The Gamecocks got off to a fast start scoring 14 points in the first quarter and limiting the Tar Heels to -12 yards their first two possessions.
South Carolina headed into the half with a 21-3 lead by the arm of Chris Smelley.
The third quarter provided no points for either team, while the fourth quarter was dominated by North Carolina.
The Tar Heels scored on the first play of the fourth quarter bringing the score to 21-9. The Gamecocks were only able to muster 14 yards in the fourth quarter and 0 points the entire second half.
The Tar Heels outscored South Carolina 12-0 in the second half, but it was not enough. The Gamecocks were able to escape with the 21-15 win.
Cory Boyd rushed for 101 yards – his second 100 yard game of the season – providing the Gamecocks with their only bright spot offensively.
Chris Smelley becomes the first South Carolina Freshman quarterback to win his first four starts. Smelley completed 65% of his passes with 3 TDs – a career high.
But for the Gamecocks to continue to compete in the SEC, the offense needs to improve drastically.
The last two weeks, the South Carolina offense has been virtually shut down in the second half. The Gamecock defense has bailed out the offense all season.
It seemed in the second half versus North Carolina, Steve Spurrier lost confidence in QB Chris Smelley’s ability to throw the ball downfield.
Spurrier seemed content with running the ball into the heart of the defense and throwing quick outs in the flat and screens. Spurrier later stated that his play calling led to the "putrid offense" of the second half.
The Gamecocks have enough talent offensively to win the SEC. The defense has proven it is capable to the task, but the offense has been hindering the Gamecocks.
USC is now at a stretch of games that will make or break their season in the SEC.
In order for the Gamecocks to win their first SEC East title ever since joining the conference in 1992, Spurrier is going to have to rely on the downfield threat of Smelley – who has the talent to be an All-SEC quarterback.
WR Kenny McKinley has emerged as Smelley’s go-to-guy with his consistent performance, while TE/WR Jared Cook has shown flashes of greatness to relieve the pressure on McKinley.
USC has the talent at the receiver positions – but has not been able to utilize that talent. One player in particular that has been absent from the offense as of late is freshman Chris Culliver.
Culliver has the athleticism and talent to be a great player and could contribute offensively in many different ways. Hand him the ball on a reverse, or throw him a screen and watch him scamper for 20 yards. Just get him involved offensively.
If South Carolina continues to only play for 30 minutes every game, look for them stumble in games on the road versus Tennessee and Arkansas, and then at home versus Florida.
A win is a win, but the Gamecock offense must improve for South Carolina to prevail in the SEC East.