South Carolina Pulls Away from Sam Howell, UNC to Win 2021 Mayo Bowl

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 30, 2021

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 30: Dakereon Joyner #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts following a touchdown pass to Jaheim Bell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first quarter of the Duke's Mayo Bowl against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Bank of America Stadium on December 30, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

South Carolina capped off its 2021 season with a 38-21 victory over North Carolina in the Duke's Mayo Bowl on Thursday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

To the delight of fans everywhere, the result earned head coach Shane Beamer a mayonnaise bath.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl @DukesMayoBowl

MAYO BATH <a href="https://t.co/GQh03Beue1">pic.twitter.com/GQh03Beue1</a>

Beamer led a five-win improvement for the Gamecocks in his first year on the sideline.

South Carolina jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the first quarter.  A 40-yard field goal by Grayson Atkins brought UNC to within one score, 18-10, with 5:44 left in the first half. That was as close as the Tar Heels came to bridging the gap.

The Gamecocks finished with 543 total yards, including 301 rushing yards.

Notable Performers

Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina: 12-of-20, 205 yards, one touchdown; 13 carries, three yards

Antoine Green, WR, North Carolina: four receptions, 73 yards

Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina: 31 carries, 182 yards, one touchdown

Dakereon Joyner, WR, South Carolina: 9-of-9, 160 yards, one touchdown; 10 carries, 64 yards

South Carolina Grinds Down UNC Defense

A bowl game is a great time for a coach to empty the playbook, and that's exactly what Beamer did on South Carolina's first drive. Wide receiver Dakereon Joyner took the snap out of the shotgun and hit Jaheim Bell for a 69-yard touchdown pass.

SEC Network @SECNetwork

JAHEIM BELL HOUSE CALL<br><br>“Pour some mayo on me, baby!” 😂 <a href="https://t.co/Z2jfGrFRHi">pic.twitter.com/Z2jfGrFRHi</a>

Mina Kimes @minakimes

that South Carolina WR might’ve just thrown the most impressive pass we see all day

Beamer quickly discovered he wouldn't need to rely much on trickery in order to move the ball against North Carolina. Especially in the second half as they were protecting a double-digit lead, the Gamecocks were content to pound the ball on the ground.

Dan Wolken @DanWolken

South Carolina only scored 30 or more against one FBS opponent this season (Florida). Just hit 35 and 500 yards of offense with a little less than 8 minutes remaining. Tough look for the Heels defense.

Kevin Harris was the bell cow out of the backfield and enjoyed one of his best games of the season.

Michael Lananna @mlananna

Kevin Harris is running with some burst today. It's a shame we haven't seen him at 100 percent for much of this season. He was a monster last year. Looking good so far. 60 yards on 10 attempts.

Eric Columbus @EricColumbus

Kevin Harris, with 138 yards rushing so far, is really putting on a Mayo clinic.

South Carolina's ability to control the tempo was evident with how long it had the ball in the second half. Here's the time of possession for the Gamecocks' four drives: 5:07, 6:11 6:20 and 5:02.

Early in the year, Beamer was blunt about the gap between his squad and an elite program such as Georgia. He explained how the Bulldogs "got like 100 5-star football players on their defense."

The 44-year-old knows that great coaching can only go so far toward closing a talent gap.

He has assembled the No. 20 class in 247Sports' composite team rankings, which would be aa significant improvement from finishing 79th in 2021. Beamer also convinced former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler to call Columbia, South Carolina, home.

The future is looking bright.

Howell Doesn't Help Draft Stock

Sam Howell has yet to declare for the 2022 NFL draft, but nobody will be surprised if the North Carolina quarterback declines to return for next season.

By suiting up for the Tar Heels on Thursday, Howell may have been looking to bolster his draft stock with one last big performance. According to ESPN's Jordan Reid, representatives for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers were on hand for the game.

Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

For me, Howell lacks the elite-level traits that give a QB a first-round grade, but that doesn't mean a team won't draft him Rd1. Similar to Desmond Ridder—doesn't have a Rd1 from me, but could get there with a good pre-draft process.

Unfortunately for Howell, the Duke's Mayo Bowl probably wasn't the kind of showcase he envisioned.

North Carolina allowed an average of 3.8 sacks per game this year, 127th in FBS. The downtime between a 34-30 loss to North Carolina State and the Duke's Mayo Bowl didn't help head coach Mack Brown magically solve his offensive line issues.

As a result, Howell was under constant pressure.

Brad Crawford @BCrawford247

I give Sam Howell a helluva lot of credit for playing today. <br><br>His OL was trash all year (gave up Power 5-high 45 sacks) and he’s been getting mashed throughout.

Connor O'Gara @cjogara

On my “dudes who deserved better this year” team, Sam Howell is the QB.

North Carolina was ranked 10th in the Associated Press' preseason Top 25. Six games into the year, even Brown was conceding his squad was overrated based on where it entered 2021.

A comprehensive loss to South Carolina was the culmination of a campaign that fell well short of expectations in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.