Gamecock Gamechangers

The game was ugly, but the result was pretty. Eighth-ranked South Carolina struggled early, but walked away in the second half to 49-6 victory over UAB Saturday night. We take a look at five players and five plays that helped the Gamecocks pull away.

5. Dylan Thompson

Thompson wasn't great statistically as he was last week, but coming off the bench with a struggling offense, Thompson was good enough. After overthrowing several passes early on, Thompson finally calmed down and began hitting his passes. He finished 5-of-10 for 177 yards and two scores. Connor Shaw was just 8-of-14 for 107 and one score with one interception. Steve Spurrier refuses to say there is a controversy, but if Thompson continues to put up those numbers and Shaw struggles, there has to be some thought.

4. Damiere Byrd

Byrd would be higher on the list, but he only had one reception against UAB. The reason he is on the list is because that one catch was a 94-yard touchdown reception. Byrd had a step on the defender, the defender slipped and Thompson hit Byrd right on the money. From there it was a foot race and nobody is going to bring Byrd down from behind.

3. D.J. Swearinger

Swearinger did not have a huge game, but he made a huge play. With Carolina struggling early, down 3-0 and UAB driving, Devin Taylor pressured Jonathan Perry and Perry lost the ball. The ball ended up going backwards into the waiting arms of Swearinger. Swearinger raced 65 yards into the end zone to give Carolina a 7-3 lead and pump some life into a crowd that had been hushed by UAB's early success and Carolina's lack thereof. Swearinger finished with three tackles and a pass break-up, but also had an interception that was called back on a roughing the passer penalty.

2. Jadeveon Clonwey

Clowney has made some huge plays in his short Carolina career, but Saturday night was his biggest game. Clowney finished with a modest seven tackles, but had two sacks and two more tackles for loss. He was as disruptive as he has been throughout his career and the UAB tackles had no answer for him.

Player of the Game

Bruce Ellington

You could hear the echoes of "Brrrrrruuuuucccceeeee" around the stadium all night. Ellington was a major part of the game plan from beginning to end. He finished the night with five receptions for 98 yards including a beautiful 43-yard reception late in the game. Ellington went out with a shoulder sprain following the catch, but still led the team in both receptions and yards.

Five key plays

5. Thompson to Byrd for six

For the second consecutive week, Dylan Thompson hit Damiere Byrd for a big play. The completion last week set up a Marcus Lattimore touchdown on the next play, but tonight there would be no next play. Byrd caught Thompson's pass in stride and raced down the sideline for a 94-yard touchdown. The game was well in hand at the time, but it was still a beautiful play.

4. Defense holds strong

With South Carolina comfortable leading 28-6, there was a feeling in the stadium that the lead wasn't as comfortable as it should be. Marcus Lattimore had just fumbled to give UAB the ball deep in Carolina territory. D.J. Swearinger picked off a Jonathan Perry pass that appeared to end the drive, but a roughing the passer penalty moved the ball inside to the Carolina nine. After a four yard completion on first down, Carolina's defense forced two consecutive incompletions to set up a fourth-and-goal from the four. Carolina brought pressure and Perry had to let go of it sooner than he wanted and it fell incomplete to end the drive. The Gamecocks would go on to do the same on the next possession.

3. Shaw finds Sanders

After struggling offensively through the first quarter, the Carolina offense began the second quarter with a 7-3 lead thanks to a defensive touchdown. The Gamecocks drove down the field to set up a 16-yard scoring strike. Shaw hit Sanders on a quick screen, Sanders took it down the sidelines while avoiding tackles to score the first offensive touchdown of the game.

2. Lattimore breaks record

It wasn't an impressive play, but it did the job. Lattimore took a handoff from Thompson from the two and pushed the pile forward into the end zone. Lattimore became the all-time leader in career touchdowns on the play.

Play of the game

1. Swearinger goes the distance

South Carolina was struggling on both sides of the ball. The offense wasn't moving the ball and the defense wasn't defending the pass at all. Already leading 3-0, UAB lined up for a third-and-twelve from the Carolina 25. Perry went back to pass, Taylor came through untouched to Perry and Perry lost the ball as he was attempting to avoid the hit. Swearinger was coming around the end on the other side and the ball fell right into his arms. He took it 65 yards for Carolina's first score to pump life into the team after coming out flat.

"I was on the blitz and we got pressure on the front side," Swearinger said. "I think it was Devin that got pressure. I saw he lost the ball and I took it the distance. It was a game changing moment and we needed that to give us a boost."

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories