Lucas: Rapid Reactions
1. Not much went right for the Tar Heels, but one of the biggest culprits was production (or lack thereof) on first down. Carolina mustered just 41 total yards on 20 first-down plays in the game, an average of 2.1 yards per play. Thirteen of the Carolina snaps on first down went for two yards or less. Meanwhile, South Carolina piled up an average of 11.9 yards per play on its 24 first-down snaps.
Sure, you might say, but the Gamecocks also had first-down plays of 65 yards and 75 yards that went for touchdowns, and that's skewing their numbers. Even if you take those two plays out (and, unfortunately, you can't), South Carolina still averaged 6.7 yards per first-down play. That's a significant difference in the plays they were able to call on second and third downs as compared to what the Tar Heels had to run.
2. Credit James Hurst--and the rest of the Carolina offensive line, really--with a solid job against the most talked-about man of the week, Jadeveon Clowney. The defensive end, who'd been touted as a Heisman candidate, was largely neutralized (three tackles in his 51 snaps). Two of the South Carolina line's sacks came after the lightning delay when the outcome was long since decided. The Gamecocks moved Clowney to several different spots on the line, and the Tar Heels usually had a response.
Despite his lack of production, Clowney wasn't in a generous mood for Hurst's performance. "I wasn't really impressed (with Hurst) like I was the guy with Michigan," Clowney said after the game.
3. It was terrific to see T.J. Thorpe back on the field, and it's a virtual certainty that he'll make some big plays for the Tar Heel special teams in 2013. But there's little doubt that the fumbled punt in the second quarter was a game-changer. The change in field position directly led to just a South Carolina field goal, making it 20-7. But without the fumble, the Tar Heel offense was going to take over on the Gamecock side of the field, with some momentum coming off a touchdown drive and a chance to cut it to 17-14 right before half.
4. One-sentence thoughts: Does it seem like Eric Ebron gets an inordinate number of high passes thrown his way?...Best Carolina hits of the night came on special teams, where Dominique Green and Allen Champagne had big hits...Unfortunately, the most telling play of the night came on an early fourth and two, when South Carolina's Brandon Wilds was hit for what looked like a big stop, but then carried four Tar Heel tacklers for eight more yards and a first down...The most dramatic part of the resumption was the back-and-forth between the head coaches with under 15 seconds to play, as Steve Spurrier chose to throw deep, then Larry Fedora called timeout, and then Spurrier responded with a timeout of his own...Encouraging signs from the young UNC receivers, as Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard combined for five catches and 47 yards in their first college game...South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward on the UNC offense: "They're the fastest team I've ever seen."
Adam Lucas is a GoHeels columnist.