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South Carolina’s offense dominates UNC in Mayo Bowl

4 hours ago
AP
AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — – South Carolina coach Shane Beamer had a bucket of mayonnaise dumped over his head Thursday, putting a memorable and messy finish on the Gamecocks’ 38-21 victory over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

Jaheim Bell had five catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns for South Carolina (7-6), which rebounded nicely after it lost 30-0 to Clemson in its regular-season finale on Nov. 27. Kevin Harris added 169 yards rushing and a score, helping secure the mayo bath for Beamer.

Beamer joked that the mayo dump was “more awful than I thought it would be.”

“I got hammered in the back of the head from the cooler – and then came the mayo,” Beamer said. “I may have an concussion. It was awful. … I have mayo in my pockets, I think.”

Bell came into the game with 338 yards receiving and three TDs during the regular season, but figured prominently into the game plan early on.

The sophomore tight end got free for a 69-yard touchdown reception from converted wide receiver Dakereon Joyner and hauled in a 66-yard TD catch from former graduate assistant coach Zeb Noland on South Carolina’s first two possessions.

Juju McDowell added a 35-yard TD run in the second quarter as South Carolina averaged 11.6 yards per play while opening a 25-13 lead in the first half.

Sam Howell threw for 205 yards and a touchdown for the Tar Heels (6-7), and reserve running back British Brooks had a bowl record 63-yard touchdown run for the Tar Heels.

South Carolina rotated Joyner and Noland under center, and both were effective.

Joyner came into the game having attempted only one pass this season and 31 in his college career.

But the element of surprise proved effective on the Gamecocks’ first possession, when Joyner hit the 6-foot-3, 232-pound Bell in stride down the middle of the field.

Joyner, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, finished 9-of-9 passing for 160 yards and also ran for 64 yards. Noland was 3-of-6 passing for 82 yards as the Gamecocks went nearly three quarters before their first incomplete pass.

Beamer said in hindsight he should have used Joyner more at quarterback earlier in the season.

“The element of making them defend the quarterback run was big,” Beamer said. “And he’s a talented thrower, too. … We just wanted to give them something else to defend.”

South Carolina rushed for 301 yards, despite Tar Heels coach Mack Brown saying North Carolina’s game plan was to stop the run.

“You’re not going to win football games like that,” Brown said. “They ran it, we didn’t.”

Beamer said South Carolina had a 50-play live scrimmage leading up the game.

Said Beamer: “We had a plan for how we are going to win the game, but even I didn’t anticipate it going that well.”

Howell, a projected first-round pick in the NFL draft, made several impressive throws with his strong, accurate arm. But the junior quarterback spent most of the game under heavy duress playing behind an offensive line that struggled most of the season.

The Tar Heels cut the lead to 11 midway through the third quarter on a double-reverse flea flicker, with Howell finding a wide-open Garrett Walston for a 37-yard touchdown.

But South’s Carolina’s offense proved too much for a porous North Carolina defense as the Gamecocks racked up 543 yards on offense.

THE TAKEAWAY

South Carolina: The Gamecocks posted wins over Florida and Auburn this season in what was expected to be down season and now added a bowl win to the resume. Winning seven games was an encouraging sign that Beamer may finally have this once-proud program headed in the right direction. This is the first time since 2018 the Gamecocks have finished the season with a winning record.

“This is a great statement about where we are,” Beamer said. “But I understand we have to be more consistent. But to go into the offseason with so much momentum is huge.”

North Carolina: The Tar Heels started the season ranked 10th in the country and finished the year with a losing record, so it’s hard to describe this season as anything but a major disappointment. The defense needs major improvements and offensive line is in need of upgrades as well. “This was disappointing,” Brown said.

UP NEXT

South Carolina: There is plenty of excitement about the program moving forward. A lot of that has to do with former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler‘s decision to transfer to South Carolina.

North Carolina: With Howell expected to move on to the NFL, the Tar Heels will look to either Jacolby Criswell or Drake Maye to inherit the quarterback spot. Maye is a native of nearby Huntersville, North Carolina, and the younger brother of former UNC basketball star Luke Maye.



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