This post begins my annual series recounting some of the most memorable plays of the past football season. Today, we're looking at D.J. Swearinger's pick-six against Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson. Here's the play, including the interesting sequence that led up to it.
As for the play itself, in some ways it's more on Wilson than to the credit of Swearinger, which is one of the reasons it's not higher on the list. Wilson is trying to get the ball to a player lined up like a tight end. I'm not sure if it's an end or a big receiver lined up close; the player looks fast in pursuit of Swearinger after the INT, and since he's going up against Shaq Wilson, I wonder if Wilson was trying to isolate a receiver against the somewhat lumbering LB Wilson. In any event, while the receiver does look like he could have made an outside shoulder reception (and potentially some yards after the catch) if not for Swearinger, Wilson clearly didn't see that Swearinger was watching the pattern right behind the receiver. Swearinger jumps the pass and the rest is history.
I chose this play for a number of reasons. First of all, I felt I had to include something by Swearinger. He was one of the best players on last year's team, as evidenced by the fact that he was the first of our players taken in the NFL Draft, and he had a very productive career as a Gamecock. I actually thought about choosing his hit on Andre Ellington from the Clemson game. While he was penalized for taunting after that hit, I felt that was a turning point in the game where Carolina began to assert itself physically against the Tigers, which has been a predominant theme in that series in recent years. In the end, I didn't pick that play because in the moment, it cost Carolina, whereas this one helped us, despite the fact that Swearinger was penalized on this one, too. The penalty here wasn't really "stupid" in the way the one against Clemson could have been if the Tigers had scored on that drive. Given the new rules regarding taunting while going into the end zone, you have to give Swearinger just a bit of credit for holding it in until after he crossed the goal line. As he did score in what was already becoming a lopsided game, the penalty on the kickoff was a moot point.
Lastly, while this wasn't a big win for us in the sense that Arkansas wasn't a very good team this year, this was a revenge game that I think we all took a little pleasure in seeing Carolina win with ease. This play was the one that put us over the top and into blowout mode, and it gets a few points from me for that. It gets a few extra considering that Swearinger served up the revenge against the same Arkansas QB who shredded us in 2011. It was particularly fun seeing Wilson lumbering to try to make the tackle as Swearinger blew by him.