If you missed any of the earlier installments in this series, here are five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten.
This post continues our breakdown of the biggest plays of 2013. Today, we're talking about Shon Carson's game-changing run against Florida.
The stage for this play: The Gators led 14-13 midway through the fourth quarter. After the Gators rushed out to a two-score lead in the first half, the Carolina defense shut down Florida's offense. However, the Carolina offense found it tough sledding against a Florida defense that remained fairly formidable even as the Gators' season fell apart. Carolina was, though, able to slowly whittle away at the lead throughout the game, finally getting the contest within a score, but big plays had been hard to come by. The Gators had largely bottled up Carolina's ability to move the ball on the ground with either Mike Davis or Connor Shaw, and the passing attack wasn't doing much better. Moving into the fourth quarter, fans were jittery over the possibility that a struggling Florida team might end Carolina's chances at an SEC East title and another ten-win season. Spurrier had increasingly looked to Shon Carson over the course of the game to make something happen on the ground with Davis clearly banged up and unable to produce at his usual level.
Everything came together on this play. While Carson gets the credit for extending the play with his burst and straight-line speed, it's Carolina's offensive line and fullback that really open this play up. The play call is an old-school Spurrier staple, the draw. When he gets the snap, Shaw briefly begins squaring up like he's going to pass but hands the ball of to Carson. With the Florida defensive line tentative after biting on the draw, Carolina's inside offensive linemen clear a hole at the first level in the middle of the field, and then center Cody Waldrop and fullback Connor McLaurin make nice blocks on the linebackers to allow Carson to get to the second level. Carson does the rest by using his speed to turn a good play into a great one.
The play was instrumental to Carolina's win. Without this field-flipping play, it's easy to see how this game could have bogged down into a field position battle, with Florida potentially running out the clock and escaping Williams-Brice with an improbable victory. Carson's run set up the go-ahead field goal, with the drive also being helped by a big catch in traffic by Busta Anderson. The Gamecocks easily shut down the struggling Gators offense for the rest of the game and added a field goal to extend the lead to the final score of 19-14. Although the victory didn't end up end up earning Carolina a spot in the SEC Championship Game as hoped, it was instrumental in a great season for Carolina that ended in our first-ever top-five finish. Plus, beating Florida, regardless of whether the win came in a lackluster effort against Florida's worst team in decades, will always be fun for Carolina fans after so many years of futility against the Gators. Carson's run was the most instrumental, exciting play in the win, and that gets it its spot on this list.