If you missed any of the earlier installments in this series, here are four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten.
This post continues our series counting down the biggest plays of 2013. Today, we're talking about Chaz Sutton's forced fumble against Clemson, which might otherwise be referred to as, "it's like taking candy from a baby."
Like many memorable plays in the last four games against Clemson, this one begins with a mistake by Boyd. As Boyd drops back to pass, Sharrod Golightly and Kaiwan Lewis blitz, leaving Adam Humphries open in the middle of the field on a slant route. Brison Williams was in Humphries's area but would have been a step late had Boyd gone to Humphries. One of the first rules for a QB to combat a blitz is to quickly get the ball to the receiver in the space vacated by the blitzing linebackers, and if Boyd gets the ball to Humphries, the Tigers get a first down. Instead, presumably because Boyd was fixating on going deep but wasn't able to do so with Carolina's safeties sitting back, Boyd looks to pick up a few yards with his feet.
What happens next is pure gold. Chaz Sutton had a disappointing senior season, but if it's possible to redeem such a season with one play in the final regular-season game, Sutton does exactly that here. As Boyd gets hit by Lewis, Sutton, who was initially in pass coverage/containment on the play, enters the melee, goes for the ball, and rips it right out of Boyd's hands, leaving the Tigers pathetically hoping against hope that Boyd's knee was down. It wasn't before the ball came loose, and Carolina took over.
This was a huge play. Clemson had a good drive in the works, and without this strip, Boyd and crew would have next had a very manageable third down inside the 30. If Clemson scores a TD and ties the game on this drive, it's needless to say that the contest would have been very much in doubt, particularly given that Clemson's defense had been reasonably successful in holding Carolina's offense in check over the course of the game. This forced fumble kept us from having to sweat out a tough tie scenario. The Gamecocks would also benefit from a Humphries muffed punt before putting the game away on Pharoh Cooper's TD pass to Brandon Wilds, but Sutton's play, coming as it did in the midst of a drive that looked promising for the Tigers, was the more consequential play--indeed, the biggest play of this game in my book.