This post continues our series on the biggest plays of Carolina football's 2013 season. Today we're talking about the winner. We decided upon Connor Shaw's fourth-down touchdown toss to Bruce Ellington in the first overtime against Mizzou.
Before talking about that play, Bruce's earlier touchdown earned an honorable mention. Here's that play:
This is a very impressive individual play by Ellington, who salvages a play that initially appears to be broken due to Shaw's indecision. The Gamecocks line up with trips on the right side of the field. Ellington is in the middle of the three receivers and runs a quick corner route into the end zone while Shaw rolls right. Ellington is initially open, but Shaw doesn't pass. Ellington then comes back towards Shaw, who throws the ball after picking up a nice block from Shon Carson. Ellington makes a great catch while dragging his left foot just inside the sideline. Great catch and great body control by Ellington to get the Gamecocks on the board and give us hope.
Now, let's talk about the play that we selected for number one. First, let's watch the play from the fans' perspective, because some brilliant Gamecocks fan just happened to post such a video on Youtube:
Thanks, Eric Nass! I don't know you, but that video is awesome. Listen for the Mizzou fan to yell "ballgame!" right before the play and then to hear the Gamecocks fan laughing after the touchdown.
And now, the ESPN version:
This play is a route concept that Spurrier has always loved. Ellington lines up in the slot with Damiere Byrd on the outside. The two receivers cross when Byrd runs to the post and Ellington to the corner. The idea is for the receivers to buy a split second if the two defensive backs lose a step when deciding how to cover the receivers as they cross. I would love to see some footage of the routes to see what kind of coverage Mizzou is trying to run and exactly how Ellington gets open, but it looks like the two Mizzou corners across from Ellington and Byrd are running man coverage. When the two receivers cross, the two defenders hesitate while deciding whether to exchange or stay with their men. They stay with their men, but sees his chance and breaks open at the bottom of the end zone. Shaw doesn't hesitate this time and delivers a timely strike that Ellington easily hauls in.
The reason this play comes in at number one on the countdown is because it was such an incredibly dramatic play. This game, our biggest win of the season, had a number of plays that had us sitting on the edge of our seats, and this is the one that stands out the most. Indeed, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but in the recent run of success for the Gamecocks, I don't recall Carolina ever converting on a fourth-and-long situation where failure to convert would have ended the game with a loss. Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery converted a key fourth down in the fourth quarter in the wild win over UGA in 2011, and Shaw and Ace Sanders converted on fourth down in the legendary final drive against Michigan in the 2012 Outback Bowl, but both were in short-yardage situations. Of all the great plays we've seen over the past four seasons, this one against Mizzou stands out as uniquely clutch, a play where the Gamecocks converted the big play during a season-defining game when the odds seemed particularly bleak.
Now that we've come to the end of the countdown, let's hear from you, readers: Any quibbles with the plays we selected, the order we selected, etc.? If so, let's hear it! In any event, here's to hoping that 2014 brings us as many amazing plays as we enjoyed last season.