This may be the recency bias talking, but South Carolina’s performance in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl might have been the most impressive win I have seen from this team in a long time. Yes, the win over Florida was huge (and without it we wouldn’t be here), but it didn’t carry as much weight as this game did.
The Gamecocks came into this contest as 12.5-point underdogs down countless key players from the first 12 games of the season and wasted no time setting the tone along with asserting their dominance on both sides of the ball.
This was the best offensive game for South Carolina from a yards perspective all year, and it felt like the moment the Cocks started to lose a step on defense, they would make up for it with a sack on third down — where North Carolina converted only once in 10 tries — to push the Tar Heels back.
The element of surprise was also on USC’s side with UNC unable to prepare for a Joyner sighting.
The second he stepped on the field, this tweet from TWO DAYS AGO immediately popped into my head.
A hypothetical: If Noland or Gauthier somehow couldn't go tomorrow, who would play QB?— David Cloninger (@DCPandC) December 29, 2021
Beamer: "Beyond that ... let's hope we don't get to a third."
Why was Joyner splitting snaps with Noland such a surprise? Because Beamer literally told the media the day before that Noland and Gauthier would be the only possible players at the position!
Beamer quite possibly had the finesse of the century with his response here, and he sold it so well. If I was blatantly lying to a room full of people, I would have been fighting for my life to hold back a smile, but hey, that’s why he’s the head coach and not me.
Anyway, this was a day featuring broken records, unsung heroes and tons of mayo, to say the least.
And many probably won’t want to hear this, but Coach Satterfield probably bought himself another year after his offense’s performance today.
I feel like someone is going to have to physically restrain me to get me to stop recognizing people from yesterday’s game, but without further ado, here is the last set of game balls to be given out this year!
Offensive Game Ball: Dakereon Joyner
It really pains me to not be able to give this award to Harris or Bell because they were both more than deserving, but this game would not have been won without Joyner at the helm (or it would have been much closer).
The UNC defense looked prepared with Noland out on the field and basically shut him down with the exception of one throw, but from the moment Joyner took his first snap, the Tar Heels were playing on their heels.
Joyner completed a perfect nine of nine passes for 160 yards and a touchdown while also running for 64 yards on 10 carries.
He won the Duke’s Mayo Bowl MVP award, and I honestly agree with the decision there.
This was USC’s game to lose ever since Joyner’s first throw, and it was a beauty.
JAHEIM BELL HOUSE CALL— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 30, 2021
“Pour some mayo on me, baby!” pic.twitter.com/Z2jfGrFRHi
If we were able to see throws like that one consistently, maybe he would have had a shot at the starting gig, but nonetheless, you won the day, Dak.
Defensive Game Ball: The Defensive Line
I really can’t single out one player’s defensive performance yesterday because basically everyone on the d-line ate.
It felt like there was always someone constantly in the North Carolina backfield, forcing Howell to basically run for his life the whole game.
Jabari Ellis, Jordan Burch, Jordan Strachan, Zaach Pickens, Alex Huntley and Damani Staley all contributed at least half a sack while the defense combined for six tackles for loss as well.
Additionally, they prevented Howell from breaking off basically any runs, turning 13 carries into a meager three yards.
It wasn’t just Howell who struggled running the ball either either. For what felt like the first time all season, the Gamecock defense really came together and stopped the run.
If it wasn’t for a 63-yard touchdown run by British Brooks, the leading rusher for UNC would have been Ty Chandler with only 29 yards.
This was the best all-around performance by the South Carolina defense all season, and it was undoubtedly spearheaded by the defensive line, which successfully filled a Kingsley Enagbare-sized hole.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Harris, Juju McDowell, Jaheim Bell, Ahmarean Brown and Parker White
I can’t believe people really overreacted to the loss of ZaQuandre White and forgot the Gamecocks still had last year’s SEC-leading rusher.
When Joyner wasn’t busy taking over the game, it was usually Kevin Harris.
He had a season-high in rushing and rushing attempts yesterday racking up 182 yards and a touchdown on 31 attempts.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Harris completely bulldoze over people and run for so many yards after contact. I think it’s safe to say he is finally fully healthy!
It wasn’t just Harris in the backfield, either.
With White gone, Juju McDowell re-entered the fold and got a meaningful number of snaps for the first time since the Tennessee game.
It’s no secret that when this guy checks into the game, he immediately takes over with his great speed and playmaking ability, and Juju did exactly that, taking his five carries for a total of 52 yards and a touchdown. He also had a singular catch for eight yards.
With Harris and White both declaring for the draft, it may be the Juju show at running back next year, and that is something I would 100% support. Splitting carries with Lloyd wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either.
As for the receivers, Jaheim Bell was the star.
He caught the first two passes thrown by the Cocks and turned them into 135 yards and two touchdowns.
TWO CATCHES. TWO TDs FOR JAHEIM BELL pic.twitter.com/ikMaMEThmK— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 30, 2021
He quieted down a bit after that, catching three more balls for 24 yards, but his mark on the game was already made.
I also wanted to give Ahmarean Brown a shoutout.
He didn’t have more than two catches or 15 yards in a game until this week, where he had four receptions for 61 yards.
Usually Vann — who was weirdly held without a catch — carries the load at wideout, but it was nice to see Brown get some work in and produce on the biggest stage for the Cocks this season.
Lastly, I have to end it by recognizing the all-time leading scorer for football at the University of South Carolina: Parker White.
His first field goal from 30 yards out was the big one because it broke the record, but he didn’t stop there. White proceeded to hit two more, ending the day a perfect three for three.
I’m going to miss him and his ability to hit any field goal at any given time for the Gamecocks (even the clutch ones). Any NFL team would be lucky to have this guy kicking for them.