South Carolina beats UNC in season opener

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N&O Reporter Andrew Carter breaks down Thursday's game.

North Carolina's final best chance to score a momentum-swinging touchdown ended the way its first did: with Marquise Williams, the Tar Heels' fifth-year senior quarterback, throwing an interception in the end zone to South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore.

The final one, which came with about 3 1/2 minutes to play, was Williams' third interception and it sealed the Gamecocks' 17-13 victory on Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium. For UNC, it was a night of missed chances.

The Tar Heels turned it over three times inside the South Carolina 20-yard line - all on Williams' interceptions - and UNC missed another chance when Des Lawrence, the junior cornerback dropped an interception that he might have returned for a touchdown.

In its first game under new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik UNC's defense played well enough to win - it allowed 394 yards - but the Tar Heels' offense squandered chance after chance.

Turning point

UNC led 13-10 early in the fourth quarter but, still, it felt like South Carolina was one big play away from seizing control. Then it happened: a 48-yard touchdown run from Shon Carson, a senior running back, on a sweep around the right side. On that play, Carson and the Gamecocks seemed to take advantage of a UNC defense that spent a lot of time on field due to time of possession imbalance.

Three who mattered

Elijah Hood: The UNC sophomore ran for a career-high XXX yards, which included a 44-yard run in the third quarter. He also ran for 29 yards to move UNC inside the South Carolina 25-yard line before Williams' final interception.

Shon Carson: The South Carolina running back took advantage of a UNC defense that appeared to tire as the game went on. His 48-yard touchdown run came on his first carry.
Nick Weiler: Has UNC found itself a placekicker? Seems so. Weiler made field goals of 47 and 38 yards -- both of which were longer than any field goal the Tar Heels made a season ago.

Three key numbers

0 - second-half points for the Tar Heels, whose six second-half drives ended like this: turnover on downs, punt, interception, punt, punt, interception.

254 - South Carolina rushing yards. Four Gamecocks ran for at least 40 yards, and South Carolina used its rushing offense to wear down UNC as the game went on.

7-for-15 - That was the Gamecocks' conversion rate on third down, which enabled South Carolina to keep drives alive and - equally important - keep UNC's offense off the field. Getting off the field was a challenge in UNC's first game with its revamped defense.

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