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September 17, 2011

Five key plays



South Carolina defeated Navy, 24-21, Saturday night in Columbia, and here are five key plays from the contest.

South Carolina gets a stop on fourth-and-2

After the opening possession, the Gamecocks had been unable to stop the Midshipmen. With 3:38 left in the first half and a tie game, Navy went for it on fourth-and-2. South Carolina hadn't shown it could get the stop, so the call made sense. Devin Taylor had other ideas. He drilled Kriss Proctor in the backfield, and though Proctor lunged forward and nearly stretched out for the first down, he was short. The Gamecocks finally got their stop and had a chance to not only take the lead, but add to it when they got the ball to start the second half.

Wooten is good from 48

Carolina had plenty of time after the stop to drive the field, but seemed unsure what to do. Instead of continuing to hand the ball to Marcus Lattimore, who was averaging nearly 10 yards per carry, Steve Spurrier called pass plays. Stephen Garcia struggled to find open receivers and the Gamecocks soon faced fourth-and-9 from the Navy 48. The Gamecocks ran the clock down to 16 seconds remaining before deciding to go for it. Garcia hit Justice Cunningham for the first down, but the Gamecocks could only run one more play before having to settle for a field goal. Jay Wooten's kick was true, and South Carolina took the lead into the locker room. Wooten's kick would end up being the deciding points in the game.

Garcia's wounded duck gives Navy new life, and the Midshipmen regain the lead

Behind the running of Lattimore, South Carolina seemed poised to take a 10-point lead on its first possession of the second half. Instead, Garcia dropped back and was hit as he tried to throw. The ball floated right into the hands of Navy safety Kwesi Mitchell for the interception. The Gamecocks twice had a chance to escape unharmed, but could not take advantage. The Gamecocks forced Navy into a third-and-10, but lost track of Bo Snelson and Proctor found him for 33 yards. Two plays later, Antonio Allen stripped Alex Teich. Marty Markett was the only Gamecock near the loose ball, but he dove past the ball and Navy recovered and got a 32-yard gain to boot. It took just three more plays for the Middies to punch the ball in the end zone and retake the lead.

Navy gets a stop on fourth-and-2

Up 24-21 in the fourth quarter, the South Carolina offense finally found a rhythm, marching 51 yards on a clock-chewing, eight-play, 51-yard drive. However, a false start penalty put the Gamecocks behind the chains, and they found themselves facing fourth-and-2 on the Navy 5-yard line. Rather than go for the chip-shot field goal, Spurrier went for the kill. A touchdown would essentially end the game, and like Navy in the same situation in the first half, there was little to indicate South Carolina could be stopped. Like that earlier play though, the struggling defense came up with a big stop. Lattimore took a pitch on the sweep left, but was met behind the line by defensive end Wes Henderson. He was stopped for a loss of a yard, the only time he carried for negative yardage in the game.

Allen makes another big play

Navy still had life, even after facing a fourth-and-15. The Midshipmen converted with a 16-yard pass over the middle of the field, and still plenty of time to get in position for the field goal. A first down run gained just 3 yards, and a pair of incompletions set up fourth down. Proctor threw over the middle of the field, but Allen stepped in front and intercepted the pass to seal the victory. Allen finished the game with 10 tackles, a forced fumble, and the interception.

[Complete USC-Navy game coverage: Click here]

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