South Carolina saved its best for last, putting up a season-high 543 yards in a 38-21 win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, Thursday. It was a day of surprises in Charlotte. In what was supposed to be “Col. Zeb’s last ride”, instead turned out to be a “Dak dance party.” Zeb Noland was announced as the starting quarterback by Shane Beamer, but it was Dakereon Joyner that took the first snap for South Carolina (7-6) and walked away with MVP honors. Joyner completed all nine of his passes for 160 yards, rushed for 64 yards on 10 carries and became the fourth different starting quarterback to win a game this season for the Gamecocks.
Most importantly, Joyner looked as though he was in full control of the offense, using his footspeed to seek out passing lanes outside the pocket and sprinting past defenders to keep drives alive. Instead of taking on a starring role, Noland excelled in support of Joyner, throwing for 82 yards and a touchdown. Gamecocks quarterbacks didn’t miss on a pass attempt until there was 3:28 remaining in the third quarter. For Joyner, the MVP performance is validation for years of preparation and dedication to the program, fulfilling the promise of being the 2017 Mr. Football SC Award winner.
Tight end Jaheim Bell finished with 159 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns, a 69-yarder from Joyner and 66-yarder from Noland. Kevin Harris paced the rushing attack with 182 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. The Gamecocks won decisively at the point of attack, outrushing UNC 301-128.
South Carolina’s defense also turned in a stellar performance, collecting four sacks and limiting UNC to 1 of 8 on third down. The Tar Heels didn’t convert a third down until there was 6:47 left in the game. The first of Parker White’s three field goals made him the school’s all-time points leader, surpassing Elliott Fry.
With the victory, Shane Beamer becomes the first Gamecocks coach to notch a bowl victory in his debut season since Brad Scott (Carquest Bowl). For his success, Beamer was rewarded with a 4.5 gallon bath in Duke’s Mayonnaise. A small price to pay for a bowl victory and a winning season.