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Interceptions costly in UNC’s 17-13 loss to South Carolina

UNC quarterback Marquise Williams (12) is sacked by USC defensive end Darius English (5) and defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin (94) during the Belk College Kickoff at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte,.
UNC quarterback Marquise Williams (12) is sacked by USC defensive end Darius English (5) and defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin (94) during the Belk College Kickoff at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte,. ehyman@newsobserver.com

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 junior cornerback Des Lawrence 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 because of time of possession imbalance.

Three who mattered

Elijah Hood: The UNC sophomore ran for a career-high 138 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 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 kicker? 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.

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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