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Noland rescues Carolina on final drive

South Carolina quarterback Zeb Noland (8) takes the field with teammates before an NCAA college...
South Carolina quarterback Zeb Noland (8) takes the field with teammates before an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina won 21-20. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)(Sean Rayford | AP)
Published: Oct. 17, 2021 at 2:32 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Hollywood ending in the Capital City. Quarterback Zeb Noland comes off the bench on the final drive to rally the Gamecocks past Vanderbilt, 21-20.

“It was surreal,” said Noland. “It’s those moments you dream of as a kid.”

Head coach Shane Beamer turned to his former graduate assistant coach turned quarterback with 1:36 to play in the fourth quarter. Carolina trailed 20-14. And Beamer felt the only chance the Gamecocks had was with Noland at the helm.

“Luke’s foot was bothering him late in the game,” Beamer added. “He was having trouble making throws. We needed a spark to finish some drives. Right after that last interception, we knew if we were going to win the game, we would give Zeb an opportunity. We needed a healthy quarterback in there as well. Zeb has a great feel for our passing game and protections.”

Noland engineered a 75-yard touchdown drive. He connected on five of eight passes, with the last one finding Xavier Legette for a 9-yard touchdown with 37 seconds left in the game.

“I’m in my whatever year of playing, and you still dream about those moments,” said Noland. “Even in practice every day, you think about making those throws and doing your job.”

“Shout out to Zeb. He’s a GOAT,” tight end Jaheim Bell said. “He stepped up big time.

Parker White added the extra point to lift Carolina to a 21-20 win.

Very few could have envisioned Noland rescuing the Gamecocks. Only because of how the game started. Starting quarterback Luke Doty guided Carolina to two consecutive touchdown drives to begin the game.

However, as the game unfolded, Carolina’s offense fell flat. The Gamecocks turned it over four times, including two interceptions thrown by Doty.

The night before, Beamer showed the team a video featuring sportswriters covering Super Bowl 51. New England rallied from a 28-3 deficit to beat Atlanta. Of course, writers work ahead. So the comeback forced a rewrite for many covering the game. And that’s the point. Beamer wanted to remind his team who controls what’s written about the Gamecocks.

“We don’t let anyone write the story for us,” said Beamer. “No matter what people say on Twitter. No matter what people write on the message boards. No matter what people say on talk radio. We, the people in this program, write the story.”

As fate would have, Carolina scripted the perfecting ending on that final drive. Carolina improves to 4-3 overall, 3-1 in games Noland plays.

The win will not erase the number of mistakes made. In addition to the four turnovers, Carolina committed ten penalties. The Gamecocks have a lot to clean up moving forward. But the one thing this team does not need to correct is their heart and will to win.

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