UNC Football, South Carolina: Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte
North Carolina coach Mack Brown considers former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer one of his best friends as a coach. So Thursday’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl against South Carolina will find Brown in the same position he was at the start of the season, trying to beat one of Beamer’s core interests.
âWhen we went to Virginia Tech this year the first guy I saw to hug his neck was Frank on the field before the game and he looks great,â said Brown. “Now he spends all of his time in South Carolina shooting for his son, so it’s fun to see him get so excited.”
Frank’s son Shane Beamer is in his first year as head coach of the Gamecocks. It led South Carolina to become bowl eligible – for the first time since losing at the Belk Bowl to Virginia in 2018 – after a 2-8 season in 2020.
Brown said Shane Beamer was a bit like an “extended family member” to him and his wife Sally. That’s why Brown was an interested observer of Beamer and the Gamecocks’ progress this season long before that bowl game was announced.
âEveryone talked about how tough the year was in South Carolina and everything they were fighting, and then he beat Florida, beat Auburn, almost beat Missouri on the road,â Brown said. âHe has done a great job as a coach so I can’t wait to see him. He and I spoke on the phone about training. But I’m so proud of him. He kills him.
Brown and the Heels are just hoping that doesn’t extend to Thursday’s game in Charlotte.
Gamecocks play quarterback shuffle
South Carolina have started three different quarterbacks this season – Luke Doty, Zeb Noland and Jason Brown – but injuries and ineffectiveness have kept the position on rotation. The Gamecocks could also use more than one player to take shots against the Tar Heels.
âIt’s adventurous right now,â Beamer said. “… I’m not going to say we had open trials, but you also have something like ‘break the glass in an emergency’.”
Noland will start the game, but Beamer has hinted that, if necessary, he will tap into his roster to play against former high school quarterbacks. Receiver Dakereon Joyner is one of those players and he was used in the team’s Wildcat package to throw the ball. Running back Kevin Harris has taken direct shots of the Wildcat, but has only run the ball so far.
Doty was the preseason starter but was hampered by a foot injury which left Noland as a starter in Game 1. When Noland got injured Doty tried to resist, but his foot hadn’t quite healed and that injury ultimately ended his season.
Noland returned to the lineup but was ineffective and replaced by Brown, who started the last four games of the season for the Gamecocks. Brown hit the transfer portal when former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler announced that Columbia was his new destination.
UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said the Heels have prepared for the âattacking body,â but are aware of the wrinkles the Gamecocks can use.
âWe’ve talked to our kids about it, we need to be ready for Wildcat and receiving quarterback (Joyner),â Bateman said. âWe have to be ready for all of this. And I think the great thing about a bowl game is that people have two weeks to get ready and you better have a good answer to things.
Three South Carolina players to watch
Zeb Noland, quarterback: Started preseason camp as a graduate assistant but was invited to play after Doty injured his foot. He hasn’t started since a 44-14 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 23.
Jaylan Foster, Security: Tied for the NCAA lead with five interceptions. He was also named the All-SEC First Team.
JuJu McDowell, running back: Made his mark this season as a kickoff return specialist, averaging 26.3 yards per return. His longest was 63 yards against East Carolina.
Three North Carolina players to watch
Sam Howell, quarterback: Will likely play his last collegiate game in the stadium and against the team that it all started against in 2019.
British Brooks, running back: Had his breakout game against NC State, rushing for 124 yards. Brooks, who has announced he will be back next season, could see the bulk of the races in Ty Chandler’s relief.
Storm Duck, cornerback: Will be playing plenty of snaps in the exhausted high school after Kyler McMichael announced he was stepping down from the bowl.
North Carolina vs South Carolina game, TV news
Which: UNC (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
Or: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
When: 11:30 am Thursday
Vegas betting odds: UNC vs South Carolina point spread
The Tar Heels are currently favored by 9.0 points, according to the VegasInsider consensus line.