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August 8, 2012

Total Recall: 2011's top plays, No. 23

As the start of the 2012 season nears, GamecockCentral.com's David Cloninger takes a look back at the top plays of 2011, South Carolina's finest year. The No. 1 play from last year will be revealed on Aug. 30, USC's season-opener.

NO. 23: I'll Take That

The game: No. 12 South Carolina vs. East Carolina (in Charlotte), Sept. 3

The scene: South Carolina 28, East Carolina 24, 10:40, third quarter

The cast: Spur Antonio Allen, East Carolina running back Michael Dobson

The setup: An awful start had the Gamecocks trailing 17-0 in the second quarter and 24-14 at halftime, but USC was starting to get itself together on defense and hold onto the ball on offense. Allen forced a fumble on the Pirates' opening possession of the second half that Shaq Wilson recovered, and Stephen Garcia hit Ace Sanders for a touchdown on the ensuing possession. Another fumble on the next possession ended up in the arms of Reginald Bowens, and USC scored another touchdown to take its first lead. With the Bank of America crowd roaring, the Gamecocks knew that the momentum was turning toward them, and all they had to do was fan the spark into a flame.

The play: Trying to get back in control after a disastrous beginning to the half, ECU went away from its bread-and-butter short passing attack and tried a simple run up the gut from its own 25-yard-line. Dobson plunged into the pile, and was almost immediately stood up by the Gamecocks' hulking defensive front. Unable to get him on the ground, and as fans in the stadium began to wonder if the play would be whistled dead without a tackle, a figure emerged from the back side of the pile.

Allen had somehow wormed his way into the scrum and ripped the ball from Dobson's mitts, and by the time the Pirates figured out that Dobson no longer had possession, all they could do was watch the "26" stamped on Allen's back get smaller and smaller. Allen scored from 25 yards away, part of a stretch where he scored a takeaway touchdown in three straight regular-season games, and put the Gamecocks ahead 35-24.

The aftermath: The Pirates got within four points but USC scored three more touchdowns before ECU added a meaningless six points with less than three minutes to play. The Gamecocks won an ugly game 56-37 but settled their quarterback controversy for a week or two.

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