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. 9: Who IS This Guy?
The game: No. 12 South Carolina at Georgia, Sept. 10
The scene: South Carolina 45, Georgia 42, 2:15, fourth quarter
The cast: Defensive end Melvin Ingram
The setup: The Gamecocks had seemingly clinched the game, with a monumental play for a defensive touchdown to set up a 10-point lead. Fans were beginning to file out of Sanford Stadium as the host Bulldogs seemed destined to become 0-2 within a few short minutes.
But USC's big-play secondary gave up a big play to the opponent. Aaron Murray only needed four plays to find Tavarres King for a touchdown, slicing the lead to three points with two minutes and change to play. This one wasn't over yet.
The Georgia fans hastily re-took their seats as the Gamecock fans, used to seeing this kind of thing, tried to swallow the large lumps in their throats. They all knew exactly what USC's special-teams knew - the Bulldogs were about to try an onside kick, and with the momentum of this game switching faster than a seismograph needle during an earthquake, nobody knew how this one was going to come out.
Except one guy, who took his spot on the left side of USC's hands-team coverage unit. He'd come too far and done too much in the previous 57 minutes to just hand away the game in the last three.
The play:Brandon Bogotay booted the kick hard into the ground, where it bounded high into the air and headed toward the 40-yard-line. A bit too high, a bit too fast, or Georgia may have had a chance.
Or else, like everything else on that day, it was just too much Melvin Ingram.
If anybody had an excuse to be tired, it was the Gamecocks' 276-pound defensive end, who'd already scored two touchdowns and been chasing Murray, Isaiah Crowell and Georgia receivers around all day. But USC needed Ingram, even though he may have been the last player someone would ever expect to be on the hands team, so he went back in.
The ball was coming to Ingram, and as Stephon Gilmore lined up behind him, Ingram showed off his 34-inch-plus vertical leap to rise and snag the ball, immediately cradling it to his chest and falling to the turf to safely cover it. Georgia players surrounded him but it was too late - the big-'un from tiny Hamlet, N.C., had kicked them, once again, where it hurt.
The aftermath: USC ran out the clock and improved to 2-0, while Ingram had his base game for what turned out to be a consensus All-American season. One of the nuttiest games in recent memory had so many key moments - most of them supplied by Ingram, who went from just another solid SEC defensive end to one of the biggest gamebreakers in the country.