There were a lot of emotional moments Saturday afternoon as the South Carolina Gamecocks rushed onto the field at Sanford Stadium to celebrate their monumental upset over No. 3 Georgia.
Players were hugging head coach Will Muschamp, and each other. Several leaned over the railings to celebrate with family members and Gamecock fans. Muschamp got a hug from Athletic Director Ray Tanner and USC President Bob Caslen.
But there was probably no one more emotional than South Carolina quarterback Dakereon Joyner. Third on the depth chart entering the season, Joyner had to learn a new position as he moved to wide receiver, while continuing to rep at quarterback in case he was needed.
On Saturday, he was, taking over the offense in the second half after starter Ryan Hilinski went down with a knee injury in the third quarter. It was Joyner who directed the offense down the stretch, helping put South Carolina in position for Parker White’s game-winning field goal in the second overtime.
“It brings tears to my eyes because people ask me, ‘why are you staying, why are you doing this, why are you doing that?’” Joyner said after the game. “But God has a plan. I always tried to be the best teammate possible every single day and I never once doubted my abilities. God has a plan and if you trust that plan, genuinely trust that plan, it will stick with you, and that’s what I did.”
Though the offense struggled in the second half and Joyner did not put up big numbers — 6-for-12 passing for 39 yards, 28 yards rushing — he managed the offense well and made a couple of big plays for first downs.
Head coach Will Muschamp called Joyner’s play a “gutsy as hell performance.”
“It’s hard when you don’t rep much as the backup quarterback … and I thought Dakereon came in and fought his butt off,” he said.
After playing wide receiver in the first four games, Joyner missed the Kentucky game with a hamstring injury. He practiced last week and was ready when needed against Georgia.
“Coach always tells me to be ready,” Joyner said. “I train myself and every single game I’m prepared to be that guy when the time comes.”
“The guy is the ultimate teammate, and that’s not happening much in college athletics right now,” Muschamp said. “‘What can I do to help the team,’ that’s his motto. ‘What can I do to help?’ That says a lot about how he was raised. …
“Just really proud of that young man to be in this moment and have this moment. To help propel us to a win in that situation is huge. I appreciate his patience and loyalty to the University of South Carolina.”
Joyner credits his teammates for helping him settle in and deal with playing in a hostile environment before a deafening crowd at Sanford Stadium.
“My team did a great job of keeping me composed,” he said. “Everything wasn’t perfect, but my teammates did a great job of keeping me composed and letting me know they trusted me and had faith in me. That played a huge role today.”
After the game, an emotional Joyner was able to savor the moment and relish the win along with the rest of his teammates.
“We are truly blessed,” he said. “It brings tears to my eyes, not just me but my teammates as well. We know the work we put in. We have prepared every single day and we knew coming into this game we had a chance to win.”