CHARLOTTE — No Kiel Pollard, no Evan Hinson, no Nick Muse.
At least South Carolina had Kyle Markway.
Pressed with its back against the wall at the tight end position, South Carolina (0-1) turned to Markway in its 24-20 loss to North Carolina (1-0), and the junior came through one a critical scoring drive.
Markway had just three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown (against Florida) last season, but caught two passes against the Tar Heels, one for a touchdown, both on the same drive during the third quarter.
The 6-4, 250-pounder made a diving catch to convert third and 15 and then caught a 22-yard score. The touchdown — which came on the same play he scored on against the Gators — and ensuing extra point gave the Gamecocks a 20-9 lead.
“Wide-open. I kind of saw it before it even happened,” Markway said of his touchdown grab. “It was kind of like Florida last year. They have a hard time covering those three guys, empty set, so it opened up for me.”
With the Gamecocks driving in the game’s final minute, Gamecock quarterback Jake Bentley threw a pass for Markway that was intercepted, all but sealing the Tar Heel victory.
“It was good defense by them,” Markway said. “We ran that play a lot, and it was working for us. It’s a great play for us. They brought that safety down and he read it and made a good play.”
But Markway, like Ernest Jones and Bentley, talked more about the disappointment of the loss and how the Gamecocks will respond.
“It’s not how you want it to play out, you know?” he said. “ … I know we’re better than that. That’s not the team that we are and we’re going to prove that this week and come out better next week.”
“ … The film that we put out there today is not the team we are.”
Pollard, the Gamecocks’ starting tight end at the beginning of training camp, was forced to retire on Aug. 16 because of a neck injury. Two weeks later, it was announced tight end Evan Hinson would transfer to another school to play basketball.
Hinson had played basketball and football at South Carolina but gave up basketball to focus on football full-time this year. He was limited in training camp, however, after suffering an irregular heartbeat in practice.