NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bryson Allen-Williams and D.J. Smith sat patiently in a cramped and crowded room beneath Vanderbilt Stadium as Thursday night turned to Friday morning. Each had accounted for some loud moments in a stifling defensive performance for South Carolina against the Commodores, but the player who accounted for the loudest moment commanded all the attention instead.
Sandwiched between the two defenders, kicker Elliott Fry fielded question after question addressing the before, during and after of his game-winning field goal.
A tattoo in small, clear print on his left forearm told the story: “One shot.”
That’s all he had Thursday night, as the senior kicker stepped in to take a 55-yard field goal with 41 seconds to play in a 10-10 game. He hit it well, but waited to see it sail through the uprights with room to spare before he flew into celebratory bedlam with his teammates.
“I felt like it was definitely there, but I wanted to wait until I got the signal,” Fry said. “I think I would look pretty stupid if I started celebrating and it had come up short.”
But once it soared through the goalposts, the celebration was on. Holder Sean Kelly and long snapper Drew Williams grabbed Fry, who then was mobbed by teammates near the sideline. Teammates picked him up, smacked his helmet and surrounded him until he finally snuck out and walked toward the large contingent of Gamecocks fans in attendance and raised his right arm toward their frenzied celebration.
There was no backflip, a game-winning kick celebration Fry and Kelly team up for and showed on this week’s episode of “Gamecock Confidential: Forever to Thee.”
“We have already thought it out,” Fry said. “That’s the end of the game, run-off-the-field situation.”
The kick was set in motion before the game with special teams coach Coleman Hutzler feeling confident in Fry on any kick from 56 yards and in heading toward the enclosed end of Vanderbilt Stadium. Another conversation about which way to kick off had the Gamecocks set up to be going with the wind in the fourth quarter in case a game-winning kick situation came to be.
With less than four minutes to play in the game, the moment started to look like a possibility. The Gamecocks got the ball back with 3:44 to play on their 27-yard line after a missed Vanderbilt field goal.
Fry and the rest of the USC specialists were on the sideline saying, “This could be it.”
“From then on, I was kinda locked in,” Fry said.
A 16-yard completion from Perry Orth to Bryan Edwards and 21 yards’ worth of A.J. Turner runs put the Gamecocks into Fry’s range.
“I’ve seen him make those in practice,” Orth said. “He’s made a few in games. I knew if we got the ball close to the 35 and in that we would have a chance.”
After Vanderbilt brought down Orth for a 1-yard loss, the ball sat on the Vanderbilt 37-yard line — within the range Hultzer told coach Will Muschamp he felt Fry could hit.
“I had total confidence he was going to hit the thing,” Muschamp said. “The guy’s really good. He has been a good kicker for a long time.”
Fry, who is approaching the all-time scoring record at South Carolina, had a career-long kick of 52 yards coming in and was just 2 of 8 from beyond 50 yards when Muschamp sent him out with confidence.
Earlier, Fry had connected on a 48-yard field goal into the wind. This time, with the wind, he knew he could get it there.
“I definitely hit that one well,” Fry said.
Allen-Williams and Smith eventually got their turn to offer up their thoughts on the Gamecocks’ win. But when they finally fielded a question, it still pertained to Fry and the 55-yard game-winning kick.
“We know Elliott is a good kicker,” Smith said. “Honestly, I felt like it was going in before he even kicked it.”
Smith leaned over, smiled and patted Fry on the right leg that lifted South Carolina to the win.
“So good job,” he said.
Mike Wilson covers South Carolina athletics for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on the Gamecocks.