Really, is anyone surprised at how close the final score was in USC’s 24-7 win over Wofford Saturday? In their last three games against USC and Clemson combined, the average winning margin by the big boys was just over 8 points.
USC had every physical edge over Wofford going into Saturday’s game at Williams-Brice Stadium. One edge they didn’t have, at least for three quarters, was the emotional edge. The Gamecock’s flat offensive performance opened the door for the Terriers. And eventually their rubix cube style option offense began to create plays.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, it was a physical mistake that was the turning point in the game. In a 7-7 third quarter tie and driving, Terrier running back Octavius Harden coughed up the football at the Gamecock 25 after being hit by DJ Swearinger. Brison Williams recovered for USC and the Gamecocks took advantage of that mistake.
They drove down the field and reached the Wofford five. The Gamecocks could not punch it in and settled for a 23 yard field goal by Adam Yates for a 10-7 lead with 11:57 to play.
The Gamecock defense came up big again on the next series stopping Wofford on a fourth and one at the Terrier’s 34. From there the Gamecocks quickly moved to a clinching touchdown, an 8 yard pass by Connor Shaw to Ace Sanders to make it 17-7 with 8:10 to play.
And the Gamecocks finally put the game away a few seconds later with a 31 yard fumble return by Akeem Auguste to make it 24-7.
“This game was about like every time we’ve played Wofford,” Steve Spurrier said. “It was very close and then something good happened for us in the fourth quarter. They were driving in that third quarter drive and fumbled. We managed to put together some descent drives. Our passing game was not very good. We hit a few comebacks late in the game. We noticed we had a one-on-one with Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders. That was about the only two balls we hit down field. Wofford is a good team, we knew that coming in and we knew it was going to be a close dog fight all the way through.”
AUDIO: Spurrier exhales after tough win over Wofford [3:30]
Turnovers got us today,” said Wofford coach Mike Ayers. “If we don’t turn it over and take care of the ball then the other side may be a little sad. Loved the effort of the kids and the way that they conducted themselves and know that we really worked hard for this. We didn’t come to collect a check, we came to get a win. It’s tough when you know you are so close and to know that we almost beat goliath. Also, really proud of our coaches they worked really hard to get our guys dialed in and our boys played and showed up. We can only go back and hope that we can make the playoffs. We made some decisions in the game whether to go for it on fourth down or not and it really came down to balancing the amount of time that our offense and defense were on the field.
AUDIO: Ayers says turnovers made the difference [3:40]
It was the kind of performance that will give Gamecock fans plenty to worry about as the Clemson game approaches. For much of the game, the USC offensive line had issues with Wofford’s smaller defensive front. The Terriers dropped eight into coverage and Connor Shaw had trouble finding open receivers. The Gamecocks gave up four first half sacks to a team that had had just 16 total coming in. And the number of negative plays was into double digits. And they had two turnovers including one by Mike Davis at the Wofford six in the second quarter.
Shaw was 16 of 20 but for only 122 yards and he threw a costly first quarter interception that killed a scoring opportunity. The offensive bright spot for the Gamecocks was running back Kenny Miles who rushed for a career high 127 yards. He had 154 total yards. It was his first 100 yard rushing game since gaining 114 against Clemson in 2009.
The Gamecocks managed just 293 total yards while the Terriers grounded out 330 total yards. Wofford threw just three passes completing one for 71 yards. USC played without defensive end Jadeveon Clowney who was resting an injured foot and knee. And Shaw reinjured his foot early in the game but continued. Both expect to be ready for the Clemson game next weekend.
The Gamecocks complete an undefeated home season and run their home winning streak to 11 games. They are 9-2 as they head to the season finale next weekend at Clemson. And Steve Spurrier is now tied with Rex Enright for most wins at USC with 64. Spurrier is now 48-0 all time against teams from outside BCS automatic qualifying conferences.