Steve Spurrier hasn’t had much to feel good about this season but Saturday’s 24-21 win over Miami in Shreveport’s Independence Bowl left him grinning from ear to ear. For a little while Spurrier can forget about the debacle against Texas A&M, the blown fourth quarter leads and the whipping at the hands of Clemson. He added another first to his USC portfolio…the first to win four straight bowl games. And the fact the victims were Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin and Miami gives Spurrier something more to crow about.
He can also feel a little more upbeat about his defense. Yes, Duke Johnson rushed for 132 yards. And yes,, the defense did allow another rush down the field touchdown late in the fourth quarter that put the victory in peril. But for the most part, Lorenzo Ward’s unit played fast, aggressive and with reckless abandon. Heck, they even had a couple of sacks. And they played without two starters in JT Surratt and David Johnson.
What the defense did do was force a turnover deep in Miami territory that led to the touchdown that gave USC a 10 point lead. The defense also kept Hurricane quarterback Brad Kaaya on edge and uncomfortable and came up with an interception that led to a field goal.
Considering the type of season the Gamecock defense has had, the fact they gave up 422 yards will be forgiven because they forced three field goal attempts, two of those after the Hurricanes had driven deep into the red zone.
The Gamecock offense had an uneven day. They did very little outside of dominating the second quarter with 17 points and 213 yards. That helped USC to a 17-6 lead at halftime. Dylan Thompson hit Pharoh Cooper with a 78 yard scoring pass and Mike Davis with a 15 yard toss and Elliott Fry connected on a 32 yard field goal.
Miami put together a third quarter drive for a touchdown and a two point conversion to cut the lead to 17-14. Then on one of the game’s big plays, Gerald Dixon hit Johnson and forced a fumble he recovered at the Miami 29. Thompson hit Cooper for 25 yards and then ran in himself for what turned out the be the game clinching score.
Thompson completed 22 of 34 passes for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns giving him 26 scoring passes on the season, second highest in school history. Cooper, who was the game’s offensive MVP, caught 9 passes for 170 yards.
Skai Moore, the game’s defensive MVP, totaled 11 tackles.
The Gamecocks finish 7-6 avoiding their first losing season under Spurrier, giving him yet another reason to leave Shreveport with a smile.
Steve Spurrier post game press conference
Press conference audio: