South Carolina salvaged something of its 2014 football season Saturday, beating Miami 24-21 in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl and saving Steve Spurrier from just his second collegiate losing season.
The victory allowed the Gamecocks to finish the season 7-6, even their all-time series with the Hurricanes 1-1 and gave them their first ever victory in the Independence Bowl.
An announced crowd of 38,242 braved a rainy and windy day at Independence Stadium and the few thousand who stayed until the end were rewarded by a game that wasn’t decided until the Gamecocks picked up a first down in the final two minutes to seal the win.
The game turned on a fumble by All-ACC running back Duke Johnson, Miami’s all-time leading rusher. With South Carolina clinging to a 17-14 lead, Johnson fumbled while being injured at the Hurricanes’ 29-yard line. The play was only ruled a fumble after a video review, and South Carolina scored three plays later on a 2-yard zone read keeper by quarterback Dylan Thompson that put the Gamecocks up 24-14 with 4:13 remaining.
The Hurricanes started strong, gaining 134 yards and getting two field goals on their first two drives to take a 6-0 lead on Michael Badgley’s 26-yard field goal with 13:27 left in the second quarter.
South Carolina’s defense stiffened from there, though, holding the Hurricanes to 60 yards in the remainder of the first half, while the offense scored 17 unanswered points behind sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, who caught a 78-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Thompson with 7:50 left in the second quarter to spark the Gamecocks.
South Carolina extended the lead when a scrambling Thompson found Mike Davis in the middle of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown that put the Gamecocks up 14-6 with 5:25 left in the second quarter. Elliott Fry added a 32-yard field with 1:32 left to give South Carolina a 17-6 lead at halftime.
Neither team could muster any offense in the second half until Miami mounted a 93-yard drive that ended on a Gus Edwards’ 3-yard run with 1:43 left in the third quarter. A two-point conversion pass from Brad Kaaya to Malcolm Jenkins made it 17-14 South Carolina.