USC starting tailback A.J. Turner didn’t have a carry Saturday against UMass, and David Williams started in his place, but his coach said it wasn’t about production or practice issues.
“A.J. had been a little banged up a little bit with his knee and we felt like we wanted to give (Rashad) Fenton an opportunity at kick returner,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “Those guys have been practicing good, and we go back to practice and how you prepare. ... Not that he’s been practicing poorly. We felt like those other guys have done a nice job.”
Turner also mishandled a kickoff.
USC also had top cornerback Jamarcus King out for a stretch with a hand injury, but he came back to relieve Fenton, who was sidelined late with cramps. Muschamp said safety D.J. Smith might have hyperextended his knee, but he came back and finished the game.
Still an issue
The Gamecocks got little relief from their punt return problems. They’re on their fifth returner.
Cornerback Chris Lammons had a nice first return, netting a season-long 19-yarder. But the second one bounced off him and the Minutemen pounced on it.
“He’s got to square up on the ball,” Muschamp said. “I knew when he started to drift back, it was going to be a hard catch for him. But we’ve got confidence in Chris. We’ve just got to catch the ball. I’ve never been in this situation before, but we’re working through it.”
Muschamp noted UMass had been relying on rugby kicks, low liners that tend to roll, but that kick was a regular punt.
That turnover set up the Minutemen at the USC 30, but Lammons caught an off-target pass later to keep UMass off the board.
▪ Safety Chris Moody, defensive lineman Darius English, guard Zack Bailey and tight end Hayden Hurst were the captains.
▪ Kicker Elliott Fry had four extra points, bringing his career point total to 323. That puts him seven behind the school record held by Collin Mackie.
▪ Announced attendance was 73,428.
▪ The 34 points were the most USC had scored since 37 against South Alabama in Nov. 2014.
▪ USC’s average starting field position was between its 37 and 38 yard line.