Byrd helps Gamecocks’ offense take flight

Junior takes his turn in starring role for the USC receiver corps

09/28/2013 9:28 PM

09/28/2013 9:50 PM

Damiere Byrd knew his No. 1 might be called Saturday.

The junior receiver responded by catching five passes for 74 yards in the 28-25 win against Central Florida, two more receptions than he had this season.

With sophomore receiver Shaq Roland suspended because of an unidentified issue, the 5-foot-9, 166-pound Byrd made the most of his opportunity.

“We were a little short as far as X receivers,” he said.

That led to an increase in practice repetitions, which led to his big game.

“He had a good week of practice,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “He made a big catch down there on the scramble play. It was good to see it.”

Byrd’s big catch came in the third quarter, when he hauled in a 38-yard pass from a scrambling Dylan Thompson. It carried to the USC 4-yard line and set up a touchdown run by Thompson that gave the Gamecocks a 14-10 advantage, a lead they would not relinquish.

“When I looked back, I saw that he was scrambling,” Byrd said. “It was a typical scramble drill. One guy goes deep and one goes to the sideline.”

Receiver Bruce Ellington, who pulled in four passes for 88 yards, made a big play of his own on a 27-yard catch in the first half.

“It was a scramble play really. It wasn’t called,” Thompson said. “Bruce and Damiere really made the play on both of those. Those guys played great.”

Thompson, who entered the game when starter Connor Shaw went down with a shoulder sprain in the first quarter, wasn’t surprised Byrd got the job done when it was his turn to step in as well.

“He’s a really smart guy. He can fill in for anyone,” said Thompson, who threw for 261 yards on the day.

Byrd feels the same way, no matter which player is taking the snaps under center.

“We all have confidence in Connor and Dylan, so it doesn’t really matter who’s in there throwing us the ball,” he said.

He also has confidence in tailback Mike Davis, who rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns. That forced the Knights to put eight defenders in the box to stop the run, which opened up the passing game.

“When the running game gets going, the defense has to honor that. That helps us a lot,” Byrd said.

Byrd understood it was his turn to have a big game. Roland, Ellington and Nick Jones have come up with strong games in the first three weeks.

“It pretty much depends on the defense each week. Each team has a different defense, so each week we have somebody else open,” Byrd said.

As for the return of Roland, Spurrier did not have much to say, except to note that it wasn’t a drug-related suspension.

“Ask the athletic director,” Spurrier said. “He’s got a university policy deal that he’s dealing with right now.”


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