Fittingly, Steve Spurrier Jr. turned to a basketball metaphor to describe the fourth-quarter performance by Bruce Ellington against Missouri.
“If a guy’s hot, let him shoot,” said Spurrier Jr., South Carolina’s wide receivers coach. “If a guy’s hot, throw it to him. The other day was certainly one of those days for Bruce.”
One week after the 5-foot-9 junior wide receiver from Moncks Corner went catchless against Tennessee, Ellington caught a career-high 10 passes for 136 yards and became the go-to wide receiver during a furious rally against Missouri.
“It was just one of those days, I wouldn’t have necessarily said it would be a big game for him, but it turned out to be,” Spurrier Jr. said.
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Especially in the fourth quarter, when Ellington caught five passes for 67 yards. Two of those catches went for touchdowns and the other three resulted in first downs.
“Every time I go out there, I want the ball. When the ball comes to me, I am going to try to make a play,” Ellington said. “You are not thinking you are going to lose. As a team, we did what we had to do to win the game.”
Ellington called his diving catch across the middle to jumpstart the Gamecocks’ final touchdown drive in regulation his best of the day.
“I haven’t done that for a while,” he said of the dive.
In crucial, late-game situations, quarterbacks and play-callers tend to direct more touches to players like Ellington who have amassed a lot of trust, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said.
“Bruce does have a knack of catching the ball, no matter what the situation is,” Spurrier said. “We did call his number a little bit more, probably should have been calling it more earlier in the year, to tell you the truth.”
Ellington is South Carolina’s leading receiver with 31 catches for 468 yards. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks basketball team gets ready to begin another season without one of the best basketball players on campus available.
“Right now, I am not thinking about if I am not going to play or I am going to play,” Ellington said when told one of his hoops teammates used the word “if” in discussing his return to the hardwood. “Right now, I’m just focusing on football.”
South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin will be happy to have Ellington whenever he’s ready.
“Here’s the thing on Bruce, whether Bruce is physically in practice or not for us, he makes us a better team,” Martin said. “Bruce understands what we do, better, last year, better than anybody on our team. Yet he had a third of the practices. That’s how important this is to Bruce. That’s the kind of mind that he has.
“Not only does he understand it, not only does he live it and breathe it, then he helps his teammates. That’s what makes him special, that charisma, that personality. When he walks in the gym, whenever that day is, we’ll be a better team.”
Staff writer David Cloninger contributed to this article.