Rashad Fenton did Saturday what no South Carolina player has done in 13 years.
He made a house call.
The true freshman from Miami, on his first collegiate touch, returned a second-quarter kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.
“Coach gave me the play call. I faked right and the seam was open,” Fenton said. “When I saw that, I took it. That was it after that.”
Fenton’s feat was the first for the Gamecocks since Matthew Thomas returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown against Virginia in 2002. The drought spanned 13 years and 167 games.
USC coach Steve Spurrier lamented that Fenton did not get an opportunity sooner.
“Fenton is a young man who has some breakaway potential,” Spurrier said. “I finally told them to put him in there. That was my best call of the game. He came off and said, ‘Thanks for putting me in coach.’ I said, ‘No, I’m the dummy that hasn’t had you in all year.’ ”
Fenton, a defensive back who also has been practicing at kick return, scored the touchdown on USC’s fourth possession of the game and cut the LSU lead to 14-10. The Tigers kicked away from him on all but one other kickoff, and Fenton returned that one 22 yards.
Fenton was 5 years old when Thomas returned his kickoff for a score.
“I was shocked about that. I guess it was a good accomplishment,” Fenton said. “That brought a lot of emotions into the game knowing I impacted it.”
Fenton was the final member of the 2015 recruiting class, announcing his commitment to the Gamecocks on signing day. He has seen most of his action this season in the second half of games at cornerback and was suspended the first half of the UCF contest because of missed classes.
He expects to remain on defense, but his play-making ability had Spurrier thinking of the possibilities of having Fenton the offensive side of the ball.
“That guy can juke, he can run, he’s got hands, but he came in as a defensive back and he’ll end up playing a lot at defensive back,” Spurrier said. “He’s a natural wide receiver, but we weren’t smart enough to put him there.”
Junior Pharoh Cooper, who started his career at USC on defense before settling in at wide receiver and punt return, was impressed with Fenton’s effort.
“That was the first time Rashad touched the ball in his college football career and he took it to the house,” Cooper said. “He works hard every day. I’m proud of him. He deserved it.”