Josh Kendall

No surprise Skai Moore steps up on Senior Day

The biggest play for South Carolina’s defense against Wofford was not supposed to come against the passing game, but there it was anyway Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium.

And there was Skai Moore, just like always. The Gamecocks’ senior linebacker made the defensive play of the game in a 31-10 victory against the Terriers in front an announced crowd of 74,742, and he also led his team in tackles. Fitting for his Senior Day performance.

“I thought I played all right,” said Moore, whose second-quarter interception turned the game’s momentum and gave him a record-tying 14 in his career. “It was a good win on Senior Day. It was a good way to go out, and we all played a good game as a whole.”

Moore was honored along with 10 other seniors, and junior tight end Hayden Hurst, before Saturday’s game. Traditionally, senior days are held before the final home game of the regular season, but South Carolina coach Will Muschamp elected to move it up one week because the Gamecocks are hosting archrival Clemson next week in Williams-Brice Stadium.

Senior Day “is a very emotional game and next week is a very emotional game, and I think when you double that, it makes it difficult on us,” Muschamp said. “It’s going to be as emotional as you can get next week.”

The Gamecocks seniors spoke to the team Friday, Muschamp said, after watching a video highlighting their careers.

“They talked about culture and they talked about our expectation moving forward as a program, and it was really cool to see where they think this program is headed,” Muschamp said. “That was awesome to hear.”

Moore is the only player on South Carolina’s roster who has played in a victory against Clemson, the last of which came in 2013. He has experienced plenty since then, including a 3-9 season in 2015, the hiring of Muschamp and an entirely new coaching staff and a missed 2016 season because of a neck injury.

“I have experienced a couple different dynamics being a part of this team for a little while,” Moore said Saturday. “We have to come out here and have an edge about ourselves coming into Clemson.”

It will help if Moore has another big game. In addition to his interception, he led the team with five tackles, giving him a team-high 73 on the season. He already has led South Carolina in tackles three times, and if he can do it one more time, he would become the 15th player in NCAA history to lead his team in tackles for four seasons. Linebacker T.J. Brunson is second on the team with 70 stops.

Moore’s tackles weren’t the big story Saturday, though. That would be the interception that tied Bo Davies for USC’s career record in that category.

“Skai’s a really good football player,” Muschamp said. “I gave him a game ball today, and I told him the only way I’m going to paint (the record) up there (in Williams-Brice Stadium) is if he breaks it, so he has to get another one.”

Senior safety Chris Lammons thinks Moore can do it.

“He’s a big-time player,” Lammons said, “and that’s what he does.”

Moore signed with the Gamecocks during their five-game winning streak against the Tigers, and he’d like to bring the rivalry back full circle before leaving the team.

“My career, I had a rough little ride and that little adversity, but I’m glad I came back to experience this team,” he said. “We have a special group. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”