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October 6, 2013
Has Pharoh Cooper's time to shine finally arrived?
The freshman from Havelock, N.C., saw his most extensive action of the season on Saturday night as the Gamecocks unveiled a Wildcat package with the former Shrine Bowl MVP at the controls for the first time this season.
Cooper finished the game with 26 yards on two carries, including a 23-yard scamper out of the Wildcat that put the Gamecocks at the Kentucky 3-yard line on their final scoring drive of the night, and his first career reception, a 12-yard grab of a Connor Shaw pass in the latter stages of the second quarter that gave USC a first down en route to a field goal by Elliott Fry.
Pleased by Cooper's performance, Spurrier strongly hinted following the game that Saturday marked only the beginning for the true freshman.
"It was good to see Pharoh Cooper come in," Spurrier said. "He's a real ballplayer. We put him in that shotgun and let him run here, there and the other and let him throw some short passes. I think his time is coming here."
After Bruce Ellington fumbled a kickoff return and mishandled another, Cooper could also get an opportunity as a kick and/or punt returner in the near future.
"There's a good chance he might be the punt returner and kickoff return guy," Spurrier said. "I just think he is a reliable player. He's a good kid and does everything we ask. Look for Pharoh to be more involved in our team."
Cooper, who led Havelock High to consecutive Class 3A titles in the state of North Carolina, signed with USC in February and started the season as a cornerback before switching sides of the ball. He stepped onto the field briefly late in the North Carolina game, but two passes thrown in his direction fell incomplete.
PROLIFIC OFFENSE: USC surpassed 450 yards of total offense for the fourth straight game, finishing with 453 yards on 62 plays, an average of 7.3 yards per play, and scored on six of seven possessions before the final clock-draining drive in the final 4:02 of the game without committing a turnover. Yet, the Gamecocks still had to hang on for the victory.
"This is the first time I've coached an offense that scored (six out of seven) possessions, the other possession we ran out the clock to end the game and we had no turnovers and we barely won the game," Spurrier said. "But it is what it is. We have to move the ball and score every time we touch it if you want to win the game. I've been like that before when I coached in those days at Duke."
When Kentucky climbed to within six points (27-21) with 11:50 left, Shaw directed a sharp seven-play, 89-yard touchdown drive that gave USC a 14-point lead for the third time during the game.
"Kentucky didn't stop us all night," Shaw said. 'We had confidence they weren't going to stop us on that drive, either. That's the mentality we had. We just went to work on every possession we had. We only punted once. It was a strong night for us."
The Gamecocks fell 24 yards short of garnering 2,000 yards of total offense over a four-game stretch for the second time in school history. The only time it has occurred was in 1995 when Steve Taneyhill led the offense to 2,081 yards against LSU, Kent State, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. However, they did eclipse the 1,500-yard barrier in three consecutive games for the second time this season and fourth since 1992.
THOMPSON TIME: Spurrier made the decision to give backup quarterback Dylan Thompson some playing time during the week, so he wasn't apologizing for inserting him into the game after Shaw had led USC to touchdowns on its first three possessions. Thompson was on the field for five plays as USC punted after gaining 12 yards.
"The decision was made during the week, It wasn't made right there," Spurrier said. "You all heard me say after about the third or fourth possession that we would put Dylan in and let him play."
Thompson was 1-of-3 passing for 13 yards. However, Spurrier pointed the finger at the offensive line for failing to protect the redshirt junior during his brief period on the field.
"We opened the gates on him twice and we had guys open on both plays," Spurrier lamented. "He didn't have a chance. We messed up a couple of pass protections somewhere. Dylan didn't have a chance."
-- Freshman running back David Williams didn't play in Saturday night's game as Mike Davis (21 carries for 106 yards) and Shon Carson (three carries for seven yards) shared the running back responsibilities. Shaw ran nine times for 50 yards.
-- Spurrier won his 70th game with USC on Saturday night. His record in nine seasons is 70-38 (64.8 percent). He thanked the fans for staying until the end of the game and pointed out that some players on the USC roster have never lost at home with a 14-game home winning streak intact.
-- Shaw's 62-yard TD pass to Damiere Byrd just 1:39 into the game means USC has scored on its first possession in four of five games this season. The pass also catapulted Shaw into fourth place all-time by himself on USC's career passing touchdown list with 39, he snapped a tie at 38 TD throws with Anthony Wright and Blake Mitchell. "He played his normal game," Spurrier said. "He can stay in the pocket or he can run out. He had an excellent touchdown run down there at the end and made a heckuva play on the two-point play."
-- In three career games against Kentucky, Shaw completed 58-of-77 passes (75.3 percent) for 721 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He said he "lived" in the training room undergoing treatment on his shoulder during the week leading into the game. "I just knew I was going to be able to play coming into the week," Shaw said.
-- Shaw had 312 yards in total offense on Saturday (262 passing, 50 rushing), marking the seventh time in his career Shaw has eclipsed 300 yards in total offense.
-- Byrd had a career-high 98 yards receiving in Saturday's game, along with matching his career high with five receptions.
-- Nine different receivers had at least one reception in Saturday's game, five with two or more receptions - Byrd (5 receptions), Davis (3), Jerell Adams (2), Nick Jones (2) and Rory Anderson (2).
-- Fullback Connor McLaurin was credited with his first career start.
-- With Jadeveon Clowney sidelined with the bruised ribs, redshirt freshman Darius English earned his first career start at defensive end, finishing with three tackles and half a sack.
-- Defensive tackle J.T. Surratt established a new career high with six tackles, tying him for the team high with T.J. Holloman and Kelcy Quarles.
-- USC was successful on a two-point conversion for the first time since 2003.
-- Fry connected on field goal attempts from 40 and 41 yards. Fry, who is 6-for-6 on field goals this season, shared a game ball with kickoff specialist Landon Ard.
-- USC is 29-3 in its last 32 home games.
SEC SCHEDULE (Saturday 10/5):
SEC EAST STANDINGS: Georgia 3-0, Florida 3-0, South Carolina 2-1, Missouri 1-0, Kentucky 0-2, Tennessee 0-2, Vanderbilt 0-3.
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