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November 2, 2013

Hampton shines in victory

It is commonplace in the college game for programs to have to replace crucial members of their team. Each year, the question is asked, "Who will step up this season?"

No. 14 South Carolina and its fan base have grown accustomed to someone stepping up on the defensive side of the ball every year.

With the loss of DJ Swearinger from the secondary, there were expectations that Victor Hampton would be that guy. It has been a slow process this season but Saturday, Hampton put a complete game together leading the charge for the USC defensive side of the ball.

Hampton led the team in tackles with eight and had three pass break-ups. He also forced a fumble and had a fumble recovery (on the same play).

Jadaveon Clowney did not mince words when speaking of Hampton's performance, saying, "He had the best game of his career.

"Vic practiced hard this week. I told him you play how you practice and he practiced hard all week."

Hampton twice saved touchdowns with pass deflections, one coming late in the first half and another in the second half where, both times, Hampton was on the proverbial island that so many corner backs take pride in.

On that island, Hampton made the play. He kept his defense alive and on Saturday it was the defense that lead the Gamecocks to victory.

"Vic has played well the last couple of games," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "We've put him in situations where he is going to be one-on-one."

Ward attributed Hampton with being better prepared for what to expect.

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"I think his film study has gotten better," Ward said. "And I think he knows what route, typically, he is going to get and he's plays them."

On a night where the Gamecock defense created a season-high five turnovers, it was Victor Hampton that started it all in the first quarter. Hampton's first pass deflection was tracked down by freshman linebacker Skai Moore for his first career interception. The fifth turnover of the game came in the fourth quarter when Hampton ripped the ball away from wide receiver Robert Johnson.

Hampton lead the team in tackles, he was in on two turnovers and he defended several passes preventing scores for Mississippi State. With at least four games likely left on the Gamecocks schedule (including a bowl game), Hampton appears to be finding his stride. Next season, he may be the player everyone asks, "Who is going to replace him?"

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