Outside of the second half of the second quarter, Miami played pretty good defense against South Carolina and its powerful offense in Saturday’s Duck Commander Independence Bowl. Problem is, it was that 6-minute, 11-second span that did them in.
Trailing 6-0 midway through the second quarter, Dylan Thompson hit Pharoh Cooper for a 78-yard catch-and-run score to put the Gamecocks on top. On the ensuing possession, South Carolina marched 53 yards in six plays, capped by a 15-yard Mike Davis touchdown pass, to push the lead to eight, and then Elliott Fry added a 32-yard field goal to give the Gamecocks a 17-6 halftime lead.
After a Gus Edwards three-yard scoring plunge pulled Miami to within 17-14 in the third quarter, the key sequence in the game came with five and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. On a second-and-8 at its own 29, Miami handed to Duke Johnson, who proceeded to hurt his ankle and fumble the ball in the process.
Johnson appeared okay, at least okay enough to walk around, but the Hurricanes never recovered. South Carolina moved 29 yards in three plays, punctuated by a two-yard Thompson run, to push the lead to 24-14.
Miami responded with a swift 72-yard touchdown drive in 1:57, capped by a Brad Kaaya pass to Phillip Dorsett, but the Hurricanes were not able to force South Carolina to relinquish the ball over the remaining 2:16.
Final score: South Carolina 24, Miami 21.
In likely his last game as a Hurricane, Miami’s all-time leading rusher Duke Johnson showed well, rushing 24 times for 132 yards while catching five passes for 51 yards. Kaaya completed 19-of-33 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Miami actually out-gained South Carolina (422-362) and held a 21-17 edge in first downs, but a 2-0 turnover deficit did them in.
For South Carolina, Thompson completed 22-of-34 passes for 284 yards with three total touchdowns, and Davis carried 13 times for 55 yards. Cooper led all receivers with nine grabs for 170 yards and a touchdown.
The win pushes South Carolina to 7-6, not quite the 11-2 finish the ‘Cocks enjoyed the past three seasons but still their seventh straight winning campaign.
Miami, meanwhile, closes the year at 6-7 and on a four-game losing streak. Overall, Miami is 8-11 since starting the 2013 season at 7-0.