South Carolina jumped out to a first-half lead and held off Miami 24-21 in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana.
How the game was won: After Miami settled for field goals on its first two drives, the game swung when South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson hit Pharoh Cooper with a 78-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter. Starting there, the Gamecocks outgained Miami 192 yards to 36 through halftime and scored 17 unanswered points. Miami twice closed within three points, but got no closer.
Game ball goes to: Thompson. Cooper (170 receiving yards) is a tempting option, but let’s go with Thompson, a fifth-year senior. He showed why he was the SEC’s leading passer in picking apart a Miami secondary that came in ranked 10th nationally in pass defense. Thompson finished 22-for-34 for 284 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for the clinching score.
What it means: After blowing several late leads during SEC play, the Gamecocks finally managed to carry a narrow lead into the final quarter and win the game. South Carolina (7-6) avoided its first losing record under Steve Spurrier and forced Miami (6-7) to finish the season with a sub-.500 record for the first time since 2007 and only the third time since 1979.
Best play: South Carolina’s Cooper scores the game’s first touchdown on a 78-yard pass in the second quarter: