SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — Dylan Thompson threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in South Carolina’s 24-21 victory over Miami on Saturday in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.
Pharoh Cooper was Thompson’s favorite target, catching nine passes for 170 yards, including a spectacular 25-yard grab on the decisive drive late in the fourth quarter.
Thompson completed 22 of 34 passes.
South Carolina (7-6) has won a school-record four straight bowl games. Miami (6-7) ended the season on a four-game losing streak and hasn’t won in the postseason since 2006.
Miami’s Duke Johnson ran for 132 yards and caught five passes for 51 yards, but his costly fumble with a little more than 5 minutes remaining set up South Carolina’s winning drive.
Miami’s Brad Kaaya threw for 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has had one losing season in 25 seasons as a college head coach — back in 1987 with Duke.
It was an another impressive game for Johnson, the 5-foot-9, 206-pound junior who has likely played his last game with the Hurricanes and is expected to declare for the NFL draft.
But he fumbled on Miami’s 29 with 5:24 remaining and South Carolina recovered.
Johnson also appeared to suffer a right leg injury on the play and didn’t return to the game, though he was up and walking on the sideline in the final minutes.
Two plays later, Thompson hit Cooper on a spectacular pass and catch to get down to the Miami 2. Thompson fit the ball into a tight window and Cooper helped him by leaping over the defender to make the grab.
Thompson trotted into the end zone untouched on the next play and the Gamecocks had what proved to be an insurmountable 24-14 lead with 4:13 left.
Miami was in control early, but its long drives were stuffed in the red zone. Michael Badgley made field goals from 27 and 26 yards to give the Hurricanes a 6-0 lead by early in the second quarter.
South Carolina, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going until midway through the second quarter, when Thompson connected on a long throw over the middle to Cooper, who ran the rest of the way for a stunning 78-yard touchdown score.
Just like that, the Gamecocks looked comfortable. Thompson scrambled out of the pocket a few minutes later on a broken play before finding Mike Davis on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Elliott Fry made a 32-yard field goal with 1:39 left as South Carolina scored 17 straight points to take a 17-6 lead into halftime.
The Gamecocks’ defense — maligned for much of the season — didn’t give up a touchdown until late in the third quarter when Gus Edwards’ 3-yard touchdown run and the Miami’s ensuing 2-point conversion pulled the Hurricanes to 17-14.
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