South Carolina stunned by The Citadel in 23-22 loss
Nov. 21, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Seconds after South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper crossed into the end zone capping what appeared to be a game-winning 94-yard touchdown catch on fourth down, the giant video board switched to a shot of grass with a big splash of yellow.
A penalty flag had been thrown at the other end of the field.
A false start for South Carolina erased Cooper's TD, and a disappointing year took another embarrassing turn as the Gamecocks lost to a FCS opponent. Worse, the 23-22 loss Saturday was to The Citadel.
Cooper's play never looked dead, although a few players said they heard a whistle with not everyone running full speed. Cooper realized something was wrong when he saw none of his teammates nowhere near him. The Gamecocks (3-8) lost to a Football Championship Subdivision team for the first time since 1990, when The Citadel won 38-35.
"They outplayed us," Cooper said. "They outhustled us. They outcoached us. They just beat us."
With an eighth straight bowl trip long gone, the only thing South Carolina has left is next week's rivalry game with No. 1 Clemson. Recovering to knock the Tigers out of the playoffs would instantly salvage this miserable season.
"We've got to have a long meeting. I don't know if looking at X's and O's right now is something we need to focus on," interim coach Shawn Elliott said. "We've got some hard questions and we've got to find some answers in a short amount of time."
Elliott is now 1-4 since taking over for Steve Spurrier, who quit in the middle of the season.
Cooper tried to rescue his team with 11 catches for 191 yards. Perry Orth was 28-of-43 for 367 yards, and tight end Jerell Adams had a career-best six catches for 105 yards.
But the Gamecocks struggled to get in the end zone and settled for three field goals from Elliott Fry.
The man who scored the winning touchdown for The Citadel added another fond memory of Williams-Brice Stadium. Tyler Renew sold peanuts and was in the stadium when South Carolina beat No. 1 Alabama in 2010.
He topped that himself on third-and-1 with just over six minutes to go. The Gamecocks defense overcommitted. Citadel quarterback Dominique Allen changed the play from going inside to outside, and Renew ran 56 yards nearly untouched for the winning touchdown.
He finished with 174 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Cam Jackson finished with 106 yards on 12 runs, becoming the 11th running back to go over 100 yards on the Gamecocks this year.
Renew had more yards against South Carolina's defense that Georgia's Nick Chubb (159) or LSU's Leonard Fournette (158) as the Bulldogs never wavered from their option attack, throwing just three times.
"They did a good job being patient with what they do. We had people in position at times, and didn't make the play, and they did," South Carolina defensive coordinator Jon Hoke said.
After Renew's touchdown, a South Carolina offense that scored touchdowns on two of three second half drives started marching again. But on fourth-and-1 with four minutes to go, Joe Crochet and Mark Thomas stopped David Williams for no gain.
It was the first win for a FCS team over a SEC team since Jacksonville State beat Mississippi 49-48 in two overtimes in 2010.
The Bulldogs broke a 28-game losing streak to Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
The Citadel was on the bubble for an FCS playoff bid, but now have about the best win any lower division team in the country.
Any fans wanting to snap a picture of the score had to be quick. The scoreboard operator wiped it off within seconds of the final gun.