By Josh Hyber/Photo by SC Athletics
COLUMBIA, MO. — South Carolina led Missouri by 11 points with just over 13 minutes to go in regulation of the teams’ SEC clash at Faurot Field on Saturday night, and the Gamecocks had just pounced on a Tigers’ punt return fumble.
After a Ty’Son Williams 32-yard run, SC had a third and goal from the Tigers’ 2-yard line.
Gamecock offensive coordinator Kurt Roper flipped … and flipped … and flipped, to a page in his playbook that probably hadn’t been used before.
The call was an end-around run.
Not for Williams. Not for running backs Rico Dowdle or A.J. Tuner or receiver Deebo Samuel.
It was for 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end Hayden Hurst.
“That was probably the first time I’ve run the football since Pop Warner,” Hurst said after South Carolina’s 31-13 victory. “I was licking my chops a little bit.
“I’m just glad coach had faith in me to run the football.”
Thankfully for the Gamecocks he did, because Hurst bounced outside and — after initially being pushed back several yards — bulldozed his way to the house for SC’s final score.
“That’s something we put in just because of (Hayden’s) athleticism and how big he is,” Gamecocks’ quarterback Jake Bentley said. “I honestly didn’t think he was going to get in. I handed it to him and (Missouri’s defense) actually played it pretty well. (Hayden) just made a big boy play.”
Said Hurst, “As the offense goes, (coach Roper) gets more confidence up there to call plays and call people’s numbers and get them in space. I think we all see that on our offense, we have weapons everywhere.
“I think coach Roper’s having a little fun with it right now.”
But that wasn’t all from the senior tight end, who had just one catch in South Carolina’s season-opening 35-28 victory in Charlotte over NC State.
Hurst also had a 39-yard touchdown reception, one of three passes he caught for a 69-yard total.
The two touchdowns were his second and third career touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) after he scored his first in the 2016 Birmingham Bowl against South Florida.
“Hayden’s a playmaker and we get the ball to playmakers,” said Samuel, the team’s biggest playmaker.
Bentley said the team made an emphasis on getting Hurst more involved in the passing game on Saturday.
“It’s not about plays,” Muschamp said. “It’s about players. When we have it dialed up, it’s about how are we going to get number one (Deebo Samuel), number 89 (Bryan Edwards) … I mean, we’re going to get them the ball and we’re going to find different ways to do it.
“It’s all about finding creative ways to continue to do that as the year goes on.”
Ty’Son Williams sees increased workload
A week after not getting any carries and touching the ball just once, the South Carolina redshirt-sophomore played a starring role on the Gamecocks’ offense.
The 6-foot, 215-pounder took 14 carries for a team-high 78 yards rushing on Saturday night.
“He’s a hard runner,” Muschamp said. “Whoever has the hot hand is who we’re going to go with, and it felt like he was giving us some positive yardage. He was getting some bull yardage after contact, so we went with him.”
The highlight of Williams’ night was the 32-yard burst that set up Hurst’s fourth-quarter score.
“We just started to wear them down and things started to open up,” said Williams, who then thanked his coaches and teammates for believing in him.
Added the running back, “I’ve just got to keep pushing because it’s a long season and every game is a new opportunity.”
Freshman Jamyest Williams earning early time
On the first day of South Carolina practice, freshman cornerback Jamyest Williams found Samuel and lined up across from the team’s superstar.
It was, no doubt, a bold move by a freshman, but it was also a sign of the confidence and skill that has gotten him on the field early in his SC career.
“(Jamyest) came in day one and was a guy who wanted to compete,” Samuel said. “He feels like he can guard anybody.”
Williams — a four-star recruit and the No. 8 cornerback in the high school class of 2017, according to 247 Sports — intercepted his first-career pass on Saturday.
With the Gamecocks trailing 10-7 after Samuel scored on a 97-yard kickoff return, the 5-foot-9, 175-pounder intercepted Missouri quarterback Drew Lock at the Tigers’ own 25-yard line.
“(Lock) thought he had the flat wide open and (Jamyest) made a fantastic play on the ball,” Muschamp said. “He’s extremely quick … A one of his (best) attributes is his competitive edge. The guy competes.”
Samuel scored a play later on a 25-yard run, and, three plays after trailing 10-0, the Gamecocks led 14-10.
Steven Montac held out
The junior defensive back did not make the trip to Missouri. The 5-foot-11, 181-pounder sprained his foot and practiced early this week, but the team decided not to play him against Missouri. The injury will not require surgery.
“It’s nothing that’s going to be long-term,” Muschamp said. “But when he gets sore he has a hard time planting and cutting off it, especially on the turf out here. We didn’t think it would be a good situation (for him to play).”