Despite valiant fourth quarter efforts, the Miami Hurricanes came up short against the South Carolina Gamecocks (7-6) in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. The Canes lost 24-21.
Miami will finish the 2014 season with a 6-7 record. The loud crowd of more than 38,000 stood covered in plastic ponchos in the rain. It was a wet, windy and raw 53 degrees that seemed to have an effect on a few field goal attempts.
From the beginning it was clear that Duke Johnson would be Brad Kaaya’s favorite target. He was the key, and South Carolina knew it.
The Canes started out fast with an easy stop against the Gamecocks in the first drive. Kaaya and Johnson drove down the field twice, only to come up short with two field goals: one in the first quarter and one in the second.
South Carolina came close in the first quarter, driving down to field goal range with 3:59 to go. Sophomore kicker Elliot Fry went wide right on a 40-yard attempt, leaving the score 3-0 Miami.
The Gamecocks made the required adjustments and came out in the second quarter with 17 unanswered points.
In the second half, the Canes made their comeback. The drive started on their own 7-yard line with 7:06 to go in the third quarter. A beautiful pass from Kaaya to Malcolm Lewis brought the Canes to South Carolina’s 9-yard line. A Gus Edwards touchdown, followed by a successful 2-point conversion, brought the Canes within three points of the Gamecocks, 17-14 with 1:43 left in the third quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, Johnson needed assistance on the field and appeared to have an injury to his right leg. He didn’t return to the game but remained on the sideline.
With 4:13 left, the Gamecocks had a 24-14 lead over the Canes. Nothing seemed impossible, though, when Kaaya connected with Dorsett for a touchdown – bringing the score back to a mere three points’ difference, at 24-21 with 2:16 left in the game.
The Gamecocks maintained control of the ball and let the time run out on the Hurricanes’ season. South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns. Pharoh Cooper was a hot target for Thompson. He caught nine passes for 170 yards.
Kaaya finished up his freshman year throwing for 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Johnson was the top rusher in the game, with 24 carries for 132 yards. Miami led the game with first downs and possession time, but it wasn’t enough to overtake South Carolina.
The Miami Hurricanes have lost the past five bowl games they have played in. Their last bowl win came in 2006 against Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl, 21-20.
The final step for the season will be Johnson’s decision to either stay in Miami or enter the 2015 NFL Draft. He is expected to make an announcement Sunday.
Featured photo courtesy HurricaneSports.