This post continues our countdown of great plays from 2013. Today, we're talking about Pharoh Cooper's touchdown pass to Brandon Wilds towards the end of the Clemson game.
There are several really awesome things about this play. First of all, it was well-designed. Cooper averaged nearly five ypc running the ball out of the wildcat. Given that his only other pass attempt had been an ugly incompletion thrown vaguely in Connor Shaw's direction and that this play came when Clemson was expecting run on 3rd and 2 in a situation when Carolina could be expected to want to milk the clock, you can't blame Clemson for biting on the run as soon as Cooper starts running towards the right side. However, after selling the play-action to himself very well, Cooper makes a nice lob to a breaking Brandon Wilds, who is able to run into the end-zone untouched with Clemson's second-level defenders all having sold out to stop Cooper on the run. Notice how all four linebackers are either on or behind the line of scrimmage when Cooper throws the ball; it was clear they were thinking run all the way even before the snap. Very well-sold fake. To be sure, it was risky of Spurrier to throw in this situation, but the Gamecocks pushed all the right buttons to get the opportunity they wanted, and Cooper and Wilds convert brilliantly.
The other thing this play has going for it is that it was the play that got yet another "we're going to beat Clemson again" party started, much like Dylan Thompson's late TD pass to Bruce Ellington in the 2012 game. Like that game in Death Valley, the 2013 contest was closer than the score would suggest, perhaps even closer than the 2012 game given that the Gamecocks benefited from some unforced special teams turnovers in 2013. In fact, for the first time since 2008, Carolina didn't go into the fourth quarter with a lead. If this 3rd-and-2 play gets stuffed and Elliott Fry misses a medium-length field goal, we would have had good reason to fret as Clemson retook possession down by one score. However, we didn't have to worry because Cooper and Wilds put the game away on this play. Clemson still had a modicum of a chance when it got the ball back, but needing to move the ball quickly down the field, the Gamecocks were able to sit back in coverage and wait for Tajh Boyd to make bad throws. The result was predictable. Cooper-to-Wilds was the play that set off the fifth-straight celebration of a victory over our archrivals.