COLUMBIA -- In what has been a feast or famine season thus far for University of South Carolina sophomore running back Ty'Son Williams, the former Crestwood High School standout had an opportunity to feast Saturday against Louisiana Tech.
Williams was the featured back in the Gamecocks' opening drive against the Bulldogs, rushing six times for 33 yards and catching two passes for 14 yards. Williams touched the ball on each of the game's first four plays, rushing three times for 17 yards and catching a pass for eight yards, and was also targeted by quarterback Jake Bentley on one of two unsuccessful pass attempts to the end zone before Parker White missed on a 34-yard field goal attempt.
On a day when White would kick a 31-yard game-winning field goal with four seconds left in a thrilling 17-16 South Carolina comeback win, Williams closed with 95 yards rushing on 13 carries, including a 35-yard run for his first touchdown as a Gamecock.
"It felt good," Williams said of getting the start a week after being shut out of the run game in a 23-13 loss to Kentucky. "It felt a lot better, after he (White) made that kick, also, because we were able to get the win."
At the end of one quarter, Williams handled the ball on eight of nine running plays, gaining 44 of USC's 45 yards. The other running play went to wideout Randrecous Davis, who gained one yard after taking a Bentley handoff while running in motion.
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said Rico Dowdle was a game-time decision due to a thigh injury.
"It tightened up on him in pre-game and he got another good shot on it today, so we'll see about that," Muschamp said of Dowdle's status after the game.
Williams said the first indication that he might have an increased workload came when he went to practice last Tuesday and was first in the running back rotation.
"I kind of just had it in my mind that I'd probably start this game," Williams said, "and also that Rico was dealing with an injury."
Williams was still involved in the rushing mix in the second quarter, but ceded some touches to Dowdle, who rushed nine times for 32 yards, and A.J. Turner, who gained 10 yards on three carries, as the Gamecock coaching staff attempted to feed all three of its top running backs.
At the half, Williams totaled 50 yards on his 10 attempts, but the most important number was the zero in the scoring column for the Gamecocks. After his earlier miss, White was wide left on a 46-yard field goal attempt after a 12-play, 46-yard drive late in the opening half. Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech placekicker Jonathan Barnes hit on two of three field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder just before the drive leading up to White's second miss to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead at the break.
With the lead at 13-0 after a 12-play, 75-yard Louisiana Tech touchdown drive to open the second half, Williams immediately moved the chains with a 10-yard run to open Carolina's next possession. A 23-yard pass from Bentley to Bryan Edwards moved the ball to the LT 34, but Williams would make his only mistake of the day two plays later, fumbling the ball away after being hit by DaMarion King at the line of scrimmage.
After the fumble, which was one of three by the Gamecocks on the day but the only one that was lost, Williams did not see the field in either of the next two Carolina possessions, one of which was USC's only 3-and-out of the day.
"Ty'Son's a good football player for us, and we should have, you can go back, I know we'll all reflect," Muschamp said, possibly in reference to decisions about Williams' run game usage, "but he's a guy that, you've got to take good care of the football, but certainly gets positive yardage in the running game. He's a heavy back, and as the game wears on people get tired of hitting that."
On USC's next series, which started at its 3 after a JaMarcus King interception, Dowdle was in the backfield. After the Gamecocks' troubles converting in short yardage situations last week against Kentucky, Dowdle was able to covert on a fourth-and-1 and two third-and-1 situations to keep alive what would be a 16-play, 97-yard drive that took 7:36 off the clock. Bentley closed the drive with a 28-yard touchdown pass to OrTre Smith, with a White PAT cutting the lead to 13-7 with 11:06 to go in the game.
Williams would get one more touch in the game, and he definitely made the most of it. After a 39-yard Bentley completion to Edwards got Carolina to the Bulldog 35, Williams took a handoff around left end and raced to the end zone, completing a 2-play, 14-second scoring drive.
"(That was) the (offensive) line. You guys will see it when you look at the film," Williams said of the relative ease of his long touchdown scamper. "It was a huge hole. All I had to do was hit it and go score."
White's PAT kick would give USC its first lead, 14-13, with 4:52 left, setting up a finish that would see a Carolina victory after the teams swapped field goals in the final minute.
Bentley said "overcoming adversity" was the key to the win, citing both White, after two missed field goals, and Williams, after his fumble, and what they were able to do later in the game.
"He didn't get down," Bentley said of Williams. 'So what, now what.' I know we keep saying that, but I think it really applies in every situation that we're going through. You've just got to keep battling, keep fighting. ... That's what he did, and he made an outstanding run on that play. Just a great play for him, and I know he's excited about it."
Williams led the running backs with 15 touches, followed by Dowdle with 10, including one pass for four yards. Turner added three receptions for 23 yards to end his day with six touches.
Williams said the key to getting more consistent game-time reps is to "just keep improving every day at practice."
After Saturday's effort, Williams is averaging an impressive 6.4 yards per carry with 173 yards on 27 rushes, a 6.4 average, while adding five receptions for 26 yards.