COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Freshman quarterback Lorenzo Nunez threw for two touchdowns and Pharoh Cooper turned a broken play into a 29-yard go-ahead scoring run to rally South Carolina to a much-needed 31-14 victory over UCF on Saturday.
Nunez ran for 123 in his first start while Cooper added a 35-yard TD catch to snap the Gamecocks' two-game losing streak.
Things looked dire for South Carolina (2-2), which trailed 14-8 and struggled to make critical yards against fired-up UCF (0-4) in the opening half. But behind Nunez, Cooper and linebacker T.J. Holloman's two interceptions, the Gamecocks turned things around.
After Cooper's scoring run made it 15-14, Nunez hit tight end Jacob August with a 13-yard touchdown pass. Nunez connected with Cooper on a 35-yard TD later in the period.
Elliott Fry had three field goals, including a career-long 52-yarder to start South Carolina's scoring.
Cooper took a swing pass from Nunez and set up for long throw. But he began running when things broke down, eluding four tacklers -- and getting a solid block from Nunez -- he scored the touchdown that put the Gamecocks up for good.
Holloman, getting his first start of the season, picked off UCF quarterback Bo Schneider on the next drive. Nunez found a wide-open August in the middle of the field to extend the lead.
Holloman again intercepted Schneider three plays later and Nunez ended things on the long scoring pass to Cooper.
UCF was last of 127 FBS programs in offense coming in and did nothing to change that in the game's first 20 minutes with just 32 yards in its first four drives.
Cooper bobbled a punt at the South Carolina 4 with defensive back T.J. Murcherson recovering at the 1. Receiver Nick Patti, out of the wildcat set, scored on the next play to put the Knights ahead 7-5.
Another South Carolina error jump started UCF's offense the next time it had the ball. The Knights were pinned on their 7 when linebacker Larenz Bryant was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty. Given some breathing room, Schneider found his rhythm and completed all five of his throws on the drive, the last a 30-yard scoring throw to Tre'Quan Smith who had slipped behind cornerback Al Harris Jr.
The Knights had 93 of their 118 first-half yards on that sequence.
South Carolina struggled again offensively the first 30 minutes. The Gamecocks got inside the UCF 31 three times and managed two field goals by Fry and the team's first safety in six years.
Nunez, the first true freshman to start at South Carolina since Mikal Goodman in 1999, finished 12-of-22 passing for 184 yards.
UCF had not opened with four losses since coach George O'Leary's first season with the Knights in 2004 when the program went 0-11
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