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Former Wando star OrTre Smith, Edwards step up with Deebo Samuel out of the lineup

September 24, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA -- All week, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp stressed that one player wasn’t going to be able to replace wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

Samuel had been the Gamecocks most explosive player to date, scoring six touchdowns in the first three games of the season until going down in the second half last week against Kentucky with a leg injury. Samuel could be out for the entire season with broken bone near his ankle.

Muschamp understood that his remaining receivers -- Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith, OrTre Smith, Hayden Hurst -- wouldn’t be able to fill the void left by Samuel all alone.

They’d have to do it collectively as a group.

“Like I said during the week, when you talk in terms of replacing Deebo, not one person was going to be able to do that, it’s going to be multiple people,” Muschamp said. “It’s going to take more than one guy at more than one position to do that for us. We’ve got to continue to find way to find more explosive plays from the offense.”

Edwards, the sophomore, did his part, finishing with six receptions for 122 yards, including a 41-yard grab in the final seconds that set up Parker White’s game-winning 32-yard field in South Carolina’s 17-16 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“Bryan is a guy that’s been here and made a lot of catches for us over the past two seasons,” Muschamp said. “He had that big catch to set up the field goal, but Bryan is a guy we’ve got a lot of confidence in. He stepped up and played some good football for us today.”

As good as Edwards was, it was former Wando High School star OrTre Smith who might have provided the play that started the rally for the Gamecocks.

With the Gamecocks trailing 13-0 early in the fourth quarter, South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley found Smith over the middle for a 28-yard TD that gave the team and the 71,821 fans on hand some much-needed life. The 6-4, 225-pound Smith also plowed over two Louisiana Tech defenders and stumbled into the end zone for the score.

“I was really proud of OrTre Smith - he made a great catch down there,” Muschamp said. “That helped change the momentum of the game.”

Smith finished with two receptions for 36 yards. In the last two games, Smith has two TDs.

“Unbelievable job by OrTre today,” said Bentley. “He really just competed his tail off. Hit him on the post route and he broke those tackles. I told him when he got hit, he would probably run into the end zone backwards because he didn’t have a clue where he was. He did an unbelievable job, and he’s only going to get better.”

Bentley threw for 295 yards used 10 different receivers during the game. Hurst, who hasn’t seen as many balls come his way as last season, finished with three receptions for 39 yards.

“Really proud of the way the guys stepped up today with Deebo being out,” Bentley said. “I thought all the guys that got into the game stepped up to help fill that void without Deebo being out there.”