COLUMBIA — Matt Hazel caught a 25-yard pass on Coastal Carolina’s first play from scrimmage Saturday.
That was the highlight of the day for the former North Augusta star, who saw his team blown out 70-10 by South Carolina.
Hazel went on to catch six passes for 83 yards, all in the first half. It was another solid performance for the senior, who is Coastal Carolina’s all-time leader in receptions.
“I was a little pumped up,” Hazel said of his opening catch. “To come out and play against an SEC school was a great experience.”
The North Augusta product now has 168 receptions in his career. For the season, Hazel has 55 catches for 817 yards and six touchdowns.
Hazel’s season will continue as the 10-2 Chanticleers begin the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs next week.
Before Saturday’s game, Hazel drew the praise of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
“Matt Hazel could play for anyone in the SEC,” Spurrier said at his weekly news conference. “Real good player.”
Hazel lived up to that billing. He broke free on several occasions, and in the second quarter he caught a pass to move up to second on the school’s list for most yards in a season.
“I appreciate coach Spurrier’s comments, but I’ve got to continue to work,” said Hazel, who is being touted for All-America honors. “I’m at Coastal, so I’ve enjoyed my experience here and I won’t look back.”
DAY OF REST: Some of South Carolina’s top players didn’t see action against Coastal Carolina.
Defensive linemen Kelcy Quarles and Jadeveon Clowney watched from the sideline, as did running back Mike Davis.
Quarles has been suffering headaches, while Clowney continues to nurse a sore foot. Davis was resting up after suffering ankle, shoulder and rib injuries this season.
“Jadeveon and I had a conversation. His foot was still sore,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “If we needed to play him on third down, I told him I would play him. I need a healthy Jadeveon next week.”
Next week is the Clemson game, and the strategy worked a year ago for Clowney. He sat out the game against Wofford and, a week later, he terrorized Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd with 4½ sacks in the Gamecocks’ win.
Ward expects Quarles to play next week, and Spurrier said Davis could have played Saturday if he was needed.
CAREER DAY: Freshman Pharoh Cooper had his best outing of the season against Coastal Carolina. He had 168 all-purpose yards and scored touchdowns receiving and rushing.
The latter came on a 71-yard run that drew praise from Spurrier.
“You noticed he kind of high-stepped one of the guys diving toward his feet, and I told (running backs coach) Everette Sands you need to tell all those running backs and some receivers to learn to jump out of the way of those guys diving at your ankles.”
Cooper returned punts, took snaps at quarterback and lined up at wide receiver.
THIS AND THAT: Coastal Carolina had scored in every quarter this season, but that streak ended when the Gamecocks held the Chanticleers scoreless in the first quarter ... South Carolina has now won 13 consecutive games against nonconference opponents, and 32 in a row over teams outside the BCS.