If you didn’t know who Alshon Jeffery was before today, well…now you know.
The true freshman had his breakout performance Saturday afternoon, catching seven passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Gamecocks to a 28-26 win against Kentucky. Jeffery is the first Gamecock to catch three or more touchdowns in a game since Sidney Rice had five touchdown receptions against Florida Atlantic in 2006.
A highly touted prospect from Calhoun County, S.C., Jeffery initially committed to Southern California before choosing to play for the Gamecocks.
“After his third touchdown, Coach [G.A.] Mangus said ‘Those Southern Cal guys don’t come all the way to South Carolina for an average receiver,'” said Coach Spurrier. “Alshon knows how to go get the ball.”
“It was a great feeling out there, just playing and catching touchdowns,” said Jeffery. “I’ve been telling them to just throw it up and I’ll go catch it.”
“Anytime you can just throw the ball up and the guy comes down with it, it makes my job easier,” said quarterback Stephen Garcia. “He went up three times today and just caught the ball over everybody.”
Jeffery opened his account for the day on a slant play for a 10 yard touchdown to put South Carolina ahead 7-3 in the first quarter. But it was his next two touchdowns that really showcased his abilities.
After Kentucky answered back with a touchdown of their own, Garcia found Jeffrey in the corner of the end zone from 28 yards away. With a Kentucky defender tight on him, Jeffery made a highlight-reel worthy catch with one arm while falling down.
“The defender had my left hand locked up and I just went up, ” Jeffery said. “I practice it all the time, trying to catch it with one hand.”
With South Carolina trailing again 17-14 in the third quarter and facing a 3rd down and 15 from the Kentucky 22-yard line, Jeffery came up with another big play to put the Gamecocks in front. As the Kentucky defense swarmed on him, Garcia hurled a pass into the left corner of the end zone. Jeffery made a quick move to get around his defender and catch it for the score.
“The coaches have been telling me since I’ve been here to just take my steps and throw the ball. That’s exactly what I did,” said Garcia. “Alshon just made the catch. He’s a tremendous playmaker and we needed that.”
Spurrier said it took a few games for Jeffery to adjust to playing at the college level.
“He wasn’t here this summer and he didn’t know the offense very well,” he said. “He’s learned how to play faster.”
Jeffery brushed away any talk about being labeled a star already.
“I’m just trying to take off my career and be a great player here,” he said. “When the ball is in the air coming my way, I’m just out to attack it.”
Both Jeffery and Garcia talked about the potential for a great partnership for the next few years.
“He’ll only get better,” said Garcia. “He’s a true freshman and I’m glad he’ll be around here for the next 3 years.”
“Stephen is a great quarterback,” said Jeffery. “At practice, we just say throw up the ball and I’ll go get it.”