The Bentley Era has begun with a victory…an ugly, pathetic, depressing victory.
South Carolina started the afternoon with a 9-play 76-yard touchdown drive. The defense then followed that up by forcing a fumble which led to another Gamecocks touchdown drive, this time 6-plays and 68-yards. Again, the defense followed the touchdown by forcing another turnover.
Things seemed to be finally rolling for the struggling Gamecocks…but things changed.
Carolina did hold a 27-14 lead at halftime and seemed to have complete control of the game even though they had given up two long touchdown drives to the Minutemen. The second half proved otherwise.
After a UMass turnover on downs the teams exchanged punts before the Gamecocks put it in the end zone again. The Minutemen then stormed down the field again, but missed a field goal keeping the score at 34-14. This score was at least somewhat acceptable, but as the fans filtered out of the stands and headed to the fair it seemed as if the team followed.
A Deebo Samuel fumble gave UMass a short field and they took advantage of it, scoring in just 2-minutes to make the game 34-21. South Carolina then went three and out leading to another long drive for UMass which resulted in a touchdown making it a one possession game at 34-28.
The semblance of hope in the end is how the Gamecocks offense responded to the close game and being backed up against their own end zone. South Carolina then drove 68-yards in 8-plays and finally were able to get into victory formation. On that final drive, as with the majority of the game really, Jake Bentley looked composed and experienced and Rico Dowdle continued to prove that he’s the running back of the future.
The Gamecocks escaped with the win and now head into the Orange Crush plus Missouri. They will face 4 defenses that are definitely better than UMass’s (even Mizzou) and 4 offenses that are definitely better than UMass’s. Western Carolina may even make it 5. I don’t feel all that great about what’s to come, but for now let’s look at this week’s game.
- Carolina won- A win is a win is a win and in a season in that isn’t going to have many wins, take them where you can get them. 3-4 is better than 2-4.
- Jake Bentley- Yes it was UMass, but there’s no denying that this kid showed us he’s ready to be the go to guy. His two touchdown passes were absolutely beautiful and as I point out every time it happens, he didn’t turn the ball over. The most impressive play I saw out of Bentley came on the final drive to seal the game. With his back up against his own endzone he was forced out of the pocket and scrambled for 6-yards, patiently waiting for the receiver to make the block he called for and smartly sliding while still in bounds keeping the clock running. That was a very experienced play for a true freshman in his first start.
- Rico Dowdle- I love watching this kid run. Violent, downhill and elusive. If you put this kid behind a legitimate offensive line…my goodness. I can’t wait to see him develop as the team improves. I really believe he can be a top-level RB in the league and make a huge difference for this offense going forward.
- David Williams- Had a great game against this subpar defense with 69-yards and 2 TDs. If he can keep it up against the better teams and into next season, Carolina will have one heck of a two-headed running back.
- Defense- For the first time all season I feel like this defense was not only unprepared, but also not very spirited for the most part. The first two fumbles for UMass came while they were moving the ball with ease. Another long drive for the Minutemen was extended on a 3rd and long play by a boneheaded pass interference penalty. UMass ran for 142-yards and passed for 247….UMass did that. Tennessee, Missouri and Clemson will all shred this defense if they play the way they did on Saturday. Maybe they thought it would be easy to beat such a lowly team and let up, but that’s no excuse. The rest of the schedule is light years better than the Minutemen and it will get very ugly if this defense doesn’t play like they did against Texas A&M rather than how it played on Saturday. Also…the secondary was very Jekyll and Hyde. Allowed a 1-play 74-yard touchdown in the first half and really should have given up another in the second had the UMass quarterback not overthrown the wide open receiver.
- Offensive Line- They played better, but it was playing better than bad and against a bad team. They still failed to find their assignments and open up the running lanes in the 2nd half. If they would have done that then the game would have never gotten so close. Shawn Elliott is the only remaining coach from the Spurrier era…and his days are numbered if this continues.
- Play Calling- This one I will bring up with a caveat. I’m not so sure that Bentley was running all of the plays offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was calling, or at least not running them correctly. There was a lot of yelling and cussing coming from the coaches box on a lot of the plays that I would label as questionable. On one occasion I clearly heard, “RUN THE ——- PLAY I CALL.” I for one love his anger because it shows me exactly how badly he wants this to go correctly, but when you have an empty cupboard it’s very hard to make the recipe work. I will withhold final judgement on Roper until I see the offense in 2017 just as I will withhold judgement on Muschamp until 2018 (unless the team only wins 2-4 games in 2017). Remember, outside of just a couple of guys, Roper and Muschamp don’t have their own recruits out there. Bentley is one of their recruits. The (right now) Top-10 or Top-15 recruiting class coming in, depending on where you look, give me hope. If these higher ranked recruits come in and the team doesn’t improve offensively, then I’ll heat up Roper’s seat.
- Special Teams- Only issue I have….CATCH THE BALL! I know it’s easier said than done and we see it all across college football and even in the NFL, but MAN is it frustrating to see turnovers on punts. The defense wasn’t great all day, but when they force a punt you have to keep possession.
All in all this might be one of the most frustrating wins I’ve ever experienced, but only because the Gamecocks didn’t end up winning that Citadel game last year. I still saw glimpses of good defense and definitely have to give Bentley and Dowdle the “Silver Linings” award for the week.
Some tough weeks are ahead, here’s hoping for the best. Heads up, eyes on the future. This team is young so we’re going to have to give them time.
Forever to thee.
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