For the most part, South Carolina freshman Jake Bentley impressed observers in seven games as Gamecocks starting quarterback.
Bentley was 125 of 190 passing for 1,420 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, leading the Gamecocks to a 4-3 record.
Save for the two interceptions, he looked like one of the SEC’s best young quarterbacks in South Carolina’s 46-39 loss to South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl. And it was largely the type of performance Bentley needed to bounce back from disappointing road games against Florida and Clemson.
To get a better sense of how accurate Bentley really was against USF, a page was taken from the scouting notebook of Bleacher Report NFL Draft writer Matt Miller.
Example: The 9-yard touchdown strike to Bryan Edwards traveled more than 10 yards in the air before being caught in the back of the end zone, so it counted as a throw inside the intermediate window (11-19 yards), not the short (1-10 yards).
For every completion, there’s a “c.” Every incomplete pass is marked with an “x.” Here is Bentley’s chart from the USF game:
Bentley started slow, missing his first two throws — including a third-down interception that sailed well over wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
On the next two possessions, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper called a few short passes. By drive No. 4, Bentley was in rhythm, hitting on three consecutive throws farther downfield, including a well-designed intermediate pop-pass to tight end Hayden Hurst that went for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Bentley went 10 consecutive throws without an incompletion. During the stretch he made more passes of 11-19 yards (3) than he did on ones that didn’t travel beyond the line of scrimmage (2).
Before halftime, Bentley went 5 of 6 for 55 yards and a touchdown, to finish the first half 15 of 19 with 198 yards and 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Final quarters, one big mistake
The third quarter included a major blemish, a 47-yard pick-6 when Bentley forced a third-down throw to tight end Jacob August. After the interception, Bentley completed 11 of his next 12 throws for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Bentley’s 9-yard strike to Edwards with 9:41 left in regulation cut USF’s lead to 39-31 after Elliott Fry nailed the extra point.
Four of the completions during that stretch were behind the line of scrimmage. Two traveled into the short window, three went between 11-19 yards and another went deep over the middle.
In the second half, Bentley was 17 of 24 for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was 6 of 8 to the intermediate and deep parts of the field for 101 yards, which included a 2-point conversion to Hurst.
Bentley and the Gamecocks were left with a bad taste from their Birmingham Bowl loss, but there’s plenty to build on in 2017. Bentley returns with every major skill player and all but one offensive linemen who received significant playing time in 2016.
Offensive woes appear to be a thing of the past for coach Will Muschamp as he heads into Year 2 at South Carolina.