COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Jake Bentley era arrived as the week-long buzz proved to have truth behind it.
The freshman quarterback made a pair of dynamite touchdown passes, celebrated a touchdown with his father, running backs coach Bobby Bentley, and led the Gamecocks offense to its first game with more than 20 points this season.
It got a little dicey late for the Gamecocks, who edged out Massachusetts 34-28 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Bentley’s best play of the day came after UMass pulled within 34-28 with back-to-back touchdowns. The freshman quarterback rolled out under pressure, pointed out a block to running back Rico Dowdle and scampered for 6 yards.
Bentley threw for 201 yards on 17-of-26 passing with two touchdowns.
Moment that mattered
Dowdle took a handoff with around 1:30 to play, broke out to the left for a gain of 11 yards to seal the game for USC. Bentley took a knee from there to run out the clock to snuff out any chance that UMass could complete the comeback.
Will Jake Bentley play at quarterback?
Oh, did he ever. The true freshman, who should be a senior in high school, made the start and played well in his debut.
South Carolina had just two passing touchdowns this season coming into the game. Bentley matched that in the first half with a pair of beautiful touchdown throws to K.C. Crosby and Bryan Edwards.
He was poised, never more so than when he rolled out under pressure, switched hands and threw downfield to Deebo Samuel with impressive arm strength.
South Carolina may have a good one in true freshman QB Jake Bentley https://t.co/vLkUMVjJWg
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) October 22, 2016
Who can catch a punt?
Another week, another muffed punt.
The Gamecocks can’t seem to find a player who is capable of fielding a punt consistently. Chris Lammons had a really nice return early in the game, but dropped a punt in the fourth quarter.
Fortunately for Lammons, he came up with an interception a couple plays later and no harm came from the miscue.
South Carolina’s 34 points are the most scored by the Gamecocks since they had 37 against South Alabama on Nov. 22, 2014
What it means
South Carolina beat up on a pretty bad UMass team, while taking advantage of first-half turnovers.
It’s tough to read too much into the performance on the field for the Gamecocks because of who they played. But it was encouraging in many ways to see the offense move the ball in chunks, at times, and Bentley’s debut is a positive sign moving forward.
It gets tougher next week with No. 18 Tennessee coming to town, but it was a positive start to the second half for the Gamecocks.