COLUMBIA, S.C. — It wasn’t the prettiest across the board, but South Carolina got the offense it has been waiting for against Massachusetts in a 34-28 win Saturday.
We take a closer look and assign grades for how the Gamecocks performed against UMass:
What’s up, Jake Bentley? South Carolina turned to its second true freshman quarterback this season and he played well. He threw for 201 yards on 17 of 26 passing, with a pair of wonderful touchdown passes to K.C. Crosby and Bryan Edwards.
Throw in the best rushing performance of the season for South Carolina and David Williams bouncing back into the starting lineup — and end zone — and it was a nice overall showing for USC. The Gamecocks posted almost 400 yards — a season-high 395 — and a season-high 34 points, breaking the 20-point mark for the first time this season.
There remains plenty to clean up, with missed blocks leading the way on that list. But a glimpse of a proficient offense was shown, even if it was against a rather poor UMass team.
South Carolina’s offense was cruising in the first quarter and so was the defense … until Chris Moody committed a senseless pass interference penalty on a third-and-long play.
UMass put together a long drive and scored, but that was all for the Minutemen early on as USC built a 27-7 lead.
Then the defense turned to blah. UMass came back to within one score and scored more points against the Gamecocks than any team this season.
Will Muschamp said the defense “relaxed,” starting with a 74-yard touchdown pass after USC went up by 20. It should have dominated up front throughout but didn’t take advantage of a UMass team allowing sacks in bulk this season.
The biggest upside? USC forced 4 turnovers, which helped it win the field position battle.
Special Teams: B
The good? Chris Lammons fielded a punt cleanly and returned it early in the game. Rashad Fenton also had a long return and South Carolina won field position on special teams throughout the game.
The bad? Oh boy. Well, another muffed punt, as Lammons botched one late in the game to help UMass come back. The Gamecocks also missed an extra point, which could have come back to bite them had UMass scored again.
Punter Sean Kelly has not been talked about much this season, which is a good thing. But he has been very steady.
Muschamp said the Gamecocks had a “good plan” at quarterback. They had a plan might be a more accurate way to say it.
Bentley starting was the right decision. But the short-yardage situation use of Brandon McIlwain? Gross. Now, not liking the way USC used McIlwain is not a reflection on its success. It worked, at times, and didn’t at others. When it didn’t work, that was sometimes a blocking issue.
But when everyone in the stadium knows what is coming when McIlwain comes in, it’s hard to call it a “good plan.”
Apart from that, the offense was well-called mostly. It was clear Bentley allows the offense to do more and take more shots, which should be the case more and more moving forward.
South Carolina had its best offensive performance of the season with many flashes of what can be. It also had some puzzling elements, led by the McIlwain packages.
The defense left a lot to be desired, which the players were very much willing to say and recognize after the game. So, it’s a stepping stone, but South Carolina won a game it had to if it wants to reach a bowl game, and it learned more about its identity.