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Birmingham Bowl Game Balls: Several South Carolina players stand out

Who had the best performances as the Gamecocks’ comeback fell just short against USF in the Birmingham Bowl?

NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-South Florida vs South Carolina
Despite the final score, QB Jake Bentley shined in the Birmingham Bowl.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was fun. You know, aside from the final score.

While USF QB Quinton Flowers did everything imaginable to put the Bulls ahead, USC QB Jake Bentley and others helped bring the Gamecocks back - with USF ultimately winning 46-39.

Alas, there were several Gamecocks that really stood out. So for the last time this season, let’s dish out some game balls...

GAME BALLS

QB Jake Bentley

Duh.

Aside from two interceptions and a fumble, the Gamecocks' quarterback played extremely well in just his seventh start.

Bentley went 32 for 43 for 390 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a critical two-point conversion to TE Hayden Hurst to tie the game.

The true freshman showed poise and even some mobility in facing a blitzing USF defense - being sacked five times, but eluding more.

Because the Gamecocks couldn't stop Flowers, Bentley was forced to play catch-up and throw the ball 20 times by halftime.

It was an encouraging performance from the true freshman, but one that you wish has a W attached.

WR Deebo Samuel

Stop me if you've heard this one before...Deebo did it all.

The Gamecocks' standout receiver was one of the few bright spots for Carolina on Thursday.

Deebo had 14 grabs for 190 yards and a touchdown, to go with his signature jet sweep for another score and 97 return yards.

RBs Rico Dowdle/AJ Turner

Despite the Gamecocks being forced to throw the ball much of the day, Carolina’s talented freshmen duo combined for just under 100 yards on 22 carries - averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

A sore spot, one we hadn’t seen from the Gamecocks much of the season, was the red zone turnovers. Both Dowdle and Turner fumbled inside the 2 yard line.

LB Bryson Allen-Williams

If BAW doesn't make the interception of his life in the fourth quarter, there's no Gamecocks comeback. Plain and simple.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Clemson
LB Bryson Allen-Williams had his second pick in two games in the fourth quarter of the Birmingham Bowl.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The junior linebacker finished the game with 2 solo tackles and an interception.

DL Dante Sawyer

In a game where pass rush was coming at a premium, the Suwanee, Ga. native was incredibly active in the trenches.

Sawyer posted 5 tackles (4 solo) with 1.0 TFL - and chasing the elusive Flowers, that tackle-for-loss was huge.


The final score was a bummer way to end the season, but you can’t help but be impressed by the team’s effort, fight and overall improvement from 2015. Hats off and spurs up!