The South Carolina Gamecocks picked up a critical road victory against the Ole Miss Rebels yesterday afternoon in a wild game that featured 1,126 yards of total offense, eye-popping stat lines, and a whole lot of stressin’ before the good guys finally pulled it out. There’s a lot to digest from this one, but let’s try to pick out the top performers and give them some kudos.
Quarterback Jake Bentley
I’ll go ahead and start with the numbers: 22-of-32 passing for 363 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, a rushing score, and an average of 11.3 yards per play. Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty nice day at the office. Bentley was in command, never rattled, and showed impressive poise guiding the Gamecocks back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. His rushing score was the decisive touchdown, and while he didn’t tuck and run much, he had a couple other key scrambles as well. Basically, he did exactly what you’d like to see him do against a defense like Ole Miss: He made nothing but good decisions and carved them up. Impressive showing from start to finish for Bentley.
Wide receiver/kick returner Deebo Samuel
While Samuel logged just 17 yards on three receptions, he got the Gamecocks off on the right foot with his first kickoff returned for a touchdown this season and his fourth overall, which tied an SEC record. Outside of the kicking game, South Carolina’s special teams have been in dire need of a boost, and the Gamecocks as a whole have been terrible in the first half all season. Scoring a touchdown immediately after the opening whistle was exactly the kind of start they needed — especially on the road — and I think it took pressure off the offense. While he didn’t find the end zone again that afternoon, Samuel had another important 38-yard return in the fourth quarter that set up a scoring drive to bring the game back within reach. Samuel didn’t stuff the stat sheet like some of his teammates, but his returns were vital, and we may not be celebrating a win without them.
The fourth quarter defensive performance
Look, the defense was bad. Horrendous, even. All week long before this game was played, we kept hearing about the atrocity that is the Rebels’ defensive unit, but man, South Carolina did its best to one-up Ole Miss in that department. The Gamecocks yielded 616 yards of total offense — but crucially, just 16 of those yards in the fourth quarter, and that was after dealing with a Biblical plague of injuries. As it’s been doing all year, the South Carolina defense made the stops it absolutely needed to — no more, and no less. While that makes for an excruciating viewing experience, the bend-don’t-break has largely been a winning formula this year. I’d like to see this team take those training wheels off sooner rather than later, but in the meantime, forcing a ton of field goals and making other big plays in the red zone isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Because a lot of guys filled up the stat sheet and I’d be remiss if I didn’t call attention to that, honorable mentions go to running backs Ty’Son Williams, who had 105 receiving yards for the first time as a Gamecock, and Mon Denson, who went over 100 yards for the first time as well (102 yards on 12 carries, including a crucial one to set up the winning score). Wide receiver Bryan Edwards also gets a shout out for his team-leading 109 receiving yards, and for channeling Alshon Jeffery while doing this: