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Game Balls: South Carolina 28, Akron 3

Handing out some well-deserved accolades.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks wrapped up their 2018 regular-season campaign with messy win in a makeup game against Akron, notching their seventh victory and heading into the postseason on a high note. While the weather was sloppy and the play was occasionally even worse, there are still some standouts worth recognizing.

Wide receiver/special teams extraordinaire Deebo Samuel

Seriously, how much are we going to miss this guy next year? Coming off a Clemson performance in which he rolled up an eye-popping 210 receiving yards and three touchdowns, Samuel’s stats against Akron weren’t quite as gaudy — he collected four passes for 33 yards. But Samuel still found the end zone on three separate occasions, two of them via receptions and the third coming on yet another heads-up special teams play when he sprinted after a bad snap on an Akron punt and pounced on the ball in the end zone. There’s no limit to how many ways No. 1 can make plays.

Defensive end Kingsley “J.J.” Engabare

South Carolina’s defensive line as a whole enjoyed a productive afternoon, but Engabare was the player who kept catching my eye. The freshman had only seen light duty this year, and missed last week entirely with a head injury, but burst onto the scene against the Zips. Engabare racked up six tackles, four of them solo, with a sack, two tackles for loss, and three quarterback hurries. He was a constant menace in the Akron backfield and flashed some really nice potential.

Defensive back R.J. Roderick

Speaking of potential, another freshman on the defensive side of the ball showed out. Roderick, pressed into heavier duty than planned after the rash of injuries that have devastated South Carolina’s secondary, didn’t stuff the stat sheet like Engabare — he finished with four tackles and a pass breakup. But he laid some big hits, and always seemed to be flying around the ball. A game thread commenter saw shades of D.J. Swearinger in his performance and swagger, and I’m inclined to agree.

Honorable mention

I wanted to also give a shoutout to junior running back Mon Denson, who notched his second 100-yard rushing game of the season by posting 110 on Saturday. It was a quiet 110 yards, but that’s just kind of Denson’s deal — he’s not flashy, but he gets the job done. He’s clearly a hard worker, and has risen from being a little-used reserve to someone South Carolina can turn to. Happy for that dude.