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Game Balls: South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Florida Gators

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Despite the final score, there were a few bright spots for the Gamecocks on Saturday.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing lasts forever.

The Gamecocks’ magical 3-0 run with freshman QB Jake Bentley at the helm came to a screeching halt in The Swamp on Saturday afternoon - with the Gamecocks taking a 20-7 loss at the hands of the Gators.

With the defeat ends any chance of the Gamecocks making it to Atlanta as the SEC East representative.

Despite the final score, there were still some solid performances from Will Muschamp’s club.

Game Balls

TE Hayden Hurst

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Though he came up just short in the end zone on the Gamecocks’ final offensive play, Hurst was solid against the Gators’ third-ranked pass defense.

The former minor leaguer hauled in three balls for 63 yards - the most spectacular being his 47-yard catch-and-run to put the Gamecocks in scoring position in the game’s final minutes.

A Florida native, Hurst was vocal in wanting to stick it to the Gators, and though his team was on the losing end, the tight end can keep his head up with a strong performance. Plus...

P Sean Kelly

Kelly is one of (if not the biggest) unsung hero of the 2015 and 2016 football seasons.

The senior punted seven times for an average of 45.1 yards and no touchbacks - with a long of 61 yards(!). Without Kelly flipping the field, the Gamecocks would’ve likely been in a much deeper hole than the 20-0 one they found themselves in entering the fourth quarter.

The FAU transfer is averaging 42.2 yards per punt, good enough for No. 40 in the country. Kelly’s pinned opponents inside the 20 yard line 25 times, with 10 punts traveling more than 50 yards.

DE Darius English

The senior defensive end led the Gamecocks with a career-high 10 tackles (2 solo), .5 sacks and 2.0 TFL.

English is tied for third in the SEC with his 8.0 sacks on the season.

If the Gamecocks are to stifle the potent Clemson passing attack in the season finale, the 6’6” senior will have to continue to be a disruptive force in the trenches.

QB Jake Bentley

In the face of adversity and constant pressure, the Gamecocks’ freshman signal-caller held his own - going 18-of-33 for 213 yards and one INT.

Bentley’s turnover-free streak ended with a fumble early in the second quarter - throwing his first career interception early in the fourth.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On the day, Bentley was sacked five times, but rarely looked shaken or lacking confidence. It was a tough day for No. 4, but Carolina fans should be encouraged by his performance.


Final Analysis

It didn’t go the Gamecocks’ way, but there were some silver linings to be found in The Swamp. With Western Carolina on the horizon, South Carolina has a shot at bowl-eligibility - and if they’re to win (as they should) on Saturday, it’ll be in large part due to the four players above.