In a rare December home game, the Gamecocks defeated the Akron Zips 28-3 to finish the season with a 7-5 record.
With dreary weather and only 53,420 fans in attendance, it was a gloomy day at Williams-Brice Stadium. It was somewhat fitting given the offensive performance, especially in the second half.
The 28-3 score at halftime ended up being the final score, leaving plenty of room for improvement for the Gamecocks. Head football coach Will Muschamp was pleased with the beginning of the game, but acknowledged that the second half was not quite as solid.
“I thought we came out first half pretty sharp offensively, pretty sharp defensively,” Muschamp said. “Bounced around pretty good, just got sloppy in the second half.”
Junior quarterback Jake Bentley acknowledged that he and his team could have played better, but also sees it as a learning experience, despite still coming out on top.
“We just didn’t execute I think the way we wanted to. Obviously, being in the rain made it hard to throw the ball,” Bentley said. “Just didn’t play well the second half. We gotta get better ... But we won, and I think it’s a lot easier to correct mistakes after a win.”
In the first half, Bentley completed 10 of his 16 passes and threw for 161 yards. He also threw for three touchdowns, highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown throw to Bryan Edwards in the first quarter to put South Carolina ahead 14-3.
However, the second half was a different story.
Bentley only completed four passes in the second half against the Zips, finishing the game by completing 14 of his 27 passes. In addition, he threw two interceptions in the redzone, costing the Gamecocks points in a crucial area of the field.
The day was not all bad for Bentley, as he did make South Carolina football history on Saturday.
Bentley finished the day with 199 yards in the air, making him the fourth quarterback in school history with 7,000 or more career passing yards. With his three touchdowns, he surpassed Dylan Thompson, and now has the second-most single season touchdown passes in school history. Bentley is also just two touchdowns shy of the school record.
Junior wide receiver Deebo Samuel also had a day of both high and low points, while still setting school records.
Samuel caught two touchdown passes in the first half, one for five yards, and another for 15 yards. On top of that, he recovered a fumbled punt by Akron in the endzone to extend South Carolina’s lead over Akron to 21-3.
But like the rest of the offense in the second half, Samuel’s second half was not as electric, and he finished the game with only 33 receiving yards.
Like Bentley, Samuel did make some changes in the South Carolina football record books. After the game against Akron, Samuel is firmly in second place for receiving touchdowns in a season at 16.
But even with a game that saw two opposite halves, Muschamp was still pleased with his team and with the program as a whole, especially when compared to the beginning of his time in Columbia.
He and the rest of the team look forward to using this game and this season as they continue to improve.
“We’re in a much better place. Absolutely, and I said before the season for us that we’ve got a much better football team entering year three,” Muschamp said. “We have a strong foundation, we've got a bunch of really good young players in our program ... I’m excited about where we are and where we’re headed.”
With a 7-5 record, the Gamecocks still have one more football game remaining. Their bowl game destination and opponent will be announced on Sunday afternoon.