South Carolina freshman quarterback Jake Bentley’s introduction to SEC football was about as harsh and uncompromising as could be expected.
Tennessee’s vaunted defensive line got to him with six sacks and a few more knockdowns. Most were plays where defenders got their money’s worth, either whipping around tackles or blitzing up the middle and to get good, solid licks on Bentley.
The freshman did not get knocked off course.
“Jake is a real tough guy,” wide receiver Deebo Samuel said. “He played his heart out, and he gave it his all out there.”
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That sort of pounding can often take its toll. Plays are less crisp. Things are less clean. The worry about what’s coming starts to manifest itself mentally and physically.
Instead, he stood tall, dropping a dime of a ball to a wide-open K.C. Crosby for a 35-yard score in the fourth and later finding Bryan Edwards and then Hayden Hurst for key third-down completions.
He finished with a completion percentage of 75, with 167 yards and a pair of scores.
“That’s just Jake,” Crosby said. “That’s him in practice. Even when the game got close, he kept his composure. He kept telling us that we were still in the game, we needed to finish strong and do what we had to do to get the win.”