Everyone is wondering if Jake Bentley can play well enough on the road for South Carolina to beat Clemson on Saturday, but that’s the wrong question to be asking.
The more important question is, “Can South Carolina run the ball on the road against one of the best defenses it has played all season?” Bentley is going to be just fine.
“He’s 18 years, old but he walks in there with the confidence of a fifth-year senior,” Hurst said Tuesday, one day before Bentley turned 19.
Yes, Bentley’s only collegiate loss came on the road, 20-7 at Florida two weeks ago, but the Gamecocks didn’t lose that game because Bentley was overwhelmed by the moment. He wasn’t perfect for sure, finishing with 213 passing yards and his first two collegiate turnovers, but South Carolina lost the game because it rushed for 43 yards and allowed Bentley to be sacked five times.
Those two numbers go hand-in-hand. If the Gamecocks can’t run on Clemson, the Tigers will have no disincentive for coming after Bentley hard all night long. Clemson is ranked No. 23 in the nation in rushing defense (129.3 yards per game) and third in the nation in sacks (39).
In four SEC games, Bentley has been sacked 17 times. The Gamecocks know they must at least cut down on that pace to have any chance against the Tigers.
“We come into every game expecting to dominate,” South Carolina offensive lineman Zack Bailey said. “We come into every game expecting to have zero sacks. Whether that happens or not, that’s our goal.”