There they were again.
South Carolina had the lead, the ball and the momentum after a stunning goal-line stand. With 2:25 to go in the first half and struggling to stop Western Carolina all day, what would the Gamecocks do?
They went for it. And won.
“I felt like in those games, we had actually stopped them on defense once,” coach Will Muschamp said. “So I felt a little bit more comfortable saying, ‘We gotta score.’ ”
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USC was in the same situation against Tennessee and Missouri. The Volunteers had been a second-half team all season, the Tigers had scored two second-quarter touchdowns.
The Gamecocks ran out the clock against Tennessee, tried to go for it against Missouri and had to stop after a sack. On Saturday, with the lead, but the Catamounts running unchecked through USC’s defense, the Gamecocks didn’t throw away a chance.
Even from his own 2-yard line, quarterback Jake Bentley was told to throw. He completed three in a row, the last a 40-yard seam to Bryan Edwards to get into Western territory.
USC motored to the 26, opened the back of the playbook for a pretty double pass. It went from Bentley to Hayden Hurst, a former minor-league pitcher, and back to Bentley. Deebo Samuel finished the drive with an end-around touchdown, with 14 seconds to go.
It hasn’t been displayed that often, but it was a Muschamp Two-Minute Offense. It made the score 35-17, and USC won 44-31.
“To me it’s all about how the game is flowing,” Muschamp explained. “We had stopped Tennessee, we had stopped Missouri, I felt good about where we were playing defensively.”
That wasn’t the case Saturday, so Muschamp switched his thinking. Every possession needed to be treated as must-have points and playing from the lead let USC run its offense.
With that touchdown, the Gamecocks were able to keep running in the second half, eventually piling up 422 yards on the ground.
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