South Carolina football said goodbye to a rather small group of seniors Saturday.
Only 11 walked in the Senior Day ceremony, plus junior tight end Hayden Hurst. It’s not the biggest cadre, but nine are starters, seven on the defense.
It means the Gamecocks will be turning over a lot on that side of the ball, with an offense coming back relatively intact. But several players said that small group left an impression on those who remain.
“The seniors on this team have done so much for this program,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “You really can’t put into words what they’ve been through and what they’ve overcame. Their big message to us was ‘Keep the culture going.’ ”
Many of those players came in as the team was coming off three consecutive 11-win seasons. They watched a program fall, and then rebound to the eight-win mark it clinched with Saturday’s 31-10 win against Wofford.
A few others were redshirting, or playing, in the case of Skai Moore, on that 2013 team that went 11-2, and they’ve seen the full range of a program in five years.
“I just want to say ‘thank you’ to them,” Bentley said. “They did so much for us.”
The team ended up relying on that veteran defense, and the offense had to make its own way, especially when Deebo Samuel went down.
“We all just had to step up a little bit,” wide receiver Bryan Edwards said. “Just become a little bit more vocal. Get out of our comfort zones. Make sure everybody’s on point.”
Lammons gives thanks
Gamecocks defensive back Chris Lammons tweeted out a note thanking the University of South Carolina on Friday. On Saturday, he was spotted signing autographs for fans before the game.
“We got the best in the country,” Lammons said. “That’s my job – to show them love because they’re out here every Saturday showing us all love and being there for us when we needed it most.”
Usually when a tailback gets mop-up duty in South Carolina’s offense, they make a few short runs, burn up the clock and close out a game. USC’s Caleb Kinlaw got a little bit more.
The junior college transfer who started his season at Wisconsin got in for South Carolina’s final drive.
He took four carries, which went 5, 7, 8 and finally 27 yards. They were his first carries in a USC uniform and his first since September of 2015.
“To see Kinlaw step up and he had a great week of practice, I feel like he’s really been learning, really been doing his job.” fellow running back A.J. Turner said. “He’s had a real good attitude about it.”
Kinlaw opened the season as the No. 5 running back but moved up to No. 4 after Rico Dowdle was lost for an extended period with an injury.
Bentley continued his run of success on the ground, rushing for two more touchdowns. He had zero for his career three games ago, and now has six.
Bentley broke a couple of decent scrambles, but he also had three key runs: a zone read for his first score, a called counter run for his second and his first sneak of the season to convert a fourth and short.
▪ Dowdle, who broke a bone in his leg and was lost for the rest of the regular season, was ambulatory and without crutches or a cart in the Gamecock Walk before the game.
▪ Team captains were Taylor Stallworth, Alan Knott, Cory Helms and Chris Lammons, all seniors.
▪ USC won the toss and took the ball for the ninth time in 11 games this season. The Gamecocks drove 40 yards on the opening possession, but were forced to punt after a sack knocked them off schedule.
▪ Announced attendance was 74,742.