The Gamecocks were in position to give up, trailing 16-0 and having sputtered on offense all day. Instead they broke open the playbook and scored back-to-back touchdowns, tying things up and making it very interesting before falling 26-23.
The run defense
The Aggies came to Columbia with one of the better ground games around, while USC was coming off an ugly Missouri game defending the run. USC allowed only 2.6 yards per carry, mostly standing tall until the final few drives.
USC did a masterful job setting it up, putting two tight ends on the field and playing at least one non-primary receiver. That receiver was Chavis Dawkins, who out-jumped the defender after a well-executed flea-flicker.
He had six punts for the Gamecocks. Five went 50-plus yards. Three ended up inside the 20. He helped put USC’s defense in good spots all game, which it sorely needed at times.
South Carolina left at least five huge plays on the field simply by not holding onto the ball. Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards each dropped deep passes. Shi Smith dropped two, including a wide open one as USC was driving, down three,in the fourth. And Rashad Fenton let a red zone interception slip through his hands to allow the go-ahead field goal to happen.
The drops didn’t help Bentley, who struggled through a deeply miserable start. He hit seven of his first 17 passes for 46 yards. USC’s offense was stuck in mud most of the first half, and the only time it really got going, Bentley tossed an interception on an end zone fade.
South Carolina would’ve been in a lot better position to come back had it not suddenly seen its defense break wide open on a crucial drive. The Gamecocks had the Aggies pinned on their 3-yard line, but gave up 97 yards in five plays to allow a touchdown.
The Gamecocks did everything they needed to rally back, but then they needed a little more. What they got was the defense allowing field goal and touchdown drives that ate up nearly 12 total minutes, sandwiched around a quick series derailed by a drop and a penalty.