Jake Bentley reacts to losing to Texas A&M ... and boos from fans
Halfway through South Carolina’s football season, here are The State’s marks for how South Carolina has done:
This probably could be a low C for Jake Bentley alone if there hadn’t been some high expectations. But this was supposed to be a good year, one where Bentley got back his best weapon and took a step forward in his third year starting. After six games, granted five are SEC teams, he ranks first in the conference in interceptions, 11th in yards per attempt and ninth in passer rating, basically at the same level he was last season. The one-game appearance of Michael Scarnecchia lifts it out of the D range.
No one had really stepped up in the group. Rico Dowdle is the top back and averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Ty’Son Williams and A.J. Turner have been more explosive, but Turner has been used sparingly and Williams hasn’t been consistent enough to take the lion’s share of the work.
Deebo Samuel has been better of late, but with 33 catches and 382 yards, he hasn’t been as dominant as many expected. Bryan Edwards (28 catches, 351 yards, five touchdowns) has been solid, but not great, while Shi Smith has showed flashes. Injuries have limited the receivers behind that trio.
The hope coming into the season was a committee might emerge to replace Hayden Hurst. No one has become a top receiving threat, with nine catches and 52 yards leading the position. K.C. Crosby hurt his hand. Jacob August got a concussion. Kiel Pollard and Kyle Markway have both had nice moments.
Has it been great? Not really. But considering where this group has been, it’s been close to fine. USC isn’t getting stuffed in the run game. Gamecocks backs get 5 yards on 47.5 percent of his carries, 58th in the country, and that’s with Will Muschamp putting some blame on the backs. They’ve mostly kept Jake Bentley clean, especially considering the quality of competition.
The top players have had moments, but the injury to D.J. Wonnum and the general consistency has been lacking. There have been nice plays from Keir Thomas, Javon Kinlaw, Aaron Sterling and even Kobe Smith, but USC is getting run on a lot, and not really getting to the quarterback. The Gamecocks aren’t in the top half nationally in getting to the quarterback or throwing opposing running backs for losses, and more than half of opponents’ runs gain at least 5 yards.
The Gamecocks pairing of T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene has been up-and-down this season. At times, they look solid enough, but often, the issues have come in jumping up into gaps and in carrying receivers up the field. Outside an interception for a touchdown against Missouri, the pair has been short on big plays, and the young backups have played sparingly.
Rashad Fenton has been pretty good, and Jaycee Horn has been a revelation as a freshman starter. But that doesn’t hold together a secondary. Keisean Nixon has been pulled several times after bad plays. The safety position has been a mess, with no one among, Steven Montac, Jamyest Williams, J.T. Ibe and Nick Harvey playing particularly well. The biggest positive is that USC has stayed true to its identity of avoiding big plays.
This group has actually been pretty solid, give or take a few bad Joseph Charleston punts. His average has been good (45.3, 15 fair catches in 22 kicks). Parker White hit 8 of 9 field goals. The return games haven’t been great, but they’ve had good moments.
South Carolina came into the season expecting to take a step forward in quality of play and have a friendlier schedule. Neither of those has panned out. Kentucky was a lot better than most expected and Texas A&M is at least solid, but the Gamecocks haven’t played well, mostly on account of what Will Muschamp called “self-inflicted” wounds. In Year 3, that’s not good. Reaching a 3-3 record when neither Kentucky nor Texas A&M stayed down still qualifies as a disappointment, and the Gamecocks will have to rally to go bowling or have another season above .500.