The quarterback leading touchdown drives of 90-plus yards in the fourth quarter wasn’t Jake Bentley on Saturday afternoon in Bank of America Stadium. No, South Carolina’s senior could only watch from the sideline as his freshman counterpart from North Carolina was writing the first chapter of what could be a storied career in Chapel Hill.
Meanwhile in Columbia, USC fans are left to wonder what’s ahead for the Gamecocks in 2019.
Sam Howell rallied the Tar Heels out of a double-digit hole to give UNC a shocking 24-20 win over South Carolina.
“A lot to improve on and we certainly will,” Will Muschamp said afterward. “We need to go back and look at our team at all positions.”
A Bentley-to-Kyle Markway 22-yard touchdown gave South Carolina a 20-9 lead with 5:10 left in the third quarter. It was the type of play that seemed to give the Gamecocks the breathing room they needed against a team picked near the ACC’s cellar. But in Mack Brown’s re-debut as head coach, the Tar Heels punched back with a fury.
Howell, a former four-star recruit only officially named starter this week, threw a 22-yard TD pass to Dyami Brown at the 14:27 mark of the fourth quarter. The freshman then ran in a 2-point conversion to cut the USC lead to 20-17. It all capped a 98-yard drive.
Then, after USC chose to punt on fourth-and-1 near midfield, Howell led the Heels on a 95-yard march that ended with a scoring pass — and included a 31-yard toss from Howell to Dazz Newsome on third-and-4 from the UNC 11.
“Defensively, extremely disappointed with the tackling and lack of tackling,” Muschamp said. “In the game, we give up two over 90-yard drives where we’re using (punter) Joe (Charlton) as a weapon to pin them back. We’re thinking in terms of making a play and getting off the field. We had a couple critical downs we don’t make plays on.”
South Carolina had four possessions after UNC’s go-ahead score, but two of them ended with Bentley interceptions. The dagger came with 1:43 left deep inside Tar Heel territory after a long Bryan Edwards punt return set USC up with a final chance.
USC was out-gained 483-270. Bentley finished 16-of-30 for 142 yards and two turnovers. He was sacked three times.
“It’s really on me,” Bentley said of the loss. “I really felt good at practice and everything, preparation. I just didn’t play well.”
Star of the game: Javon Kinlaw. South Carolina’s senior defensive tackle looked in All-SEC form with four tackles, a sack, a quarterback hurry, fumble recovery and blocked field goal attempt.
Play of the game: Tavien Feaster announced his introduction to South Carolina football with spin — and then a sprint. His beauty of a 34-yard touchdown run put USC up 10-3 with 3:09 left in the first quarter. The Clemson transfer finished with 72 yards on 13 carries, but only 16 after halftime.
Stat of the game: 193. UNC’s Sam Howell led fourth quarter scoring drives that totaled 193 yards, leading the Tar Heels back from a 20-9 deficit.
1. Joyner’s new role: Turns out Muschamp wasn’t lying when he said newly minted third-string quarterback Dakereon Joyner would play against the Tar Heels. Joyner, in a receiver role, was featured in each of USC’s first two possessions, catching a pass and taking a pitch from Bentley. He finished with four yards on two touches.
2. Injury woes, again: The 2018 season wasn’t kind to the Gamecocks from a health standpoint. A year later, the injury bug is apparently back. Receivers OrTre Smith, Randrecous Davis, safety J.T. Ibe and cornerback A.J. Turner — all starters or immediate backups on the depth chart — were held out of Saturday’s game.
3. What if: Clinging to 20-17 lead with around 12 minutes left, South Carolina decided to punt from its own 49. What if the Gamecocks go for it and make it? Instead, the Tar Heels received possession and marched 95 yards for a go-ahead TD.
Who: Charleston Southern at South Carolina
When: Noon Saturday, Sept. 7
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
Andrew Ramspacher: @ARamspacher
SC—FG White 32, 11:30
NC—FG Ruggles 22, 5:58
SC—Feaster 34 run (White kick), 3:09
SC—FG White 39, 7:24
NC—FG Ruggles 24, 1:50
NC—FG Ruggles 22, 5:58
SC—Markway 22 pass from Bentley (White kick), 5:10
NC—D.Brown 22 pass from Howell (Howell run), 14:27
NC—Corrales 17 pass from Howell (Ruggles kick), 8:26
Time of Possession
RUSHING—South Carolina, Feaster 13-72, Dowdle 11-62, (Team) 1-(minus 1), Bentley 6-(minus 5). North Carolina, Jav.Williams 18-102, Carter 16-77, A.Williams 4-53, Groves 1-8, Howell 10-6, Heck 0-0, (Team) 3-(minus 8).
PASSING—South Carolina, Bentley 16-30-2-142. North Carolina, Howell 15-24-0-245.
RECEIVING—South Carolina, S.Smith 5-55, Markway 2-37, Vann 2-16, Dowdle 2-12, Feaster 2-11, Joyner 2-4, B.Edwards 1-7. North Carolina, Newsome 4-74, D.Brown 4-69, Groves 3-35, Green 1-25, Corrales 1-17, Jav.Williams 1-15, Carter 1-10.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—South Carolina, White 53. North Carolina, Ruggles 47.