Josh Kendall

Strength vs. strength: Who will win when Bentley throws deep?

Jake Bentley 'handles the moment very well'

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp describes freshman quarterback Jake Bentley.
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South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp describes freshman quarterback Jake Bentley.

One of Jake Bentley’s greatest attributes in his three games as South Carolina’s quarterback has been his ability, and willingness, to throw the deep ball. He was 6-of-7 for 130 yards on passes of 20 yards or more against Missouri alone.

That skill will be tested this week unlike it has all season because Florida’s cornerbacks are the best Bentley will have seen.

“Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor are two talented guys who have played a lot of football,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said. “They’re very good players. They’re not going to see anything new Saturday, and I can assure you of that.”

Bentley will, though.

“It’s about making good decisions in coverage areas. Those tight zones are going to be tight. These guys make plays on the ball. They’re ball hawks. They go after the ball,” Muschamp said. “Our receivers have to go challenge for the football. They’re going to play bump-and-run. They’re not going to shock us with anything. That’s what they do and that’s what they do well. Fastball pitchers throw fastballs, and they’re going to throw fastballs on Saturday.”

An analysis this week by Pro Football Focus, which also has a college football section, found that 23 percent of Bentley’s pass attempts have gone 20 yards or more down the field and his 64.7 adjusted completion percentage on those throws is the best in the SEC. The analysis also found that his average time to throw is 2.55 seconds, which is the fifth-fastest in the SEC and that he has completed 60.9 percent of his passes when under pressure this season.

So far, Bentley has answered every challenge put in front of him. He proved he was ready for college football against UMass. He proved he was ready for the SEC against Tennessee. He proved he could handle success against Missouri. Now, he has a chance to prove he can handle a road game against the best defense he has ever seen.

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