COLUMBIA -- For the University of South Carolina football team, Saturday was all about living up to expectations and coming away with a dominant win in their season opener against in-state opponent Coastal Carolina at Williams-Brice …
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COLUMBIA -- For the University of South Carolina football team, Saturday was all about living up to expectations and coming away with a dominant win in their season opener against in-state opponent Coastal Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Could success be measured by 500-plus yards of total offense? Breaking the 50-point barrier? Covering the 29 1/2 point spread? The Gamecock defense keeping the Chanticleers out of the end zone?
USC checked off two of those boxes and came tantalizingly close on the other two as the Gamecocks came away with a convincing 49-15 victory.
South Carolina closed with 557 yards of total offense, its first 500-plus yard outing since gaining 588 yards in a 44-31 victory over Western Carolina on Nov. 19, 2016. While just missing the 50-point mark, the 49 points scored marked the fourth most all-time in a season opener as the Gamecocks opened their 125th football season.
"I'm really proud of the way that we came out and played today," said USC head coach Will Muschamp. "We were very efficient offensively. Obviously you are going to put yourself in a good position to win the football game when you stay as balanced as we were with (quarterback) Jake (Bentley) throwing the ball well and our run game moving the ball well."
Bentley closed his three quarters of playing time with a 193.8 quarterback rating, completing 22 of 29 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdown passes marked a new career high for Bentley, and the 22 completions mark the seventh game of his career with 20 or more completions.
Bentley said the offense's shift to an up-tempo style under offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon was not up to full speed against the Chants.
"If you look at what they do offensively, if we go tempo and then go 3-and-out, then they could run 10 minutes off the clock," said Bentley, who now has 392 career completions, passing Dylan Thompson (2011-14) for 20th all-time at South Carolina. "That's the biggest reason why we stayed somewhat conservative in tempo, but there were a few plays here and there. We were just trying to get lined up fast, and I think you could see with those few plays what it did for us."
Deebo Samuel was among a number of Gamecock players, along with running back Rico Dowdle, tight end K.C. Crosby and linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, making returns to the field after having injury-shortened seasons in 2017. Samuel did not disappoint, leading the USC receiving corps with seven catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Samuel's score came on a one-handed grab of an 8-yard pass from Bentley that almost immediately went viral.
"It was amazing," Samuel said of getting back on the field and into the end zone. "It has been 11 months not being able to play against another opponent. I was just glad to be able to get back out there and play."
Bentley's other touchdown passes went for eight yards to Kiel Pollard -- Pollard's first as a Gamecock -- 24 yards to Bryan Edwards and 22 yards to Rico Dowdle. With his two touchdown passes in the first half, Bentley moved past Phil Petty (1998-01) and Bobby Fuller (1990-91) for ninth in school history. He now has 31 for his career.
Dowdle spearheaded a running attack that rolled up 263 yards rushing on 38 carries. Dowdle, who added a 5-yard rushing touchdown, finished with 105 yards on 15 attempts while former Crestwood High School standout Ty'Son Williams grinded for 82 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown run, on 11 touches. Williams also caught a pass on which he hurdled a defender for a 15-yard gain.
Backup quarterback Michael Scarnecchia took the field for the final quarter, completing three of six passes for 44 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Randrecous Davis that marked the first career touchdown for both players.
The defense held the Chants to two field goals through three quarters as the Gamecocks carried a 42-6 lead into the final quarter. Placekicker Massimo Biscardi connected on field goals of 39, 45 and 27 yards, with Coastal finding the end zone at the 9:49 mark of the final quarter on an 8-yard pass from Bryce Carpenter to Jaivon Heiligh. A 2-point run attempt by Malcolm Williams was stuffed at the 1, leaving USC up 42-12 at that point.
"Defensively, I felt like we did not give up any big plays, but there were some penalties that we needed to clean up," Muschamp said. "We also certainly need to finish better defensively. But when you have more quality depth you are able to play more guys, but they need to play well when they get in there. I am pleased with the win, but disappointed with the penalties."
Nine of Coastal's points and 95 yards of the Chants' 238 yards total offense came in the final quarter.
"I thought we played pretty fast today," said junior defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw on the defense's performance. "I was looking at guys and they were just flying around. That is what I liked. I liked the speed that we were playing with."
Former Sumter High standout wide receiver Ky'Jon Tyler had three catches for 23 yards Coastal. He also had a 3-yard run.
South Carolina 49
Coastal Carolina 15
Coastal Carolina 0 3 3 9-15
South Carolina 14 14 14 7-49
SC_Dowdle 5 run (White kick), 12:02
SC_Pollard 8 pass from Bentley (White kick), 5:02
CC_FG Biscardi 39, 12:01
SC_Edwards 24 pass from Bentley (White kick), 6:03
SC_Dowdle 22 pass from Bentley (White kick), :14
CC_FG Biscardi 45, 10:03
SC_T.Williams 9 run (White kick), 6:52
SC_Samuel 8 pass from Bentley (White kick), 1:02
CC_Heiligh 8 pass from Carpenter (run failed), 9:49
SC_Davis 27 pass from Scarnecchia (White kick), 6:45
CC_FG Biscardi 27, 2:54
First downs 20 32
Rushes-yards 39-126 38-263
Passing 112 294
Comp-Att-Int 13-18-0 25-35-0
Return Yards 0 110
Punts-Avg. 4-34.25 1-46.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-Yards 4-36 9-99
Time of Possession 29:58 30:02
RUSHING_Coastal Carolina, Outlow 12-59, Marable 5-29, Hairston 3-22, A.James 3-9, K.Anderson 10-8, M.Williams 2-4, Tyler 1-3, Carpenter 2-(minus 3), (Team) 1-(minus 5). South Carolina, Dowdle 15-105, T.Williams 11-82, Carroll 4-46, Turner 2-24, Samuel 1-11, Bentley 4-(minus 1), (Team) 1-(minus 4).
PASSING_Coastal Carolina, K.Anderson 11-13-0-91, Carpenter 2-5-0-21. South Carolina, Bentley 22-29-0-250, Scarnecchia 3-6-0-44.
RECEIVING_Coastal Carolina, M.Williams 6-49, Tyler 3-23, Heiligh 2-21, Miller 2-19. South Carolina, Samuel 7-56, S.Smith 4-61, Edwards 4-53, Pollard 2-12, Vann 2-10, Davis 1-27, Dowdle 1-22, T.Williams 1-15, Crosby 1-14, Hart 1-13, O.Smith 1-11.
MISSED FIELD GOALS_None.
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