OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Jake Bentley passed for two touchdowns and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 4-yard run with 5:50 left to lift South Carolina to a 48-44 comeback win over Mississippi on Saturday.
South Carolina (5-3, 4-3) erased a 44-34 deficit in the fourth quarter to win consecutive games for the first time this season. The Gamecocks covered 47 and 73 yards in fourth-quarter scoring drives, capped by a 3-yard run from A.J. Turner and Bentley's decisive score, respectively.
Bentley finished 22-of-32 passing for 363 yards as the Gamecocks had 510 total yards. The South Carolina defense, after giving up eight scores in 10 possessions, closed with four consecutive scoreless series to preserve the win.
Ole Miss (5-4, 1-4) rallied from an early 17-3 deficit for a 27-27 tie at halftime and moved out to a 44-34 fourth-quarter lead. Jordan Ta'amu was 31-of-46 passing for 379 yards as the Rebels had 616 yards of total offense, including 141 rushing yards on 21 carries from Scottie Phillips.
The first-half shootout opened on a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown by Deebo Samuel as the Gamecocks raced to an early 14-point lead. By halftime, Parker White had field goals of 20 and 23 yards, Ty'Son Williams scored on a 2-yard run and Bryan Edwards pulled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from Bentley for South Carolina.
Ole Miss countered with a 24-point outburst in the second period, highlighted by touchdown runs of 1 and 9 yards by Phillips. Luke Logan added field goals of 25 and 26 yards, while Ta'amu scored on a 17-yard run.
The Rebels got second-half touchdown runs from Phillips and Isaiah Woullard on 2 and 1 yards, respectively. Josh Vann had a 5-yard scoring pass from Bentley late in the third quarter before South Carolina rallied in the final 12 minutes.
South Carolina's defense stopped Ole Miss on the Rebels' last four drives as the Gamecocks came back from a 10-point deficit to win, 48-44. That set up the game-winning score as Jake Bentley ran in from four yards out after a 69-yard rush by Mon Denson.
7.4 — The Gamecocks had 7.4 yards per play and were helped by big plays from Bryan Edwards (75-yard touchdown reception from Jake Bentley) and Mon Denson (69-yard rush to set up the game-winning score). South Carolina had 510 total yards of offense in the win.
South Carolina closes out its SEC slate next Saturday (Nov. 10) when the Gamecocks visit Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., for a matchup with Florida. Kickoff time is TBA.
From USC Sports Information
‘Gutsy. Outstanding. Accurate.’ Jake Bentley delivers finest day of Gamecock career
It would be unfair to say South Carolina’s Jake Bentley didn’t have help on Saturday.
He had Bryan Edwards making a crazy catch and run. He had Deebo Samuel’s kickoff return. He had Mon Denson stepping up, a line that did some good work and Ty’Son Williams juking an untold number of Ole Miss defenders.
But the Gamecocks’ signal caller wasn’t getting help from all areas.
His defense stepped up late, but only after allowing 44 points on the first 10 drives. His offensive line was on its No. 3 left tackle, and his best guard, Zack Bailey, was hobbled at points. One of his most sure-handed receivers, Shi Smith, dropped a potential game-changing play that meant Bentley had to lead a comeback from 10 points down in the fourth quarter.
Yet he delivered with his arm, with his legs, when USC needed it.
Again and again.
He’s on start No. 27 in his career, and it’s fair to say he just put up his finest performance as a Gamecock in the 48-44 win.
“Jake Bentley, a gutsy performance,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “Was really accurate with the football. … Really made some gutsy plays there.”
“I thought he was outstanding.”
Mon Denson had his late grandfather with him in a breakout performance vs. Ole Miss
Jake Bentley was the one who scampered into the end zone in the fourth quarter for South Carolina’s game-winning score Saturday against Ole Miss.
But it was Mon Denson who set up the crucial touchdown, bursting for a 69-yard run that brought the Gamecocks to the four-yard line and exceeded his career best for yards in a single game in one fell swoop.
And it was almost a touchdown, but the unfamiliar environment of Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium threw the redshirt junior running back slightly.
“Once I broke through, I looked up,” Denson said. “I thought we were back in (Williams-Brice) where we’ve got two JumboTrons. I thought I could see who was behind me, but I guess I couldn’t.”
Despite the lack of a TD, Denson still posted a career day, collecting 102 yards on 12 carries to lead all rushers for Carolina. He did so after injuries decimated USC’s running back corps, with the usual 1-2 combo of Rico Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams going down in the first half.
Without them, Denson and junior A.J. Turner were left to pick up the slack, and it was Denson who took the lead despite entering the day with by far the fewest yards of the quartet. When an ESPN reporter asked Will Muschamp how a fourth-string running back was able to come in and make such an impact, he corrected her.
“In our league, you’re not going to make it with one or two (running backs). ... You take too many hard hits, it’s no different than the NFL,” Muschamp said. “You’re going to get hit a lot, and you gotta be able to sustain and have guys that can step in and play on a high level. They asked me about our fourth-string running back. I said, ‘We ain’t got a fourth-string running back. They’re all starters to me. Mon’s a starter to me.’ ”
Nagging injuries throughout the first half of the season, however, meant that fans didn’t see much of Denson prior to Saturday. His time off the field made his dominance against the Rebels even sweeter, he said.
“It felt great. I love being out there and trying to take advantage of every chance I get carrying the ball,” Denson said.
After putting up 30 yards against Tennessee last week all in one drive to set up the game-winning field goal and then Saturday’s performance, Denson might be starting to develop a reputation as the guy South Carolina looks to late in games to close things out. He pushed aside such labels though.
“In football, you’re going to have injuries. People go down,” Denson said. “Just gotta be ready to step up, next man up, get on in there and contribute to the team.”
What really made Saturday especially important to Denson was the shirt he was wearing underneath his uniform, honoring his grandfather, Ricky Lovejoy. Lovejoy died this past February in a trucking accident.
“I wanted to make sure I had him with me this game, so I decided to wear it this game,” Denson said. “I’ve been meaning to wear it all season, but I’ve been battling injuries. I just remembered to wear it this game. I guess he was with me this game.”
One Gamecock was benched last week. Against Ole Miss, he was vital
Blake Camper was in a spot where any player might sulk.
The South Carolina right tackle had been benched for a freshman in Dylan Wonnum. Publicly the coaches said he didn’t do anything wrong, but in his senior season, he got passed.
Then he got called upon again.
During Saturday’s game against Ole Miss, left tackle Malik Young went down with an injury. He was starting in place of Dennis Daley, who missed the game with an ankle injury. So USC was down to tackle No. 4, which was Camper, a starter only a few weeks prior.
“We cross-train him a lot,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “Not as much as a normal left tackle is going to get trained, so give Blake credit. (Eric Wolford) does a really good job of shuffling guys throughout the week situationally for something like this.”
Muschamp pointed out that the line hardly gave up any pressures, and the lone sack was a busted protection, so not the fault of the offensive line.
The left to right transition isn’t an easy one, especially on short notice. It means a player has to set his feet the opposite way, not unlike a baseball player flipping to hit with the opposite hand.
South Carolina’s defense gave up 44 points in its first 10 drives.
It gave up 16 yards in its final series.
Muschamp said there was a simple change at work, as USC suddenly found a way to corral a high-flying Ole Miss attack.
“We played a little bit more man at the end,” Muschamp said, “made (Rebel QB Jordan Ta’amu throw into a little bit more tight spaces.
“Our coverage was good when we were in man and that’s what we talked in the second half as far as playing a little bit more man coverage because in the zones, they really hurt us.”
He pointed out the play-action passes gave Ta’amu time and extra protection, and in zone, he was able to pick on USC.
Muschamp also noted the Gamecocks had to proceed gingerly because of injuries in the secondary. At various points, R.J. Roderick, Jamyest Williams, Steven Montac and Javon Charleston all got hurt. It meant seldom-used redshirt freshman Jaylin Dickerson was forced into action, and at points, the team had four freshmen, three true, in the secondary.
On those final four drives, Ta’amu was 3-for-8 for 10 yards and got sacked on a third down. His team converted only one of five third downs.
“They were just catching little zone passes on us,” Montac said. “We just switched it up, manned it up. They can’t really beat man-to-man like that.”
▪ The 616 yards allowed was the most ever in a South Carolina win. It was the seventh-most yards ever allowed by USC.
▪ Team captains were Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Wonnum, Zack Bailey and Bryan Edwards.
▪ Wide receiver Chavis Dawkins made his first start of the season and the third of his career.
▪ Tailback Mon Denson had his first career 100-yard rushing game. Fellow running back Ty’Son Williams had 100 receiving yards.
“It’s just a testament to our coaching staff,” quarterback Jake Bentley said, “how they prepare us for games.
“Blake did a great job. … He was ready to go. His mindset was right before the game. That’s why he was able to help us out.”