Chris Lammons

Associated Press

South Carolina uses goal-line stand to survive NC State

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South Carolina returned a kickoff for a touchdown and turned two fumbles into touchdowns and still needed a deflection inside its own end zone to survive NC State, holding on for a 35-28 win in Charlotte.

Deebo Samuel started the year for the Gamecocks as well as he possibly could, taking the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The game turned into a shootout for there.

NC State answered Samuel’s touchdown with a 14-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 6-yard Ryan Finley scoring run. South Carolina answered that answer when Jake Bentley found Rico Dowdle for a 34-yard score at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter.

And NC State again responded, this time on a 2-yard Nyheim Hines run to close the first quarter in a 14-14 tie.

South Carolina’s Chris Lammons forced a fumble by NC State receiver Stephon Lewis inside NC State territory, and South Carolina capitalized on a 6-yard toss from Bentley to Samuel at the 10:02 mark of the second quarter.

NC State tied the game again with its third lengthy drive of the half — 79 yards in 10 plays — closing on a 4-yard strike from Finely to Jakobi Meyers.

South Carolina opened the second half with two straight scores. The first came on a 39-yard strike from Bentley (17-of-29 for 215 yards and three touchdowns with one interception)

to Samuel on the ‘Cocks opening touch of the second half, and the third came two plays after another Wolfpack fumble inside its own territory; Dowdle staked South Carolina to a 35-21 lead on a 7-yard dash at the 9:08 mark of the third quarter.

That would be the last output from South Carolina’s offense, while its defense had to survive an onslaught of plays from NC State. The Wolfpack ran 99 plays, 64 of them passes from Finley.

A 4th-and-goal completion from Finely to Jaylen Samuels (15 catches for 85 yards) pulled NC State within seven at the 12:21 mark of the fourth quarter, but the pair could not hook up again after NC State moved to a 1st-and-goal from the South Carolina 8-yard line with 24 seconds remaining. Finley (45-of-64 for 415 yards for two touchdowns with no interceptions) fired three incomplete passes surrounded by one sack, allowing South Carolina to escape with the win.

The victory pushed South Carolina to 1-0 for the 17th time in 18 tries since the turn of the century and 3-0 in Charlotte openers. The Gamecocks also beat East Carolina at Bank of America Stadium to open the 2011 season and toppled North Carolina to begin the ’15 campaign. NC State (0-1) fell to 26-28-4 against South Carolina all-time and 0-3 since the turn of the century.

NC State and South Carolina tied at the half in Charlotte

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Deebo Samuel took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a South Carolina touchdown while NC State closed the half with a score of its own, and the Gamecocks and Wolfpack are knotted at 21-21 at the break in Charlotte.

Neither team stopped the other to open the game. NC State answered Samuel’s touchdown with a 14-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 6-yard Ryan Finley scoring run. South Carolina answered that answer when Jake Bentley found Rico Dowdle for a 34-yard score at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter.

And NC State again responded, this time on a 2-yard Nyheim Hines run to close the first quarter in a 14-14 tie.

South Carolina’s Chris Lammons forced a fumble by NC State receiver Stephon Lewis inside NC State territory, and South Carolina capitalized on a 6-yard toss from Bentley to Samuel at the 10:02 mark of the second quarter.

NC State tied the game again with its third lengthy drive of the half — 79 yards in 10 plays — closing on a 4-yard strike from Finely to Jakobi Meyers. Finley has hit 27-of-34 throws for 296 yards and a touchdown (with another on the ground), while NC State has managed 47 yards on 15 rushes.

Bentley has completed 11-of-17 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the ‘Cocks on the ground with 12 yards on three carries. South Carolina managed only 28 yards on 10 carries in the first half.

NC State will receive to start the second half.

USF survives in OT, holds off South Carolina in wild Birmingham Bowl

Associated Press
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South Florida had already set a school record for wins in a season.  Thursday, the Bulls added to it.  Barely.

Trailing 29-14 in the first half of the 11th annual Birmingham Bowl, South Carolina (6-7) roared its way back to tie the game late but its USF that will head back to the Sunshine State with a wild 46-39 win, its fifth in a row to close out the season.  The win was the 11th for the Bulls in 2016, setting a school record.  This year, the 20th anniversary of the first season in the football program’s history, was also the first time they’d reached double-digits in wins, with the previous high being nine wins accomplished on three occasions, the last coming in 2007.

The win was also the Bulls’ first in a bowl game since 2010.  It didn’t come easy, though.  At all.

With the Bulls up 39-21 late in the third, an Elliott Fry field goal cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to 15.  A little over five minutes into the fourth, a Jake Bentley touchdown pass sliced USF’s lead to 39-31.  With an offense that was dominant in the first half suddenly stagnant, the Gamecocks got the ball back again with 6:33 left in the game.  Five plays later they were at the USF 8-yard line; on the sixth play, A.J. Turner appeared headed for what, with a two-point conversion, could’ve been the game-tying touchdown run but fumbled the ball back to the Bulls a yard short of the goal line.

Forcing a Bulls punt from their own end zone after three plays netted next to nothing, Chris Lammons returned a punt that was initially ruled a touchdown but, upon further review, was placed at the two-yard line.  Three plays later, a Turner one-yard run left the ‘Cocks a two-point conversion away from tying the score; a Bentley pass to Hayden Hurst was complete to knot the score at 39-all and send it to overtime.

Quinton Flowers, dominant in the first half but bothered by injury in the second, hit Elkanah Dillon from 25 yards out on the first play of extra time to give the Bulls back the lead.  Facing a fourth down on their first possession of overtime, a strip-sack of Bentley recovered by the Bulls ended the Gamecocks’ comeback hopes.  It was USC’s third red-zone turnover of the game.

Flowers finished the game with five touchdowns — three rushing, two passing — and 366 yards of offense.  He led the team in rushing with 105 yards.

Despite the loss, the future, especially at the quarterback position, certainly looks bright for Will Muschamp & Company.

Bentley finished the game 32-of-43 passing for 390 yards and three touchdowns.  He did, though, throw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.  Sophomore wide receiver Deebo Samuel was on the receiving end of 14 of those completions and 190 of the yards.

The loss drops the SEC to 1-3 this bowl season, one year after going 9-2.