Bentley throws 4 TDs, South Carolina beats Coastal Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina talked all offseason about going faster and displaying a new speed on offense.
It was only one game, against a team that is just more than a year removed from playing its first season in the FBS, but the Gamecocks’ 49-15 victory over Coastal Carolina Saturday left no doubt that South Carolina can achieve its goal.
Jake Bentley threw for four touchdowns, Rico Dowdle scored twice and South Carolina had six different players reach the end zone.
Coach Will Muschamp didn’t think the Gamecocks went as fast as they could all the time — but they didn’t need to.
“What you’re going to see is times where we’re going really fast and there’s going to be some times where we’re taking a look and see what we’re getting,” Muschamp said. “I think it’s going to be a game-by-game operation from what (offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon) and I have talked about in administering the offense.”
The Gamecocks’ running game whipped Coastal Carolina’s defensive front, Dowdle sprinting for 105 yards and Ty’Son Williams rushing 11 times for 82 yards. South Carolina piled up 557 yards, 263 on the ground, and put the game away with three touchdowns in the game’s first 21 minutes. Bentley was 22-of-29 for 240 yards and no turnovers.
“I think we were very efficient offensively, obviously, when you’re able to stay balanced like that,” Muschamp said. “Defensively, we didn’t give up anything big, except for some silly penalties we need to get cleaned up.”
South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel pulled in a one-handed catch in the end zone on what looked to be an overthrown ball, bringing cheers from the crowd. The fifth-year senior, who scored six touchdowns in 11 quarters last season before breaking his leg, had waited through a long frustrating summer to get back on the field.
“The challenges that he’s been through have really turned him into an outstanding teammate, and outstanding friend, that just enjoys being out there with the guys,” Bentley said.
Coastal was held to 238 yards.
“I think we played hard against what I think is one of the better teams in the country. I think it took us a while to get used to their speed on both sides of the ball,” Coastal coach Joe Moglia said. “They were able to control the line of scrimmage, especially when their offense was on the field.”
The Gamecocks, depending on the way the rest of the Top 25 shakes out, could move into the rankings for the first time since 2014 on Sunday. South Carolina checked in at No. 26 in each of the major polls in the preseason.
Top South Carolina defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum injured his left ankle in the third quarter and was taken to the locker room. Muschamp said that it was a sprained ankle and from what he knew Saturday, Wonnum will be fine for the next game.
South Carolina defensive back Nick Harvey was ejected for targeting and will miss the first half of the next game.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ new up-tempo offense only displayed itself a couple of times, but there was no need to show off everything with so much on the horizon. They needed to take care of an undermanned opponent right away and did so.
Coastal Carolina: It was the expected result for a very young team that only moved into the FBS a year ago. The Chanticleers may be another season away from really competing in the Sun Belt.
Muschamp complained during preseason camp that he wasn’t getting the heat he needed from the weather. Saturday’s weather was hot and sticky.
“We didn’t use one IV,” Muschamp said, crediting his strength staff.
Michael Scarnecchia played in relief of Bentley for the fourth quarter and completed 3-of-6 passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. Scarnecchia, a fifth-year senior, hadn’t attempted a pass since midway through the 2015 season.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks host a crucial game in the SEC East race when they host No. 3 Georgia next Saturday.
Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers host UAB on Saturday in their home opener.