Bentley’s 4 TDs lift South Carolina to 49-9 win over Mocs
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Quarterback Jake Bentley chatted with one of his favorite targets in receiver Deebo Samuel, honored on Senior Night who reflected on how much he’d miss playing at South Carolina.
“I told him in winning this game, we’d have a little bit more time together,” Bentley said.
Bentley threw for 339 yards and tied his career best with four touchdowns as the Gamecocks became bowl eligible with a 49-9 victory over Chattanooga on Saturday night.
A.J. Turner, a junior with eight career touchdowns coming in, accounted for three TDs for the Gamecocks (6-4) against the Mocs (6-5) of the Football Championship Subdivision.
“It’s not about the touchdowns, it’s about us being able to play together,” Turner said.
The win was an important one for the Gamecocks (6-4), whose time was running out at trying to make the postseason.
South Carolina goes to powerhouse state rival No. 2 Clemson next week where it will be heavy underdogs. Without the Chattanooga win, the Gamecocks’ postseason hopes would’ve rested on a makeup contest with Akron on Dec. 1.
“We’ve been through adversity this year,” Bentley said. “It’s great to know we’ve got some postseason ball ahead of us.”
The Gamecocks, who fell to FCS opponent The Citadel here three years ago, didn’t want to mess around with Chattanooga. Bentley and Turner made sure they started fast with touchdowns on their first three possessions.
Bentley was 5-of-6 passing on South Carolina’s opening possession, including a 16-yard TD throw to Turner.
He was at it again the next time he got the ball with a 12-play drive that ended with a 6-yard TD throw to Turner.
Turner was front and center on the next drive, too, finishing the series with an 11-yard scoring run.
Turner had only one touchdown in eight games this season before breaking out big against Chattanooga in the opening half.
Bentley, who was 25 of 29 passing, didn’t stop after the break in adding scoring throws of 53 yards to Shi Smith and 61 yards to Samuel.
Bentley tied his career high of four touchdowns first accomplished in a win over Coastal Carolina in September.
Samuel finished with five catches for 112 yards, his second straight game with over 100 yards receiving.
Chattanooga was overmatched from the start. The Mocs had a field goal and an extra point blocked. They were just one of eight on third-down tries in the opening half.
Chattanooga’s lone TD came when receiver Bryce Nunnelly threw a 2-yard scoring pass to a wide open quarterback Nick Tiano with less than five minutes left in the game.
They were in the thick of the Southern Conference race the first two months of the season, but fell to 0-3 in November with this loss.
Mocs coach Tom Arth was pleased with his team’s effort.
“I thought we left some plays out there,” he said. “That’s the hard part.”
Chattanooga: The Mocs made the NCAA FCS playoffs for three straight seasons from 2014-16, but have gone 9-13 the past two seasons under Arth. The team doubled its win total from Arth’s first season, but struggled down the stretch as it went 0-3 in November.
South Carolina: Beating an FCS team does not make all OK for the Gamecocks, but it does take some of the sting out of its fourth-quarter collapse at Florida a week ago. Most importantly, the victory gives South Carolina a December of bowl practices which it certainly needs to shore up its defense, which ranked 12th in the Southeastern Conference coming into the game.
The Gamecocks head to Clemson trying to snap a four-game losing streak in the series where they’ve been outscored 162-66 in that stretch. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said his team understands they need to pick things up against their rival.
“There’s always a chip on your shoulder in the rivalry,” South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “But you have to prepare the same way as always.”
South Carolina played many of its youngest players who coach Will Muschamp believes will be a big part of the future. Quarterbacks Dakereon Joyner and Jay Urich saw time late and freshman tailback Deshaun Fenwick ran for 112 yards and a touchdown in his most significant action this season.
Chattanooga’s season is complete.
South Carolina travels to state rival Clemson next Saturday night.
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