Gamecocks roar back, defeat Michigan in Outback Bowl

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From the USC Athletics Department 

Jake Bentley threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns Monday to pace USC to a 26-19 win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl.

Bentley shrugged off a slow start to toss scoring passes of 21 yards to Bryan Edwards and 53 yards to Shi Smith, the latter giving his team a 23-19 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The sophomore said once the Gamecocks began to have some success, the offense’s confidence grew.

”It’s just we started to execute well. The excitement, I think, is contagious to the whole team,” Bentley, voted the game’s most valuable player, said. ”You see where we went from there.”

Michigan (8-5) finished with its first three-game losing streak under coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines turned the ball over five times after halftime, including an end zone interception that denied them an opportunity to regain the lead with just under eight minutes to go.

The loss also cost the Big Ten a clean sweep of bowl games involving conference members. The league entered 7-0, looking to go unbeaten in postseason play for the first time since 1998 when it went 5-0.

”We don’t have all the trophies and the tradition and history but we have some grit,” USC coach Will Muschamp said after the Gamecocks rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to beat Michigan 26-19 in Monday’s Outback Bowl.

”We’ve got some toughness and resolve. You saw us down 19-3 and not a lot of good things happening for us,” Muschamp added. ”All the arrows are pointing up for us. We’re going to have those trophies.”

”We kind of let them hang around and they took advantage of it,” Harbaugh said. ”They got better as the game went on. We didn’t get the knockout punch when we needed it.”

Bentley was 19 of 32 passing with one interception. Rico Dowdle, playing for first time since breaking his leg against Tennessee on Oct. 14, began South Carolina’s comeback from a 19-3 deficit with a 17-yard TD run.

Brandon Peters had a tough day for Michigan, completing 20 of 44 passes for 186 yards and two interceptions. His second pick, with 1:05 remaining, sealed South Carolina’s second Outback Bowl victory over the Wolverines in five years.

”There’s some really good, and there’s a few I know he’d like to have back,” Harbaugh said. ”But he was battling just like the rest of the guys. There was some error there, a little too much at the wrong time.”

Quinn Nordin accounted for most of Michigan’s scoring, kicking field goals of 35, 26, 45 and 48 yards. Fullback Ben Mason scored on a 1-yard run in helping Michigan build its 16-point lead.

NOTABLE

GAME CHANGER

South Carolina recovered one of its five forced turnovers with 57 seconds left in third quarter and struck on the next play with a 21-yard pass from Jake Bentley to Bryan Edwards, cutting Michigan’s lead to 19-16. After the Gamecock defense forced Michigan to punt, Bentley found Shi Smith for a 53-yard touchdown pass to give South Carolina the lead for good.

KEY STAT

23 — South Carolina scored 23 straight points in the second half to give the Gamecocks the 26-19 win. Carolina was down 19-3 with 5:42 left in the third quarter but went on a six-play 77-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard run from Rico Dowdle with 2:25 left in the quarter. South Carolina took the lead for good on a 53-yard touchdown pass from Jake Bentley to Shi Smith with 11:33 left in the game.

UP NEXT

South Carolina ends the season 9-4 with an Outback Bowl win, a 5-3 win in conference play and wins over Michigan, N.C. State, Tennessee and Florida. The Gamecocks open the 2018 season September 1 against Coastal Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Stats – Click to enlarge

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