Oct. 28, 2017
South Carolina 34, Vanderbilt 27
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — On the expected legs of A.J. Turner and the surprising legs of quarterback Jake Bentley, South Carolina is finally back in an Southeastern Conference East Division race in November.
Bentley, who came into the game with 14 yards rushing all season, ran six times for 47 yards and the first two TDs on the ground in his college career to lead South Carolina (6-2, 4-2) to a 34-27 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Turner ran 15 times for a career best 121 yards.
The Gamecocks still need help for only a second division title since joining the SEC in 1992. Even if they beat No. 3 Georgia on the road next weekend, they will still be a game behind the Bulldogs but with the tiebreaker.
A new weapon emerged Saturday. When Bentley takes off, it's a deep-breath moment for the Gamecocks. Offensive lineman Zach Bailey used a curse word to say what it scares out of him. Bentley said when he has just one defender in front of him, he tries to make what he called ''the slowest juke move ever seen.''
But each of the sophomore's runs was huge. Two went for touchdowns, one turned a second-and-15 into a third-and-2 and another went for 8 yards on a second-and-9.
Bentley also completed 19 of his 29 passes for 174 yards.
Vanderbilt (3-5, 0-5) had two players ejected for targeting - defensive back Zaire Jones and linebacker Charles Wright, the team's sack leader, on a hit on Bentley just after he released the ball.
Bentley said he is used to taking shots. ''Anytime a quarterback runs it's like a little minnow with a pool of sharks,'' he said.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said he wasn't going to argue the specifics of either targeting call, but he isn't sure the rule is being interpreted correctly. He felt his players made hard tackles that did not target the head or a helpless player.
''I saw a young man tackle a quarterback,'' Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said. ''We've got to get that right.''
The Commodores finished with 10 penalties for 100 yards. The final one might have been the most costly. A holding penalty by tight end Sam Dobbs stalled a potential game-tying drive and Kyle Shurmur overthrew Caleb Scott on fourth-and-2 with just over a minute to go at the South Carolina 40.
Shurmur threw for a season-best 333 yards and four touchdowns.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp plans nothing special next week to emphasize the stakes at third-ranked Georgia.
''Our guys know it's an important game. They understand what is standing in front of them and me telling them is not going to make any difference,'' Muschamp said.
QUOTING COACH MUSCHAMP
"I'm really proud of our football team today. Vanderbilt did some special things, especially offensively. We didn't play very well defensively, but I'm going to give Vanderbilt some credit on that. They kept us on the edges as far as quick screens and edge run game. That was disappointing. You have to give them some credit, too. [Vanderbilt quarterback] Kyle Shurmur competed extremely hard in the game; he had some really nice throws. That 50/50 ball in the touchdown ¬-- their guy was there to make the play. But I'll take Rashad [Fenton] on that; he's going to make that play. They took some other shots down the field, but we defended those. Offensively, I think we stayed balanced moving the football. I think we ran the ball extremely well, especially there at the end of the game with 1:18 on the clock to finish the ball game. That was really important. That's over 200 yards rushing or right at it the last three SEC ball games. That's a huge improvement from where we've been. We need to be more efficient in the throwing game and some things. We had a couple reads there that were missed, whether it was the receiver or [quarterback] Jake [Bentley]. I have to go back and look at it. I thought our protection was good. It was a good, hard-fought ball game. AJ Turner ran extremely hard, again I'm extremely proud of AJ. You see the power that he has when he's able to run through tackles. We're very proud of our team, and we're ready for a very good Georgia team next week."
The Gamecocks were a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone in today's 34-27 win over Vanderbilt. That included a pair of rushing touchdowns from Jake Bentley and a one-yard score by A.J. Turner to close out the first quarter. On the season, South Carolina is 18-for-22 (81.8 percent) in the red zone this season.
212 -- The South Carolina offense had a season high 212 rushing yards in today's win over Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks were led on the ground by A.J. Turner, who had a career high 121 yards. Jake Bentley added 47 yards and the first two rushing touchdowns of his career.
The Gamecocks will play their final road game of the season when they travel to Athens to take on the SEC Eastern Division-leading Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia leads the all-time series by a 49-18-2 margin, including a 28-8 record when the games have been played in Athens, but the Gamecocks have won four of the last seven meetings between the two long-time rivals. Next week's game will be only the third time since 1980 that the Gamecocks and Bulldogs have met after September (they played on Oct. 6 in 2012 and Oct. 9, 2016), and is the second-latest date in the history of the series that extends back to 1894, exceeded only by the Nov. 18 game in 1939.
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