COLUMBIA — South Carolina led 21-3 with the ball and 59 seconds before halftime, 76 yards from the end zone. Last year, the last two years, that’s a kneel-out.
This year, with a brand-new up-tempo offense?
Who needed 59 seconds?
Jake Bentley completed five straight passes, the last to running back Rico Dowdle, who made one cut and raced through wide-open space for a touchdown. There were still 14 ticks to go.
Successful first test.
“It’s a great example of what it looks like to go fast and be efficient,” said Bentley, who completed 22 of 29 passes for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Gamecocks’ 49-15 whipping of Coastal Carolina on Saturday.
USC (1-0) rolled up 557 yards, 263 on the ground, and six different players scored.
What went right
The offense was balanced and showed off what it could do when pushed, but also what it didn’t have to do. If Coastal (0-1) wanted to run the ball, go ahead.
And there wasn’t any sense going at a breakneck speed and displaying what all the Gamecocks can do with No. 3 Georgia visiting next week.
“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,” coach Will 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.”
Deebo Samuel got back in the end zone (with another highlight-reel catch), USC had two running backs crack 80 yards and 11 players caught at least one pass.
What went wrong
Shameik Blackshear was slapped with a personal foul on the opening kickoff. Sherrod Greene got one later. Nick Harvey was whistled for targeting and will miss the first half next week.
Overall, nine penalties for 99 yards.
“They were extremely disappointing,” Muschamp said. “That’s not been an issue for us and won’t start being.”
The quick touchdown before the half let Coastal Carolina know that an upset was not going to happen. The Chanticleers kneeled out the rest of the half, settled for a couple of scores in the second half and collected their $1.2 million check.
On that drive, Bentley completed passes to five different players, saw K.C. Crosby recover a Bryan Edwards fumble and didn’t use the Gamecocks’ only timeout.
It’s here. The talk of the entire offseason is here.
South Carolina and the No. 3 Bulldogs. Next week, 3:30 p.m., Williams-Brice Stadium.
The winner gets basically a two-game lead in the SEC East. The loser isn’t out of it but will need a lot of help.
If the Gamecocks are going to compete for a championship, this is the best chance they’re going to get for a while.