Sa­muel’s 3 TDs lift South Carolina over NC State

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL SPORTS - Associated Press Sports Writer By Steve Reed

CHAR­LOTTE, N. C. — Deebo Sa­muel re­turned the open­ing kick­off 97 yards for a score and caught two touch­down passes from Jake Bent­ley as South Carolina de­feated North Carolina State 35-28 on Satur­day in the sea­son opener for both teams.

Bent­ley threw for 215 yards and three touch­downs, in­clud­ing strikes of 39 and 6 yards to Sa­muel as the Game­cocks won their 17th sea­son opener in the last 18 years.

Game­cocks safety D.J. Smith broke up a pass from Ryan Fin­ley in the end zone on fourth and goal with six sec­onds left to pre­serve the win.

Fin­ley threw for 415 yards and two touch­downs on 45-of-64 pass­ing for North Carolina State. Jaylen Sa­muels had 15 catches for 81 yards and a touch­down and Kelvin Har­mon had 10 for 114 yards for the Wolf­pack.

The game turned in the third quar­ter.

With the score tied at 21, Bent­ley rolled out to the right, avoided a pass rusher and heaved a per­fectly thrown pass to Sa­muel, who made a one-handed grab in the cor­ner of the end zone.

On North Carolina State’s next pos­ses­sion, de­fen­sive end Dante Sawyer came crash­ing through the line and sacked Ryan Fin­ley, strip­ping him of the ball. Bryson Allen- Wil­liams hopped on the loose ball at the Wolf­pack 13. Two plays later Rico Dow­dle scored on a 7-yard run for a 14-point lead.

State cut the lead to 7 on a 1-yard TD catch by Sa­muels and had two chances to tie the game late in the fourth quar­ter. How­ever, Sa­muels was stopped short of the first down marker on a fourt­hand- 5 play and Smith knocked away Fin­ley’s pass to save the game.

Sa­muel got the sea­son started in style for South Carolina, tak­ing the open­ing kick­off and bounc­ing to the out­side and rac­ing up the field. Only one player touched him as he turned on the af­ter­burn­ers and out­ran the field. South Carolina won de­spite be­ing lim­ited to 31 yards rushing on 21 car­ries and be­ing out­gained 504-246.

Kick­ing woes

N.C. State brought in grad­u­ate trans­fer Car­son Wise to solve its kick­ing woes, but the former Di­vi­sion II player from Car­son­New­man shanked his first field-goal at­tempt of the sea­son from 29 yards off the left goal post. Coach Dave Do­eren last week called Wise “re­ally level-headed.”

A lit­tle moore

South Carolina se­nior line­backer Skai Moore re­turned to ac­tion after miss­ing last sea­son be­cause of neck fu­sion surgery to fix a her­ni­ated disc and had eight tack­les.

The 6-foot-2, 218-pound Moore was the team’s lead­ing tack­ler in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The take­away

South Carolina: Bent­ley has been touted by some as a NFL-level quar­ter­back and he dis­played that promise on Satur­day with some pre­cise passes, none bet­ter than the 39-yard strike to Sa­muel.

It was a huge win for a team that was a com­bined 16-22 over the past three sea­sons but fin­ished strong last year to make a bowl game.

NC State: En­tered the game with high hopes this sea­son after re­turn­ing 18 starters from last year, in­clud­ing 11 se­niors — the high­est num­ber in at least a quar­ter- cen­tury. So this was a huge set­back for a program look­ing to take the next step with a state­ment win. Two of the big­gest concerns have to be the lack of a run­ning game.

Up next

South Carolina: Will travel next Satur­day to face Mis­souri, which de­feated Mis­souri State 7243 in the sea­son opener.

NC State: Hosts Mar­shall next Satur­day in Raleigh, N.C.

Bob Leverone / Rome News-Tri­bune

South Carolina’s Jake Bent­ley (right) runs for a first down dur­ing the first half of Satur­day’s game against N.C. State.

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