Gamecocks top Akron, wrap up 7th win of year
South Carolina got its seventh win of the season Saturday, which was kind of the point of Saturday.
“We needed this game,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said. “I appreciate (athletics director Ray) Tanner making this happen. We need to get as many snaps as possible for young players.”
The Gamecocks ( 7-5) beat Akron 28-3 in a game scheduled in November to replace the Sept. 15 Marshall game, which was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. The Zips fell to 4-8. South Carolina announced an attendance of 53,420 at Williams-Brice Stadium although it didn’t appear that many fans showed up on a rainy day.
“I want to thank our fans who were here,” Muschamp said. “Pretty miserable day weather wise, but they certainly were loud for us. We appreciate what they do for us.”
The crowd was the smallest for a South Carolina home game since 1991, when 52,400 watched a 12-12 tie against Louisiana Tech.
By the end of Saturday’s game, fewer than 10,000 fans remained in the stadium.
“I wouldn’t say it was tough to get up for the game because we know we have to play the game, but it was kind of weird seeing that little bit of a crowd today,” said running back Mon Denson, who had a game-high 110 yards on 17 carries.
The fans who left at halftime didn’t miss anything.
All the game’s scoring was done in the first half and the teams combined for nine punts and four turnovers in the second half.
“Disappointed in how we played, but we won and it’s a lot easier to correct mistakes after a win than after a loss,” said South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley, who was 14-of-27 for 199 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Our defense bailed us out time and time again.”
South Carolina had 384 yards to Akron’s 260, but the Zips had more first downs (18 to 16). Akron’s three points was the lowest scoring output by a Gamecocks opponent in Muschamp’s three seasons.
Star of the game: Junior wide receiver Bryan Edwards had five catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. It was his third 100-plus yard game of the season. He now has a career-best 809 yards for the season. “It was just another Saturday on the field,” he said. “We were going out there and having fun.”
Play of the game: Edwards put the Gamecocks ahead 14-3 with a 70-yard touchdown catch with 3:01 left in the first quarter. It was the third catch of 70 or more yards for Edwards this season, and it gave Bentley five passes for 70 or more yards, more than any player in the nation this year. Stat of the game: Senior wide receiver Deebo Samuel had three touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and a fumble recovery in the end zone on special teams. Samuel now has 13 touchdowns on the season. That ties him with Sidney Rice for fourth in school history in single-season touchdowns.
Injury update: Senior offensive lineman Zack Bailey, an NFL prospect, broke his left fibula on the final play of the third quarter. Bailey, who has started 38 games at South Carolina, was taken off the field on a medical cart and will not play in the bowl game. “It’s a non-weight bearing bone,” Muschamp said. “It’s obviously a setback, but it’s not a catastrophic injury in my mind.” Junior Keir Thomas did not dress out for the game due to an ankle injury. Thomas had started the previous 11 games this season. Junior tackle Javon Kinlaw is the only defensive lineman who started the first game of the season to be available for every game this year. Wide receiver Shi Smith (back spasms) also sat out Saturday.
Sloppy game: South Carolina turned the ball over four times, two Bentley interceptions in the red zone and two fumbles. The Gamecocks also had a turnover on downs in the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks had five total turnovers in six games before Saturday. Young talent: Freshman linebacker Damani Staley and freshman defensive tackle Kingsley Enagbare both set career highs in tackles. Staley had six while Enagbare had five. Enagbare also had his first career sack.
Bowl game: South Carolina’s bowl destination will be announced Sunday afternoon.
South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards picks up a first down during the first half against Akron on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.