South Carolina beats Akron in messy makeup game

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JEF­FREY COLLINS

Deebo Sa­muel fig­ured out an­other way to score a touch­down as he wrapped up his in­jury-cursed ca­reer at South Carolina in a rainy, messy makeup game.

Sa­muel re­cov­ered a bad snap on a punt in the end zone and caught two touch­down passes as the Game­cocks ( 7-5) beat Akron 28-3 on Satur­day.

South Carolina was play­ing a low-stakes game on a wet, cold De­cem­ber af­ter­noon to make up for one can­celed by Hur­ri­cane Florence against the Zips (4-8), whose opener at Ne­braska was can­celled by thun­der­storms.

It was sloppy. South Carolina had four turnovers – two of them red zone in­ter­cep­tions by Jake Bent­ley – and Akron had six fum­bles, los­ing three of them. In 17 sec­ond-half drives, 10 ended in punts, four ended on downs, two ended in lost fum­bles and the last one ended at the fi­nal gun.

“We didn’t play well in the sec­ond half,” Bent­ley said. “I’m dis­ap­pointed.”

Bent­ley was 14 of 27 for 199

yards and three touch­downs. Mon Den­son ran 17 times for 110 yards and Bryan Ed­wards caught five passes for 109 yards and a TD for South Carolina.

Sa­muel put this game away on his own. His fum­ble re­cov­ery on a high snap on an Akron punt put the Game­cocks up 21-3 and his 5-yard TD catch with 1:33 to go in the sec­ond quar­ter put South Carolina ahead 28-3. Sa­muel has 16 TDs re­ceiv­ing, seven rush­ing, four on kick re­turns and one on a fum­ble re­cov­ery in his ca­reer. He also has thrown two passes in col­lege – both for touch­downs

“I just go out there and do what they ask me to do,” the se­nior said.

Sa­muel missed games his fresh­man year with ham­string prob­lems and broke his leg in his third game of 2017 af­ter scor­ing six touch­downs.

“When he’s been on the field, he’s been as elec­tric player as you will see in col­lege foot­ball,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said.

When the Game­cocks and Zips orig­i­nally agreed to play this one Nov. 2, there was a good chance both teams would be play­ing for bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity. But South Carolina pulled off a South­east­ern Con­fer­ence win over Ole Miss and Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion Chat­tanooga to get to six wins and Akron lost its last three to stay stuck at four vic­to­ries.

The an­nounced at­ten­dance was 53,420 people – the ac­tual crowd was much smaller – and it was the low­est at­ten­dance for a South Carolina game since 52,400 were counted in Oc­to­ber 1991 when Louisiana Tech came to town.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the fans who did come,” Bent­ley said. “We could def­i­nitely hear them.”

Kato Nel­son was 19 for 39 for 178 yards. Kwad Smith caught six passes for 69 yards for the Zips. Nick Gasser’s 45-yard field goal gave Akron its only points.

The Zips were go­ing af­ter their sec­ond Power Five win. Akron beat Big Ten West Divi­sion cham­pion North­west­ern 39-34 on Sept. 15.

THE TAKE­AWAY

Akron: For the Zips, the big­gest one might be a nice $1.3 mil­lion check for fill­ing this hole in South Carolina’s sched­ule. Akron has never beaten a team from the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence in six tries. The Zips failed to win at least five games for the first time since go­ing 1-11 in Terry Bow­den’s first sea­son in 2012. South Carolina: The Game­cocks have been haunted by in­juries this sea­son – at least 15 play­ers were out hurt Satur­day – and couldn’t get through this one un­scathed ei­ther. Of­fen­sive line­man Zach Bai­ley was carted off on the last play of the third quar­ter with a bro­ken leg and will miss the bowl game. The Game­cocks have now beaten three Bow­dens – Bobby at Florida State, Tommy at Clem­son and Terry now at Akron. Terry Bow­den was 2-0 against South Carolina at Auburn.

VIC­TORY IN DE­FEAT

Akron coach Terry Bow­den said he was quite proud his team held South Carolina score­less in the sec­ond half even when they didn’t score at all.

“You want to make sure you set the right stage as far as an at­ti­tude for next sea­son” Bow­den said.

Bow­den played a num­ber of young play­ers Satur­day, in­clud­ing fresh­man run­ning back Keyon­dre White, who ran 13 times for 56 yards.

IM­PROV­ING PRO­GRAM

Muschamp’s 22 wins in three sea­sons is now the best start to a ca­reer at South Carolina, eclips­ing Steve Spurrier’s 21-win start.

And Muschamp said even though this team couldn’t repli­cate the nine wins from last sea­son, he thinks they had bad breaks with in­juries and a few bad bounces.

“We’re in a much better place. Ab­so­lutely,” Muschamp said.

UP NEXT

Akron: The Zips sea­son is over.

South Carolina: The Game­cocks await their bowl des­ti­na­tion on Sun­day. The most likely spots are the Gator Bowl against a Big Ten team or the Belk Bowl against some­one from the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence.

SEAN RAYFORD AP

South Carolina run­ning back Mon Den­son runs against Akron line­man R.J. Kelly dur­ing the first half Satur­day.

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