South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers lived up to his reputation in Thursday’s 46-39 overtime win over USC in the Birmingham Bowl. The junior from Miami beat the Gamecocks with his arm and his legs to earn the game’s MVP honors. He finished the day with 261 passing yards and 2 touchdowns and 105 rushing yards and a bowl record 3 touchdowns.
And Flowers needed to be special because Gamecock freshman quarterback Jake Bentley was equally special, and his performance certainly gives Gamecock fans something feel hopeful about the future.
Flowers, however, got the final hoorah, a 25 yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime which turned out to be the game winner. Bentley was sacked on a fourth down play from the USF 8 and that was that.
How it got to that was pretty exciting. The Gamecocks trailed 39-31 midway thru the third quarter before scoring the final 18 points of overtime, including a two point conversion following their final score. Bentley was calm and poised in the pocket and put the ball on the money to his receivers, in particular Deebo Samuel, who finished with a career high 14 catches.
Bentley, who would have been named the game’s MVP had USC won, set career and bowl records by completing 32-43 for 390 yards. He also threw for 3 touchdowns.
But the Gamecocks were their own worst enemy. Rico Dowdle and AJ Turner both lost fumbles at the USF 1 and Bentley had a pass interception returned for a touchdown. Mistakes like that against an offense like USF’s usually will lead to a defeat and it’s pretty amazing the Gamecocks pushed the game to overtime.
USC finishes the year at 6-7, second straight losing season, but with all of the offense returning except for left tackle Mason Zandi, and most of the defense back, there is reason for optimism in Columbia looking ahead to 2017.
Will Muschamp postgame press conference
Hayden Hurst and Bryson Allen-Williams postgame press conference
Deebo Samuel talks with reporters after the game