A USC team left for dead with 21 minutes to play sprang to life, thanks to an offense that finally found its way, to score the games final 23 points in a 26-19 win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl in rainy and cold Tampa. The win is the Gamecocks’ 9th of the season, the seventh time in school history they’ve reached that mark, and their third in four meetings against the nation’s all-time winningest program.
Jake Bentley was named the game’s MVP and he did pass for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the real hero was USC’s defense. Without the stellar play of that group early on, the Gamecocks would have been in even more trouble. But instead of giving up touchdowns after two first quarter fumbles, the USC defense held Michigan to field goals, and that was huge later on.
The Gamecocks worked their way into a 19-3 hole before finally shaking off the offensive blues. Rico Dowdle, who did not start but came on in the second quarter, capped a 77 yard drive with a 17 yard run. The try for two failed but the lead was cut to 19-9.
Then, the game totally shifted to Gamecock mode. USC recovered a fumble at the Michigan 21 on the next possession and on the next play Bentley connected with Bryan Edwards for a touchdown to pull to within 19-16.
The Gamecocks finally took the lead early in the fourth quarter, after forcing a Michigan punt, on a 53 yard strike from Bentley to Shi Smith.
At this point, Michigan self-destructed. After driving to the USC three, Brandon Peters was picked off in the end zne by JaMarcus King. USC was forced to punt on that possession but Michigan fumbled the return and USC recovered at the 14. That led to a 22 yard Parker White field goal and a 26-19 lead.
Peters fired four incompletions on the next possession and USC took over at the Michigan 25 with 3:23 to play. But the Gamecocks granted the Wolverines new life with White missing a 48 yard field goal. That last chance was snuffed out, however, by a Steven Montac interception at the Gamecock 47, the last of five second half Wolverine turnovers.
The Gamecocks improve to 9-13 in bowl games with the victory and have won five of their last six. They are 4-1 in the Outback Bowl.
Will Muschamp post game press conference
Jake Bentley talks after receiving MVP award
Here’s my post game Periscope recap
USC postgame…. https://t.co/3NG1Gk8upC
— SportsTalk (@sportstalksc) January 1, 2018