Comeback In The Outback By South Carolina

Trailing by 16 points in the second half, South Carolina (9-4) scored 23 unanswered points to defeat Michigan (8-5) 26-19 in the Outback Bowl.  Quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw for 239 yards & two touchdowns was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

The Wolverines received the opening kick but was forced to punt after Quarterback Brandon Peters was sacked by Linebacker T.J. Brunson on third and three.  After forcing the punt, the Gamecocks first possession also proved to be unproductive as Bentley threw an incomplete pass on third and four.

After both teams opening possessions, with neither team getting a first down eight minutes into the first quarter, the field position was stagnant until Wolverines Defensive Back Ambry Thomas recovered a muffed punt.   And Michigan took advantage of the shift in field position when Peters converted on third and ten for 12 yards to give the Wolverines a first down, the first in the game by either team.  

The  Wolverines immediately followed that third down conversion with a 10 yard run from Running Back Chris Evans.  But the Wolverines could only get into the redzone, not the endzone & had to settle for a 35 yard field goal from Kicker Quinn Nordin.

With Michigan grabbing the three point lead, South Carolina got the ball back with just under four minutes left in the first quarter & was able to record first downs on back to back completions from Bentley to Wide Receiver Bryan Edwards, the first one for 12 yards, followed by a 13 yard gain. But on the next play after the second Bentley completion, the Gamecocks committed their second turnover of the first quarter when Bentley fumbled after a two yard gain.

Once again, Michigan was set up inside South Carolina territory after a Gamecocks miscue.  And this time the Wolverines, with the help of a 15 yard face mask penalty, were able to get inside the Gamecocks' 10 yard line.  But the Wolverines after an incomplete pass from Peters, had to turn to Nordin again, who kicked a 26 yard field goal, giving Michigan a 6-0 lead.

The second quarter started slowly offensively for both teams until with just over 10 minutes left in the first half, Bentley hooked up with Edwards again, for the first half's biggest gainer, a 38 yard completion. That completion moved South Carolina into Michigan territory.  But the Gamecocks could get no closer than the Wolverines 26 yard line & got on the board when Kicker Parker White connected from 44 yards out.

The teams traded possessions without any scoring threats.  That is until 90 seconds left in the half when Michigan got the ball on their own 40 yard.  And Peters directed the Wolverines to the South Carolina 26 yard line, close enough for Nordin to connect on his third field goal of the game, right at the end of the half, extending Michigan's lead back to six.

The first half ended with both teams struggling on third down, with Michigan converting on two of eleven third downs, while South Carolina did not convert a third down on seven attempts.  South Carolina opened the second half with the football & got one first down after a Bentley completion.  But eventually punted to Michigan, who then on their first possession of the second half, scored the game's first touchdown after a seven play 72 yard drive led by Peters, who had four completions on the drive.  The drive ended with Fullback Ben Mason plunging in from one yard out, making the score 16-3 Michigan.

After the Mason touchdown, Michigan, after an interception by Linebacker Noah Furbush, looked ready to put another touchdown on the scoreboard.  But after moving inside the Gamecocks 10 yard line again, Michigan Running Back Karan Higdon fumbled inside the South Carolina five yard line, giving the ball back to the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks forced the fumble but the Wolverines forced the Gamecocks to punt after Bentley threw an incompletion on third down.  The incompletion proved costly after a 14 yard punt put the Wolverines at the Gamecocks 32 yard line.  And although the Wolverines couldn't move any deeper into Gamecocks territory, the bad punt led to Nordin putting a 48 yard field goal through, his fourth of the game.

Trailing 19-3, South Carolina got the ball back.  And in just over three minutes, the Gamecocks put their first touchdown of the afternoon in lights, when after Tight End Hayden Hurst caught a 12 yard pass & was hit out of bounds for a personal foul penalty, Running Back Rico Dowdle went up the right side for a 17 yard touchdown run.

Instead of kicking the extra point, trailing 19-9, South Carolina attempted & failed on a two point conversion after the Dowdle touchdown.  But before the Gamecocks offense could take their helmets off after Dowdle's touchdown, they were back on the field after Peters fumbled. And following the fumble, South Carolina closed to within three after Bentley hit Edwards, his favorite target of the afternoon, for a 21 yard pitch & catch touchdown.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Michigan had the football but was unable to move it out of their own territory.  And after getting the back, the Gamecocks, on the strength of four straight completions by Bentley took their first lead of the afternoon when Bentley hit Wide Receiver Shi Smith with a 53 yard touchdown pass down the left side, giving South Carolina a 23-19 lead.  

With that four point deficit, Michigan put an impressive drive together, deep into South Carolina territory. But that push to take the lead back ended when Peters was intercepted by Defensive Back Jamarcus King. And with just over eight minutes left in the game, nursing a four point lead, the Gamecocks moved from their own five into Michigan territory.  But after only gaining 11 yards on third & fourteen, the Gamecocks punted, but was able to recover a fumble by return man Donovan Peoples-Jones.  Unable to gain any yardage after the fumble recovery, South Carolina increased their lead to seven when White was good from 22 yards away.  And with that 26-19 lead & under four minutes left, the Gamecocks held the Wolverines to no yards gained on the next possession, which meant the ball went back to South Carolina. 

With the ball and looking to make it a two score game, South Carolina couldn't move the ball but was able to line up for a 48 yard field goal.  But White missed the field goal wide right.  After getting the ball back on their own 31 yard line, the Wolverines had one effort to tie the game up but Defensive Back Steve Montac thwarted that last attempt by intercepting Peters, sealing the Gamecocks victory.

Michigan finished the season on a three game losing streak, while South Carolina rebounded from a regular season-ending lost to state rival Clemson .


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