OUTBACK BOWL IN GAME REPORT
By Al Curtiss
Michigan started with the ball and the South Carolina defense stuffed them, forcing a 3-and-out, highlighted by a sack on 3rd and 4. After a short punt, the Michigan D returned the favor and forced SC into a 3-and-out.
The ensuing punt may have been the first big play of the game, when Michigan punt returner Donovan Peoples-Jones fielded the punt inside his own 10 and than ran backwards, where he was tackled on the 4 yard line.
The Gamecocks D held, forcing another short punt and giving the offense the ball on the Wolverines’ 42 yard line. The offense did nothing again, and right now the offensive MVP for South Carolina is Punter Joe Charlton, who pinned Michigan inside the 12 for the second time.
The South Carolina D continued to hold Michigan without a first down and forced another punt. However, when it looked like the Gamecocks would once again get great field position inside Michigan territory, disaster struck.
USC punt returner Chris Lammons muffed a short punt that hit a teammate and Michigan recovered. Following the turnover, Michigan recorded the first first down of the game at the 7:01 mark in the first quarter. That first down, along with another 8 yards, allowed Michigan to covert on 35 yard field goal and take the lead 3-0 with 3:42 left in the first quarter.
The ensuing kick-off gave the Gamecocks special teams another opportunity to demonstrate they are not very special, as kick returner Rashad Fenton struggled with short kick and got pinned at the 6 yard line.
South Carolina moved the ball out to their 30 with some quick passes, but a fumble recovery by defensive end Chase Winovich on a read option gave the Wolverines the ball on South Carolina’s 30.
On Michigan’s ensuing drive, the Gamecock’ defense continued its stiff play, but a facemask penalty while sacking the QB on 3rd down allowed the drive to continue and enabled Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin to convert a 26-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.
The teams traded punts again to start the 2nd quarter, and then the Carolina offense woke up with 36 yard pass from Bentley to WR Bryan Edwards that got the ball down to the Michigan 32. After a 7 -yard run on first down, the Gamecocks went to the air with poor results and were forced into a 44-yard field goal that Parker White nailed to make the score 6-3 with 8:45 left in the first half.
The South Carolina D forced Michigan into another 3-&-out on the ensuing kickoff. At this point, both defenses are living up to expectations and making the offenses look very pedestrian.
Prior to kick off a South Carolina expert told me the Gamecocks defense reminded him of the lunch pail units that carried the NY Giants to a Superbowl title. Their performance in the first half proved him a prophet, as they limited the Wolverines to under 70 total yards with two minutes left in the 1st half.
Michigan ended the half with a 8 play, 35-yard drive that ended with a 45 yard field goal by Nordin to put the Wolverines up 9-3 at the half.
Michigan opened the 3rd quarter by stuffing South Carolina and then hitting two big pass plays on offense. Karan Higdon carried the ball down to the 1 where FB Ben Mason ran it in to make the score 16-3 midway through the 3rd quarter.
Michigan seized on another Gamecocks miscue when Noah Furbush grabbed a tipped pass down the seam and returned it 37 yards. However a fumble by Higdon on the South Carolina 6-yard line kept the game from getting out of hand.
The Wolverines defense kept South Carolina’s offense out of sync, and after a short drive, place kicker Quinn Nordin kicked his 4th field goal of the game when he hit from 49 yards to make the score 19-3 with 5:45 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Gamecocks got back in the game with 6-play, 77 yard drive that culminated with 12-yard touchdown scamper by RB Rico Dowdle, who scored on the first option of the day and made the score 19-9. Michigan stopped USC’s 2 point conversion, keeping that score at 19-9 with under 2:50 left in the 3rd quarter.
A fumble by Michigan on the ensuing drive gave USC the ball on the Michigan 21 yard line, and the Gamecocks struck quickly. On the first play from scrimmage, Jake Bentley hit WR Bryan Edwards on skinny post to make the score 19-16 Michigan with 51 seconds left in the 3rd.
The fourth quarter is about to start, and the biggest advantage South Carolina may have is the wind. The wind, which has really picked up and it is whipping at around 15 miles an hour, will be at USC’s back for the 4th quarter.
Jake Bentley stayed hot in the 4th quarter, converting on a big 3rd & 17 to Hayden Hurst. Following that completion he hit WR Shi Smith on a 53 yard go route deep down the sideline for the go-ahead TD. The scoring drive was 6 plays 81 yards and the extra point made the score 23-19 with 11:40 left in the game.
South Carolina scored 20 unanswered points when Michigan took the kickoff and marched to the South Carolina 5, but Peters throw an interception on 3rd and goal from the 5 to keep the score 23-19 with 7:53 left in the game.
Another Michigan miscue, this time by punt returner Peoples, who fumbled at his own 14 yard line, where it was recovered by the Gamecock’s A.J. Turner. Michigan held USC to a 22-yard field goal, making the score 26-19 with 3:47 left.
Down 7, Michigan started on their own 25, but Peters throws 4 straight incomplete passes, two of which went through the receivers hands.
South Carolina took over the Michigan 25, but lost 6 yards on 3 plays, finishing with a missed 48 yard field goal.
Michigan got the ball back one more time on their 31 with 1:43 left to play, but Steve Montac intercepted Peters on 4th & 1 to seal the game.
Final score, South Carolina 26, Michigan 19.