Football: South Carolina Comes Back, Defeats Michigan in Outback Bowl

TAMPA, Fla. — Five second-half turnovers were costly to the University of Michigan football team as South Carolina scored 23 unanswered points in a 26-19 comeback victory over the Wolverines in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

Michigan led, 16-3, late in the third quarter and had the ball inside USC’s five-yard line before the troubles began with a fumble. While U-M extended its lead to 19-3, South Carolina took momentum and responded with touchdowns on three straight drives to complete the comeback. Michigan turned the ball over four more times, including once in South Carolina’s end zone as the Wolverines were unable to find traction.

Following a first-half defensive struggle, Michigan marched 66 yards on its first possession of the third quarter, scoring the game’s first touchdown when Ben Mason bullied his way into the end zone from one yard out. The score gave U-M a 16-3 lead and forced the issue for a USC team that earned just 94 yards combined through its first eight drives of the game.

Noah Furbush then intercepted Jake Bentley on the Gamecocks’ next possession and returned the ball to USC’s 27-yard line. Michigan couldn’t capitalize as Karan Higdon fumbled on the four-yard line. U-M’s defense produced another three-and-out and the offense took over at the South Carlolina 32-yard line following a short punt. The offense stalled, but Quinn Nordin buried his fourth field goal of the day, a 48-yarder, to make it a 19-3 score with 5:42 remaining in the third.

On the ensuing drive, South Carolina drove into Michigan territory with its first third-down conversion (0-for-9 prior). Two plays later, and following a U-M personal foul, Rico Dowdle scampered into the end zone from 19 yards out; the two-point conversion attempt failed to make the score 19-9. Michigan then fumbled again, this time on a handoff exchange, and South Carolina took over at the U-M’s 21-yard line. Just one play later, Bentley found Bryan Edwards for a leaping touchdown and the extra point made the score 19-16 entering the fourth quarter.

USC then took its first lead of the game, 23-19, as Bentley found Shi Smith for a 53-yard scoring strike with 11:33 to play.

Michigan tried to answer and drove deep into South Carolina territory, but its third turnover of the second half was costly. Facing third and goal from the five-yard line, Brandon Peters scrambled to extend a play; he forced a pass that was intercepted by JaMarcus King in the end zone with 7:53 left.

The Wolverines forced a punt but Donovan Peoples-Jones fumbled and the Gamecocks recovered on Michigan’s 14-yard line following their fourth second-half turnover. The defense did well to force a field goal and the Wolverines faced a 26-19 deficit with 3:47 to play.

U-M wasn’t able to answer as four straight incompletions gave the ball back to USC on the 25-yard line with 3:20 to play. USC lost six yards and missed a 48-yard field goal attempt to give Michigan one last opportunity with 1:43 left.

Peters completed his first pass of the drive but, facing a fourth-and-one, was intercepted near midfield. USC ran out the clock for the comeback victory.

Bentley completed 19-of-32 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns to lead USC, which won despite being limited to 2-of-14 on third down conversions.

Both teams’ defenses exerted control from the outset but U-M benefited from a trio of USC miscues, two of them on special teams as U-M led throughout. With Michigan punting after its second possession, South Carolina misplayed a short kick and Ambry Thomas pounced on it to reclaim the ball at USC’s 46-yard line. Michigan drove to the 17 before settling for a Nordin 35-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

On USC’s ensuing possession, another fumble set up U-M in prime condition. Bentley dropped a handoff and Chase Winovich recovered on the 31. The Wolverines again settled for a field goal, this time a 26-yarder from Nordin, to take a 6-0 lead into the second quarter.

South Carolina got on the board with 8:45 to play in the second quarter when Parker White connected from 44 yards out to make it a 6-3 game. The drive was the longest of the game to that point at five plays covering 44 yards, thanks in large part to a 38-yard pass completion from Bentley to Edwards.

Another special teams miscue gave the Wolverines prime field position with 1:18 to go when the Gamecocks were called for a kick-catch interference penalty on a high, short punt. U-M assumed possession at its 40-yard line and drove far enough for Nordin to connect from 45 yards out as time expired for a 9-3 halftime margin. A big play in the drive was a fourth-and-four conversion from Peters, who found Sean McKeon on a 10-yard curl route down to USC’s 33-yard line.


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