By Josh Hyber/Photo by Jenny Dilworth
CHARLOTTE — Jake Bentley stood in the hallway outside the South Carolina locker room at Bank of America Stadium and did what quarterbacks do. What veterans do. What leaders do.
What captains do.
After the Gamecocks’ 28-0 loss to Virginia on Saturday in the Belk Bowl, the junior quarterback did not point fingers. He instead criticized his own performance — his 43.5 completion percentage, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I mean, I don’t think I played that well,” Bentley said. “Not well at all. Interceptions, especially. Those are tough. And not executing down in the red zone, it’s always a tough thing to swallow too. I’ve just got to be better and work and remember this feeling.”
Said Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp, “I thought we had some drops early in the game and [Jake] was inaccurate on a couple of things. … He’s played well for us in the second half of the season and we’ve got to continue to move forward.”
Bentley said he felt the Gamecocks were mentally prepared, had a “really good” week of preparation and were locked in for Saturday’s game. He didn’t blame the time off. He didn’t blame the lack of execution on the team playing without receiver Deebo Samuel.
“Just didn’t play well when it mattered,” he said.
As he was all season, Bentley was polite and forthcoming in his postgame chat. He stood and answered questions — three about potentially declaring the NFL Draft and three about playing without Samuel — for six and a half minutes.
Bentley was non-committal when asked about the draft but said Saturday’s loss doesn’t really affect what he’s going to do.
“[I’ll wait] just a couple of days and process everything,” he said.
He was more interested in talking about the game, despite his performance.
Muschamp pointed to one facet of the game that likely determined the outcome: Virginia converted 11 of 17 third-down tries. South Carolina converted just 2 of 13 and 2 of 5 fourth-down tries.
“In every facet, we didn’t do a good job in that,” Bentley said. “Especially on offense, of staying on the field and giving our defense time to rest. We just didn’t execute. Didn’t execute the whole day.”
Bentley said Virginia’s defense didn’t really throw anything unexpected at the Gamecock offense, and that in all bowl games teams scheme up looks that they haven’t used all season.
He didn’t blame the Gamecocks’ offensive line for allowing two sacks, four tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries.
He didn’t blame Chavis Dawkins for not catching a would-be touchdown on the Gamecocks’ only trip inside the red zone.
“I just missed the throw,” Bentley said simply before adding, “They did a really good job at disguising their coverages. We didn’t play well though. I think that’s the biggest thing. They’re a good football team, but we just didn’t play well enough.”
A few minutes later he summed it all up.
“It just sucks to lose. I think everyone on the team hates to lose more than they like to win,” Bentley said said. “We you can hear the music from the other locker room and them celebrating, it’s not a fun feeling.
“They deserve it. They played better than us and they wanted it more than we did today.”