COLUMBIA — South Carolina didn’t undergo any wholesale changes in battling back in Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M with a big third quarter providing a stark turnaround to a lackluster first half that drew the ire of the home crowd.

“I think we just kind of said enough is enough and knew we had to go out there and play better,” quarterback Jake Bentley said.

However solid the second-half effort, it was only good enough to put a scare into the 22nd-ranked Aggies, who weren’t able to salt the game away until a late touchdown drive clinched a 26-23 victory over an exhausted defense that spent a massive amount of time on the field.

“We did some things we felt like we needed to do — slowed their run game a good bit, had some shots in our run game early, but just too many self-inflicted issues finishing plays down the field,” USC coach Will Muschamp said.

Texas A&M broke a 16-16 tie on Seth Small’s 39-yard field goal with 9:16 remaining, capping an 11-play drive and taking 6:06 off the clock. A&M quickly regained possession and moved 78 yards in 11 plays over 5:45 to go up 10 points with 1:36 left on Trayveon Williams’ three-yard touchdown.

Bentley swiftly orchestrated a 75-yard drive of his own, helped by a pair of 15-yard penalties on A&M’s secondary, finding Chapman’s Deebo Samuel for a six-yard touchdown and set up an onside kick with 48 seconds left. That attempt didn’t go the required 10 yards to end it.

The Aggies entered third nationally in time of possession and dominated that facet, holding the ball 41:29.

“I feel as though we gave it everything we had,” defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw said. “However long the game is going on, we’re going to keep playing (hard) until it’s over.”

A&M quarterback Kellen Mond completd 25 of 37 passing for 353 yards, second-highest of his career, Quartney Davis caught nine for 127, and SEC rushing-leader Williams ran 19 times for 78 yards.

The boos started early for the beleaguered Bentley, who missed last week’s win with a knee injury and whose previous inconsistent play created abundant outside demand for backup Michael Scarnecchia to remain the starter. Bentley misfired on some first-half throws, including an interception on the third series on second-and-goal from the 5. The booing went full volume at the end of the half after he’d completed 6 of 17 for 46 yards in trailing 13-0. He’d finish 17 of 35 for 223 yards and three touchdowns.

“That’s life, that’s really the way I’ve always been brought up, that you can’t worry about outside influences,” Bentley said. “Other people are going to try and come at you each and every way and you have to focus on what you believe in and surround yourself with great people. Every one of my teammates came up to say they had my back and to keep my head up and just get through it.”

Bentley added, “It’s disappointing to hear (booing) from the fans, but they just want to win and so do I.”

Bentley may not have been sharp, but he got little support early from his teammates. Neither Samuel nor Bryan Edwards could hold onto a pair of accurate deep throws that had a chance to go for touchdowns and always reliable Shi Smith couldn’t corral a perfect strike that would’ve converted third-and-18 near midfield. The Aggies then needed only five plays to go 94 yards for a Jace Sternberger touchdown and 10-0 lead. The tight end caught seven passes for 145 yards.

When asked about the numerous dropped passes that continue to plague his team in what was considered to be a position of strength, Muschamp said he was “very surprised” before adding he “really can’t” attribute the miscues to anything specific.

When Texas A&M began the second half driving 60 yards for a field-goal to increase the lead to 16-0, it appeared as if USC might be done for the night right there. Instead, Bentley got his receivers the ball in better spots and they responded by making plays. Bentley hit Union County alum Shi Smith for a 22-yard touchdown pass and after holding the Aggies to a four-and-out, he completed a 33-yard touchdown throw to Byrnes’ alum Chavis Dawkins off a flea-flicker.

Edwards converted both two-point conversions with catches to tie it at 16-16 in the final seconds of the third quarter. The two touchdown drives went a combined 170 yards on 17 plays. It was Dawkins’ first reception of the season and first touchdown of his career. Samuel caught seven for 88 yards, Edwards four for 42 and Smith three for 51.