COMMENTARY

Like it or not, Bentley is the man for USC

BY DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 10/14/18

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp made it clear on Saturday: unless he is hurt, Jake Bentley is his ride or die at quarterback.

So what does that mean for the Gamecocks over the rest of the season? There will be some wins and some …

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COMMENTARY

Like it or not, Bentley is the man for USC

Posted

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp made it clear on Saturday: unless he is hurt, Jake Bentley is his ride or die at quarterback.

So what does that mean for the Gamecocks over the rest of the season? There will be some wins and some frustrating losses, just like Saturday's 26-23 loss to No. 22 Texas A&M. What you saw was the status quo for USC's history with Texas A&M, and Bentley's play over the past two seasons.

You know the story. Bentley sat out last week's game against Missouri with an injured knee suffered in a loss to Kentucky the week before. Fifth-year senior Michael Scarnecchia made his first career start and led Carolina to a 37-35, come-from-behind victory.

With Bentley healthy though, Muschamp announced at his Tuesday press conference that he would be going with Bentley behind center. As I've stated several times, Bentley hasn't really improved over the past year and a half after bursting on the scene as a true freshman in the last half of the 2016 season to lead South Carolina to a bowl game. The only thing consistent about his play is the inconsistency of it.

Bentley was set up to be put in an ugly situation on Saturday, and it certainly started that way. He came out overthrowing receivers -- the status quo for him -- and he threw an interception on third down and goal at the goal line when the Gamecocks looked to have, at the least, a chip shot field goal.

That was really the only success the USC offense had in the first half, and it was lucky to go into halftime trailing just 13-0. Bentley was 4-for-11 for just 35 yards and the pick.

For better or worse, Muschamp didn't flinch and stuck with Bentley. Perhaps he did so just to spite those fans who were booing Bentley on Saturday and, in turn, him.

Bentley, as he has been wont to do throughout his career, stepped up in the second half after his horrendous start. He led the Gamecocks back to tie the game at 16-16 with two 80-yards-plus scoring drives and completing two 2-point conversion passes.

You can't question Bentley's heart. With a brace on his knee, he took off to run for a first down, going airborne a la Stephen Garcia to pick it up on one of the scoring drives. Still, skill-wise he looked like the same Bentley Carolina fans have become used to seeing. Yes, there were six drops by the receivers, but there will plenty poorly thrown balls as well.

Bentley's confidence seems to be no worse for the wear when it could have been completely taken away from him on Saturday. Unless he takes a major step forward that no one sees coming, USC's offense is going to continue to be a source of frustration.