South Carolina QB Bentley looking ahead, not back to Georgia
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley has an additional job this week.
While preparing for South Carolina’s upcoming game against Marshall, Bentley is making sure teammates have put last week’s loss to Georgia behind them.
“I continue to remind the guys that,” said Bentley, battered by the third-ranked Bulldogs in 41-17 loss. “To remind the guys to stay positive and understand that you can’t let one loss affect the rest of the season.”
South Carolina (1-1) looks to bounce back Saturday night at home against Marshall (2-0) of Conference USA.
The Gamecocks, who returned to the rankings at No. 24 last week, had pinned plenty of hope on surprising Georgia at home and continuing to build on their 9-4 turnaround season of a year ago. Instead, Georgia led 14-0 in the first five minutes and scored 21 straight points in the third quarter to blow things open.
Offensive lineman Blake Camper said the game was difficult, but easy enough to place in the past.
Camper, the 6-foot-8, 309-pound right tackle, said coach Will Muschamp’s message was nothing would change the loss to Georgia.
“All you can do is look at the mistakes that we made, correct them and move on,” Camper said. “That’s how life is.”
There were several areas of concern after last week.
South Carolina gained only 54 yards rushing while yielding 271 to Georgia. Part of the problem, Muschamp said, was the Gamecocks seeing called runs shift into passes in their up-tempo, RPO (run pass option) attack.
First-year offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon took the blame at halftime and told Muschamp he would be more hard-headed about sticking to run plays.
But once Georgia scored in the third quarter, South Carolina had little choice but to throw the ball to get back in it, Muschamp said.
Muschamp and McClendon discussed how things unfolded with the head coach quickly jumping in that South Carolina’s defense needed to make stops so the offense could have a chance.
“I said, ‘You can’t start shouldering blame on everything.’ You can’t do that as a coordinator,” Muschamp said. “I said it’s a team game and we’ve got to play better on the defensive side of the ball.”
Muschamp’s said some of the defensive lapses came from having the team’s sacks leader from a year ago, lineman D.J. Wonnum, out with a ligament tear in his left ankle for the next month. Another was just flat-out bad communication among defenders, the coach said.
Muschamp was troubled by the performance that he scaled back calls on defense entering the Marshall game, something he believes will give his players a better chance to succeed.
“The first thing you have to do as a coach is look in the mirror and say, are we doing too much? Because we had a lot of mental errors,” he said. “So we’ve scaled back.”
The Gamecocks are also dealing with what many programs in the Carolinas and Virginia are facing — the approach of Hurricane Florence. Projections call for the storm to make landfall north of the Palmetto State, rain and wind should affect many parts of South Carolina.
Muschamp has talked with athletic director Ray Tanner several times on the situation and is confident the game will take place on schedule Saturday night.
Marshall has a flight for Friday. If flying is too dangerous, busses are prepared to make the six-to-seven hour ride to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Classes at South Carolina are cancelled, and the football players are trying to take advantage of the time.
Bentley said he’d probably watch more film. Linebacker Sherrod Greene was attending a study hall to keep up with time missed in class.
All of it, Muschamp believes, keeps his team focused on what’s ahead.
“We’ve moved on,” he said. “We’re focused on Marshall.”