Scarnecchia delivers in first big opportunity
Mike Scarnecchia admitted with a smile after South Carolina’s two-point win over Missouri the activity on his phone has been “hectic.”
He laughed about it, but why shouldn’t his phone be buzzing off the hook with congratulatory messages on his first career win?
Scarnecchia, who admitted he found out not long before kick off he’d start for an injured Jake Bentley, braved a torrential downpour to lead the Gamecocks on a second-half comeback over Missouri capped by a last-second field goal.
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“We have confidence in Mike. We’ve always had confidence in Mike,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s never been asked to do it on that stage, but he performed extremely well. You think about being a first time starter in that weather, that’ a pretty daunting task. He did a fantastic job.”
Scarnecchia’s numbers aren’t otherworldly but show the story of a quarterback who played almost mistake-free football in mucky conditions to lead his team to the win.
He completed just over 57 percent of his passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs for the fifth-year senior that had 13 career passes before Saturday.
With the Gamecocks down by nine at half, Scarnecchia orchestrated the second-half comeback with 17 third-quarter points, which included a eight-yard touchdown pass to Deebo Samuel, and stitched together a nine-play, 53-yard drive to set up the 33-yard game-winning field goal.
He wasn’t nervous going out for his first-ever start, saying some of the team’s guest speakers helped calm him down before going out there for Saturday’s game.
(He) talked about, ‘See a little, see a lot. See a lot, see a little.’ That really helped me really focus in on what I had to do,” Scarnecchia said. “I focused on what’s important, and that’s going down the field on that final drive and getting the game-winning field goal.”
His play impressed his teammates with Steven Montac calling it “sensational” and Sherrod Greene saying matter-of-factly that he expected a performance like this from one of the longest-tenured players on the team.
Scarnecchia was sporting a smile after the game and looked calm, coming a long way from being a freshman dreaming about making plays at Williams-Brice.
“He was the first guy that taught me how to play FIFA,” Bryson Allen-Williams said. “I remember being in West Quad back when we used to stay in West Quad over the summer talking about being able to make big time plays for South Carolina. Just to see that come true, I’m so proud of Mike.”
Scarnecchia’s road at South Carolina has been a weird one that paid off on Saturday. One of the last holdovers from Steve Spurrier’s team, Scarnecchia survived a few bad seasons, a coaching change and a shoulder injury before finally getting his shot.
It’s not how he wanted with Bentley getting injured, but he made the most of it.
The starting quarterback spot is still unsettled with Bentley’s injury status unknown heading into this weekend, but whatever happens Scarnecchia has Saturday to fall back on and knows what ever happens is best for the team.
“Once you realize it’s bigger than you and it’s bigger than what you make it about yourself, you realize it’s about the team and the university any way you can, it’s a calming feeling,” he said. “You’re playing a part in a bigger picture. That’s what’s gotten me through it. I only understood it after my shoulder injury where I was out for a year where I finally realized it’s bigger than this.”
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