So, it finally happened, but if you were looking for a clear answer, you’re still searching.
Perry Orth and Connor Mitch each played on Saturday, answering the long-running question of who Dylan Thompson’s top backup is, but each was hit-and-miss. Orth entered first, nearly threw an interception on his first pass attempt and finished 0-for-2 with minus-13 yards rushing. Mitch was 2-for-4 for 19 yards, took one sack and rushed three times for minus-3 yards.
So who’s the backup? The answer seems to still be the unnamed third option – Pharoh Cooper in the wildcat package.
“We had no idea who would go first or who would get more playing time,” said Orth, who also said he had no idea why he won the chance to be the first man up.
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“(coach Steve) Spurrier chose who he wanted to,” Mitch said through a laugh. “Just got to go with it.”
Each did get to play, which was the biggest goal. Nobody wanted to think of Thompson getting hurt and having to turn to an untested quarterback, especially when it’s not as simple as handing the ball off on every snap. With the Gamecocks’ defense being what it is, USC might have to get downfield quickly in future fourth quarters, and as good as its tailback rotation is, the Gamecocks can’t solely ride it in those situations.
But there is still no set decision on who’s No. 2 and who’s No. 3. If anything, the process is more jumbled.
“It wasn’t all their fault,” Spurrier said. “They didn’t have a chance on some of the plays we had called.”
Mitch seemed to be better equipped to run the system that enabled three consecutive 11-win seasons, with his ability to extend drives with his legs. It was something that Connor Shaw did so effortlessly – often against the play that was called – that defenses never knew what to expect.
Orth seems to have a better grasp of the offense but didn’t look particularly good running it, and this was against an FCS team (to be fair, an FCS team that is pretty good at pass defense).
Mitch is the future, at least until Lorenzo Nunez enrolls or Michael Scarnecchia has a terrific spring. Orth has two seasons remaining, but it’s difficult to imagine a walk-on rising over scholarship QBs for significant playing time.
So, the Gamecocks will head into one more game not knowing what will happen if Thompson goes down. You’ve heard of “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain?”
USC still doesn’t know who its Sain is.