Every time South Carolina football players and coaches mention quarterback Michael Scarnecchia, they praise his intelligence. He has the sort of reputation a certain class of backups have: they understand the game, understand the offense and that would allow them to step up in a pinch.
Last weekend, Scarnecchia showed off that ability when he replaced an injured Jake Bentley and led the Gamecocks to a 37-35 win against Missouri. At the start of this week, one where it seems the Gamecocks will likely go back to Bentley, Scarnecchia was asked to apply that knowledge to a question vexing some outside the program.
What has caused Bentley’s struggles at the start of this season?
“As with any quarterback, things sometimes don’t go your way,”Scarnecchia said. “Sometimes it’s decision-making, yes, but we all make mistakes. I made mistakes in the Missouri game that could’ve went completely different. So sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.”
This season, Bentley has been relatively accurate, hitting 63.6 percent of his passes. His yards per attempt (7.0) isn’t that robust, and he tossed six interceptions across four games.
He quarterback rating of 131.1 is about where it was last year, a campaign in which he didn’t seem to take much of a step forward despite predictions he would.
Scarnecchia completed 57.1 percent of his passes in meaningful action at about the same number of yards per attempt. But he avoided any interceptions.
“Watching previous film, some QBs made decisions and they’re not intercepted or whatever they may be, I don’t think it has anything to do with his decision-making or level of play as a QB,” Scarnecchia said. “I think sometimes it’s just how it happens. Balls sometimes get dropped. Balls sometimes get intercepted that should be intercepted or shouldn’t be intercepted.”
Whoever plays against Texas A&M this weekend should have some kind of opportunity for success. The Aggies are allowing 8.7 yards per pass attempt and have intercepted only two passes in six games.
Scarnecchia could’ve been in position to be publicly disappointed with the prospect of returning to the bench so quickly. His day against the Tigers was as good as any USC has had against Power Five competition.
Instead, he spoke only supportively of Bentley.
“I wouldn’t knock his level of play,” Scarnecchia said. “I would just say, sometimes it just doesn’t go right.”