USC Gamecocks Football

Hilinski shines, Gamecocks set records in rout of Charleston Southern

Ryan Hilinski leads USC to win in debut as Gamecocks QB

South Carolina freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski threw for almost 300 yards and contributed three touchdowns in his first game.
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South Carolina freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski threw for almost 300 yards and contributed three touchdowns in his first game.

It’s Charleston Southern. Middling, FCS, still-under-NCAA-probation Charleston Southern.

But for a South Carolina football fan base eager to put last week’s demoralizing season-opener behind them, the opponent hardly mattered. All that mattered was No. 3.

In his first career start, true freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski displayed all the poise, ability and accuracy Carolina could have asked for and more, leading the Gamecocks to a 72-10 thumping of CSU at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“Obviously you have to always take in the quality of the opponent, that’s something you always got to understand in where you are,” coach Will Muschamp said. “But I thought he handled himself extremely well for a first start. I’ve had defensive players and players that played other positions offensively, much less being the quarterback, have nerves walking out there in that environment. So obviously he handled the moment extremely well.”

And yes, the Buccaneers are worlds away from what awaits Hilinski and the Gamecocks (1-1) next weekend in national title contender Alabama. But the numbers are still among the most impressive ever for a South Carolina quarterback in his debut — 24 caught passes, 282 yards, three total touchdowns and an 80% completion rate.

That percentage was even better early on — Hilinski completed all 12 passes he attempted in the first quarter. Muschamp said afterward that the coaching staff wasn’t “spoon-feeding” the playbook to the freshman signal-caller, though none of his early throws went for more than 15 yards, and USC’s first three touchdowns all came on runs, one from Hilinski himself.

“Once I heard he was going to start this week, I think I was very excited because I know what he can do. And the rest of the world ... at the time they didn’t know what he could do. Now y’all know, but I just knew what the guy was capable of,” redshirt freshman quarterback Dakereon Joyner, who also rushed for a touchdown, said.

Once the second quarter started, Hilinski began to test some longer throws. A 17-yard strike set up his first career passing touchdown, a 10-yard slant to senior Bryan Edwards. On the very next drive, Hilinski found Edwards for a perfectly-placed 60-yard score to put South Carolina up 35-3.

“Ryan’s always been real calm, real cool. He’s always been outspoken, he’s never been afraid. I knew he wasn’t going to be rattled,” Edwards said.

“Anytime you’re a young quarterback getting thrown in the fire, it’s obviously good for your confidence to have a game like we did today. And I think that’ll help him going into next week.”

A couple more deep shots throughout the quarter missed their mark, but Hilinski added two more chunk plays on the final drive of the half to set up senior Rico Dowdle’s second touchdown run, putting USC up 44-3 at the break.

Midway through the third quarter, Hilinski threw his first career interception in the face of pressure, ending his day with the Gamecocks up 51-3. In his place, Joyner took over and led an almost exclusively rush-based attack, complete with a pair of long touchdown runs from freshman Kevin Harris and one from senior Mon Denson to punctuate the rout.

Defensively, USC gave up a 44-yard run in the first quarter that Muschamp mentioned several times after the game, as well as a late touchdown, but the Gamecocks also came up with three interceptions and limited Charleston Southern to less than three yards per play in the first half, before the starters came out.

“Very important” to have a good game, sophomore cornerback Jaycee Horn said. “ ... We were just thinking about the North Carolina game last weekend, our last impression with our fans. So we had to come back this weekend and definitely have a big game defensively.”

South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley supports his teammates ahead of the game against Charleston Southern on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, at Williams-Brice Stadium.


Star of the game: Freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski — could it be anyone else? The rookie led the team onto the field before the game and was ready for the spotlight. His enthusiasm showed throughout and he looked every bit the QB of the future.

Play of the game: That 60-yard pass from Hilinski to Edwards could hardly have been better placed to a more wide-open receiver. Given how much that haunted South Carolina last week, it was surely a relief to see for Muschamp.

Stat of the game: 775 yards of offense, a school record. The Gamecocks also set a school record with 493 rushing yards and scored the most points of the Will Muschamp era.


Who: Alabama at South Carolina

When: 3:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 14

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia


Greg Hadley: @GregHadley9

South Carolina vs. Charleston Southern box score

Charleston Southern






South Carolina






First Quarter

SC—Dowdle 3 run (White kick), 11:29

SC—Hilinski 4 run (White kick), 5:58

CCH—FG Braddock 41, 2:47

SC—Joyner 6 run (White kick), :06

Second Quarter

SC—Edwards 10 pass from Hilinski (White kick), 12:13

SC—Edwards 60 pass from Hilinski (White kick), 10:00

SC—FG White 47, 6:47

SC—Dowdle 5 run (kick failed), :34

Third Quarter

SC—K.Harris 1 run (Tommie kick), 11:00

Fourth Quarter

SC—Denson 57 run (Tommie kick), 14:34

SC—K.Harris 45 run (Tommie kick), 9:49

CCH—Jaq.Williams 3 pass from Malmgren (Braddock kick), 3:10

SC—K.Harris 75 run (Tommie kick), 2:35




First downs












Return Yards












Time of Possession




RUSHING—Charleston Southern, R.Harris 8-53, Earl 5-15, J.Chambers 4-5, Malmgren 1-1, Pohahau 1-1, Melvin 0-0, Wilson 4-(minus 1), (Team) 1-(minus 2). South Carolina, K.Harris 6-147, Denson 9-118, Dowdle 10-87, Feaster 6-64, Joyner 4-53, Edwards 1-15, S.Smith 1-5, Hilinski 1-4.

PASSING—Charleston Southern, Reid 1-3-1-2, Malmgren 11-13-0-77, J.Chambers 14-30-2-116. South Carolina, Joyner 1-1-0-0, Hilinski 24-30-1-282.

RECEIVING—Charleston Southern, Wilson 4-31, Jaq.Williams 3-45, Wall 3-19, Stephens 3-13, R.Harris 2-17, De.Jones 2-14, Reid 2-13, Chatmon 2-9, Ross 2-7, K.Brown 1-20, Caballero 1-5, Dunbar 1-2. South Carolina, Edwards 5-112, Markway 4-37, Vann 3-23, Feaster 3-19, O.Smith 2-28, Muse 2-22, Dowdle 2-16, S.Smith 2-13, Joyner 1-12, Toney 1-0.


Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.