Michael Scarnecchia ready to contribute as needed vs. Texas A&M
During South Carolina’s team meeting on Sunday, Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp called senior quarterback Michael Scarnecchia to the front of the room.
“How many snaps had you played before Saturday?” Muschamp asked.
“Less than 20,” Scarnecchia said.
“I said, ‘You completed more passes Saturday than you played total snaps before this year,’” Muschamp said. “Some players get frustrated with where they are. This is a guy who has never complained.”
Scarnecchia signed with Gamecocks in 2014 and redshirted that season. He also redshirted in 2016, Muschamp’s first season, due to shoulder surgery. He threw one pass – a 9-yard completion – in the two seasons in which he played prior to this year, and he threw 12 passes in the first four games of this season.
“I’ve always stuck it out with South Carolina. I love this team and wanted to give it everything I had no matter what the situations were,” Scarnecchia said. “Things didn’t always go my way, but that’s all right because there’s a bigger picture and that’s the team. Once you realize it’s bigger than you, once you realize it’s about the team, it’s about helping South Carolina and the university any way you can, it’s a calming feeling. You are playing a bigger part in a bigger picture. That’s what got me through it.”
On Saturday against Missouri, Scarnecchia made the first start of his collegiate career in place of the injured Jake Bentley (knee). He responded by completing 20-of-35 passes for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and leading a late field goal drive in a 37-35 South Carolina win.
“You have to admire a guy who sat around for five years and finally got his chance,” former South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “He’s been a good soldier, a good teammate, has done everything right around there.”
Spurrier offered Scarnecchia a scholarship in 2014 after spending one day with him at a Gamecocks football camp. At the time, Scarnecchia had no scholarship offers and no one else on Spurrier’s staff believed they should offer one to Scarnecchia.
Scarnecchia and his father Ron had made the decision to attend that fateful USC camp at the last minute. He had already attended camps at LSU, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Syracuse and Arkansas State but didn’t have an offer to show for the trips. Spurrier was interested at first sight, though, and spent much of that day working with Scarnecchia in individual drills.
“He was a nice passer,” Spurrier said. “He’s not much of a runner, but he can throw the ball.”
Eventually, Scarnecchia ended up with scholarship offers from UAB and South Carolina and jumped on the offer from the Gamecocks. South Carolina had been recruiting Kentucky high school quarterback Drew Barker, a four-star prospect, much of that recruiting season only to see Barker chose the home state Wildcats. Highly touted in-state quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Jacob Park were also in that recruiting class, but South Carolina did not offer a scholarship to either.
That’s how they ended up with Scarnecchia, whose success on Saturday thrilled his teammates.
“Mike’s the first person that taught me how to play (the soccer video game) FIFA,” fifth-year linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams said. “I’m so proud of Mike. We always talked about being ready when your opportunity comes. I’m glad he was able to go show the world what he had.”
Allen-Williams’ initial memory of Scarnecchia is a good indication that he’s not a stereotypical college football player. He already has a degree in finance from USC and plans to enter law school when his football career is complete.
Almost all of Scarnecchia’s Twitter activity is centered around international soccer news, but on Aug. 23 he also retweeted a graphic from MarketWatch explaining why it is a good time to buy commodities. As he now somewhat famously mentioned after the Missouri game, he brings “homemade” peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the team’s facility instead of eating the ones provided by the team.
“I just use a 14-grain whole wheat bread with strawberry jelly and Smucker’s all-natural peanut butter,” he explained.
That kind of attention to detail served Scarnecchia well on Saturday. To recap the obstacles he faced: his first collegiate start, a nine-point halftime deficit, a driving rain storm in the third quarter, a long lightning delay in the fourth quarter, a Missouri defense that had had an open date before playing South Carolina and brought third down blitzes the Gamecocks had never seen on film and being handed the ball at his own 37-yard line trailing by two with 1:18 left in the game.
Scarnecchia credited a preseason presentation by Dr. Kevin Elko, who consultants many NFL and college teams on leadership, goal setting and motivation.
“He said, ‘See a little, see a lot. See a lot, see nothing.’ That really helped me because it really helped me focus in on what I had to do and not the big picture, who we were facing, the elements, just focusing on going down and getting the game-winning field goal for Parker (White),” Scarnecchia said.
Scarnecchia emerged as South Carolina’s solid No. 2 quarterback this spring. As four-star quarterback recruit Dakereon Joyner joined the roster, Scarnecchia’s play took a step forward, Muschamp said.
“That is where you saw him take a little bit of a jump as a player as far as having a little more confidence in what we do,” Muschamp said. “I thought he had a really good training camp. When he ran with our first group, we were productive.”
That didn’t change on Saturday.