Will Muschamp probably sees some of himself in Jake Bentley.
“He’s a battler,” South Carolina’s head coach said of his quarterback. “He battled his (butt) off and put us into a position to win” the Texas A&M game.
Battling is a trait much admired by Muschamp. It was probably his most valuable asset as a football player who worked his way from walk-on to defensive captain at Georgia. That shared attribute is one of the reasons Muschamp has been so loyal to Bentley as his starting quarterback.
Twenty-five games into Bentley’s career with the Gamecocks, it appears Bentley himself is reconsidering whether or not the style that made Muschamp a good safety is making Bentley a better quarterback.
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The subject came up following the Oct. 13 Texas A&M game, after which Columbia television network WLTX posted a video showing Bentley returning to the sideline following a touchdown and slamming his helmet violently into a chair and then celebrating with several defensive linemen. It’s worthwhile to remember that Bentley had been booed multiple times in the first half as South Carolina fell behind 16-0. After the Gamecocks rallied the tie the game at 16-16, they eventually lost 26-23.
The Gamecocks (3-3 overall, 2-3 SEC) didn’t play last week, giving Bentley extra time to ponder that moment on the sideline, and he now wishes he could take it back.
“I was just trying to get everybody fired up. It was something that looking back on it, I kind of wish I didn’t do,” he said. “It was probably some frustration built up, and I can’t let my teammates see that.”
Bentley has worn his emotions on his sleeve since he took over the Gamecocks starting job as a true freshman in 2016, and he’s acknowledged before that it hasn’t always helped his team. Heading into the 2017 season, he chided himself for not showing more emotion during disheartening 2016 losses to Florida and Clemson.
“I am more of an outgoing guy,” he said at the time. “The guys see me when we score a touchdown, I’m fist-pumping, but I have to be the same upbeat guy when things go bad. Just keeping that positive energy up is the big thing I need to work on.”
Now, he’s wondering if he needs to tone the energy down some.
“I have to be the same guy the whole game,” he said this week. “Motivation is temporary. We have to have the mindset to be fired up and be ready to go each and every play, each and every quarter. I have to be that even-keeled guy. If it’s going good or going bad, I want to be that guy that is consistent. Obviously, I’m an emotional guy. I get fired up more than some others, but I have to be able to control that.”
The Gamecocks have been a team of highs and lows during games this season. They have been outscored 97-75 in the first half this season, including 60-17 in the last three games, but have outscored opponents 64-27 in the third quarter, and former South Carolina quarterback and current Hammond School head coach Erik Kimrey suggested on his Fade In podcast this week that the team’s inability to find a consistent footing could be tied to its quarterback’s emotional highs and lows.
Bentley himself now seems to be coming around to that same conclusion, which could help an offense that is eighth in the SEC in yards per play (5.76). Bentley is ninth in the SEC in passer rating, with 1,151 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“We have showed that if we don’t stop ourselves we can be a dynamic offense,” Bentley said. “We have done a lot of stuff to stop ourselves. We saw over the bye week that if we don’t do that, this offense has a chance to go out and be something special. That’s something we want to show in the second half of the season.”