Perry Orth will get a few pep talks this week, but he doesn’t feel like he needs them.
“Those guys, I feel like they believe in me,” said Orth, a junior who becomes South Carolina’s starting quarterback with Connor Mitch out because of a separated shoulder. “We have a lot of fun off the field, and I think I have a good relationship with everybody on the team, especially on offense. We are going to continue to bust it just like we’ve been doing.”
Orth and the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 SEC) take on No. 7 Georgia (2-0, 1-0) in Athens, Ga., on Saturday at 6 p.m. Barring a late change of heart and offensive shakeup by coach Steve Spurrier, Orth will be making the first start of his career.
“The first two weeks I prepared like I was going to start regardless of if I was backing up or not,” Orth said after taking over for Mitch in the second half of a 26-22 loss to Kentucky. “I have worked very hard to give myself the best chance to succeed, so I feel like I’ll just continue what I have been doing the first two weeks, and hopefully we will have a different outcome next week.”
The Kentucky game was the most extended time of Orth’s career. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Florida native transferred from Florida State College (not university) in January of 2013 and spent the next two seasons as a walk-on reserve.
He earned a scholarship in August despite losing the competition for the starting job to Mitch. After completing 13-of-20 passes for 179 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Kentucky, he is 16-for-25 for 203 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his career.
“It was a blessing to be out there,” Orth said. “I have been dreaming of playing at this level since I was 10 years old, and it was awesome to get a chance. I am going to continue to prepare as hard as I possibly can to help us win ballgames.”
His teammates will rally around him in that effort, junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper said.
“I will probably talk to him a little bit,” Cooper said. “Tell him to be confident out there. We just have to be behind him this week and encourage him and talk to him and let him know that he’s going into this game with his teammates behind his back.”
Orth’s passer rating of 151.6 is higher than Mitch’s 104 and ranks sixth in the SEC among current starting quarterbacks.
“Since Day 1, I have always believed in Perry,” senior running back Brandon Wilds said. “He’s a small guy, but he’s got a lot of heart. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Perry.”
Orth earns some of that in the film room.
“The best thing I think I do is the preparation during the week,” he said. “I am very comfortable with what I saw out there (against Kentucky). I watched hours of film.”
The Gamecocks gained 256 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per play with Orth at the helm in the second half against Kentucky.
“We had a lot of success as a team in the second half and we need to carry that over to next week,” he said. “We need to start fast and finish strong. The season is not over. It’s just one game. We have to bounce back and get ready to play the next one.”
GAMECOCKS at BULLDOGS
Who: USC (1-1) at Georgia (2-0)
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga,
Line: Georgia by 17