COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina football fans shouldn’t get too excited about Jake Bentley and his quest to become college football’s next great dual-threat quarterback.
The sophomore may be tied for the team lead in rushing touchdowns this season, both of which he had in the 34-27 win Saturday over Vanderbilt, but the dream is already starting to fade.
“We felt like there were a couple of designed [quarterback runs] that we felt like we could get on the perimeter, because the way their ends played and they didn’t overlap very well,” coach Will Muschamp said. “It’s something we’ve had, we used against Tennessee, we used it again today, but we felt like it worked well for us.”
Bentley’s 47 yards rushing were second only to A.J. Turner, who had a game-high 121 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
Defensive back Steven Montac said Bentley runs “like Mike Vick.”
Right tackle Zack Bailey was a little less sarcastic in his analysis of Bentley as a dual-threat quarterback.
“Sometimes I wish he would slide a little bit sooner,” Bailey said. “Every time he runs, it’s like the last second, he decides to slide, so it scares the [expletive] out of me — oops, scares me.”
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With a trip to Athens, Ga., up next on the docket, South Carolina’s quarterback must be willing to slide a little bit earlier, because Georgia’s defense is among the stoutest in the country.
The Dawgs entered the weekend with the No. 4 run defense in the country, though Florida did rush for 183 yards with 4.5 yards per carry on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla.
And it would be wise for Muschamp’s offensive staff to take the same approach it did during the weeks leading up to the Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt games, during which South Carolina averaged over 188 yards rushing.
“I think, first of all, our staff has done a much better job of identifying things that, going into a game, that we can do to run the football,” Muschamp said. “We’ve narrowed our scope, as far as what we’re trying to do in running the ball, so we’re able to run the same run and block all the different looks, because everybody nowadays plays 3-down and 4-down [linemen]. … But that changes an awful lot of rules in the run game and protections, so to be able to narrow things down.
“I think our guys are blocking it much better. Our backs have continued to run the ball extremely hard. We’ve given them more opportunities. We’ve taken some of the RPOs off Jake and made it where it’s a run, so there’s not a decision made on that. Again, I think it’s a credit, No. 1 to our staff and No. 2 to our players.
“They’ve been able to, in the second half of the last three ball games against SEC teams, to win the line of scrimmage. That’s what we need to do.”
Those type of outings make the offensive linemen happy, even if the quarterback is gambling with his own well-being.
“When we walk into meetings every single day, rushing yards is our focus,” Bailey said. “We’re tired of hearing the critics talk about our rushing and how we can’t rush.”
It helps that Bentley is willing to help shoulder some of the responsibility.
“Just realizing that trying to keep the defense on their toes, trying to help our running backs so much more,” Bentley said. “After I pulled it a few times, the next time, maybe it’s going to make a guy stop his feet for an extra second and allow our running backs to break an arm tackle.
“And just trying to have a little fun. Run it a couple of times and see what happens. It worked out for us today.”