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COLUMBIA - Saturday was a rough day for the University of South Carolina football program.
The Gamecocks lost a matchup to North Carolina 24-20, but more importantly, they lost their starting quarterback.
Jake Bentley hurt himself on the final play of the game with UNC, sliding awkwardly on the turf. He's been diagnosed with a Lisfranc injury, a sprain in his foot.
USC is getting second opinions on its quarterback, but it's not looking good for the senior. They'll know later in the week if surgery is needed. If it is, he'll miss the season. If he can rehabilitate the injury without surgery, he'll likely be out six to eight weeks.
"It hurt for Jake, his senior year," said head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "He's given a lot to this program, and he's an outstanding young man, exactly how you want someone to represent the University of South Carolina."
In the meantime, the Gamecocks will turn to a pair of quarterbacks to spell Bentley in Saturday's contest against Charleston Southern. True freshman Ryan Hilinski will get the starting nod for USC, while redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner will also see some snaps at the position, while also spending time at wide receiver.
"Ryan will be the starter and Dakereon will play," said Muschamp. "(Joyner is) still going to play some quarterback snaps; we've got some things that he'll do there. He'll also continue to play wideout and Ryan will be the starter.
"I've got all of the confidence in the world that he's (Hilinski) going to do an outstanding job. He's prepared himself for this opportunity. Man up, man down; that's our mentality and hopefully we'll move forward."Quarterback isn't the only place Muschamp is making changes this week after the disappointing loss in Mack Brown's first game back as UNC's head coach. After a tough game by the offensive line, USC is switching up its lineup.
Donell Stanley will slide back to his regular position at center, while being flanked by a mix of Jordan Rhodes, Eric Douglas and Jovaughn Gwyn at guard. Muschamp hopes the changes will help improve some communication issues they had on Saturday.
"As much as anything, we got too much push in the middle," said Muschamp. "We had a lot of push in the middle, and that was very difficult to step up in the pocket and difficult to get the ball further down field, which we had planned coming into the game. It throws you off rhythm as far as routes and things are concerned in the passing game. I would say the same thing in the running game."
Defensively, USC struggled with its tackling. It was an issue that Muschamp didn't really anticipate coming into the season, and he plans on putting in a lot of work to clean up.
"We didn't have any issues in training camp that I felt like were major issues there," said Muschamp when asked about tackling. "All teachable moments to go back and look at. I thought their backs ran hard and were good backs, but we're going to face good backs all year. That's part of it, and we're going to continue to work."
Muschamp's seat got a little bit warmer after the loss to UNC. He's not really worried about what people on the outside are saying about him, but he is definitely worried about figuring out what they have to do to start winning football games.
"You know what? We're pissed off too," said the USC head coach. "As coaches, as staffs, we're in a little bit of a bunker mentality. I don't read your articles or podcasts or whatever you do, so at the end of the day, it's about what do we need to do to win and let's try to rally to win games. That's what we're going to do as a staff, that's what we're going to do as a team and what we're going to do as an organization to help us win games."
The Gamecocks got hit in the mouth right out of the gate this season but, as Stanley pointed out during media availability on Tuesday, the low points can be great teaching moments as they work to climb out of an early hole.
"It's the game of football. I was just thinking, I went to church the other day and the guy he was talking about mountains and valleys," said the redshirt senior. "We're in the valley right now. You find out who your true friends are in the valley and you learn a lot about yourself in the valley. When you're on the mountain, everything is going good. We're in the valley right now, but we've got each other. It's dark, it's cloudy, but we've got to get out of it. We've got a long season ahead."
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