Probably the best storyline coming out of the Furman game was defensive lineman Michael Washington. Washington, a 27-year old redshirt junior from Allendale, South Carolina, made his way to the Gamecocks after a four-year stint in the Marines.
He made a huge play at a crucial point of the contest when he recovered a fumble after Furman got the ball deep into South Carolina territory. Furman was looking to tie the game near the end of the first quarter, but that play changed everything, and the Gamecocks didn’t look back from there.
Washington came out of high school slated to play safety at NC State but then decided to enlist in the military instead. After serving, his journey took him to USC Aiken and South Carolina State before he became a Gamecock. Washington found out he was starting on Friday before the team went to its hotel and said he had the “BGs,” short for what he calls “bubble-guts” or nerves. He added that the years in the Marines helped him as a football player.
“It helped me be more of a team player,” Washington said. “Coming out, I was kind of a ‘me’ player and going to the military, you do a lot of teamwork. It helped me out a lot.”
Race for No. 2 QB—
As expected, both redshirt sophomore Perry Orth and redshirt freshman Connor Mitch saw time at quarterback with a commanding lead in hand. The results were so-so, as each was at the helm for two drives.
Orth was the first to step in behind redshirt senior Dylan Thompson, entering the game midway through the third quarter on a drive Thompson started. His one passing attempt on that drive was originally ruled an interception but got overturned, and the Gamecocks kicked a field goal.
Mitch also helped lead South Carolina to a field goal. He got pummeled a couple of times, once on a sack where he tripped getting into his drop and again on a designed quarterback draw where he was stopped well short of the end zone. Orth went 0-for-2 Saturday and got sacked once, while Mitch went 2-of-4 for 19 yards. It’s still hard to judge who the front-runner at backup quarterback is, since the second-string offensive line did not give either player too much time to throw.
“It was exciting, you know, to wait six games. You got to know your role — whatever it takes to help the team win,” Orth said of his time on the field. “It was a blast to get out there, finally.”
Junior wide receiver Shaq Roland returned after not playing against Kentucky due to missing a meeting in the week leading up to the game. He scored the first touchdown of the game after hauling in a 14-yard pass from Thompson and had two catches for 45 yards on the day. Roland has maintained a rocky career at South Carolina so far, and through the six games he’s played in, he has just 17 catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Still, his presence in the aerial attack could have benefited the Gamecocks against Kentucky.
Washington got much-needed game experience on a defensive line that is pretty banged up. Redshirt juniors Cedrick Cooper and Mason Harris missed the Furman contest with an ankle injury and knee injury, respectively. Redshirt freshman David Johnson also did not dress because of a knee injury. Redshirt senior J.T. Surratt left the game Saturday with a strained hamstring. It’s a good thing the Gamecocks have some depth on that line, because as defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said, they’re “dropping like flies.”
Additionally, sophomore linebacker Jonathan Walton left against Furman with a concussion while true freshman linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams missed the game completely with a concussion. On the offensive side, senior tight end Rory Anderson strained his left tricep on Saturday, which isn't the same one he tore in spring practice.