The South Carolina quarterback controversy has dragged into the regular season, as both Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain have seen significant time in the first two games of the year.
Orth got the start for the second-straight week, but the Gamecocks struggled mightily in the first half, failing to reach 100 total yards or get on the scoreboard yet again. Trailing 24-0 at the break, Will Muschamp handed the keys to the offense over to his early enrollee.
"We weren't doing anything in the first half, so we needed to change up," Muschamp said. "It's no different from changing a receiver or a running back or a tight end or an offensive lineman."
McIlwain's first play resulted in a loss of 15 after he was unable to reel in a high snap from senior Alan Knott.
"I just wasn't focused on it like I should've been," Knott said. He insisted that the quarterback change had no affect on the snap but admitted his recent hand injury might have played a minor role.
The snap derailed the freshman's first drive of the game, and the second one didn't go much better, as the Gamecocks travelled just 15 yards before a Sean Kelly punt. The third time proved to be the charm, however, as McIlwain engineered an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped off by finding A.J. Turner for an 18-yard score on 3rd and 12.
South Carolina would get the ball back with around nine minutes to play, trailing 27-7 in what was essentially the team's last chance to fight back. McIlwain faltered on that series, overthrowing all three passes and forcing another punt.
On his final possession, the freshman brought the Gamecocks 83 yards to pay dirt, converting two fourth downs, one of which came on the four-yard touchdown pass to K.C. Crosby.
In five drives, McIlwain led the offense to two touchdowns, going 11-22 for 126 yards and running for another 17. Orth had seven opportunities in the first half, leading the team to four punts, an interception, a missed field goal by Elliott Fry, and a fumble by Turner. The senior finished 9-17 for 83 yards, and sacks gave him -17 rushing yards.
Muschamp wouldn't tip his hand for how the competition will play out in the future, despite answering numerous questions about McIlwain's athleticism and playmaking ability.
"We need to evaluate that right now," Muschamp said when asked about potentially starting the freshman in the home opener against East Carolina next week.
"It was not one position's fault. It was not Perry Orth's fault the way we played," he added, in reference to South Carolina's lackluster first half.