College Sports

Michael Scarnecchia reflects on 2018 Missouri game with pride, yearns for one more shot

The game that featured Michael Scarnecchia’s first and only college start took five hours, 13 minutes to complete. Of course it did.

What’s a couple weather delays when you’ve waited five years for an opportunity?

Scarnecchia pondered that and more immediately following South Carolina’s wild win over Missouri last season. A career backup finally got his shot — and delivered with a clutch performance that family, friends, teammates and fans wouldn’t soon forget.

The moment’s totality nearly brought Scarnecchia to tears.

“It showed me again the love I have for the game is very genuine,” Scarnecchia said. “Because when you’re practice all the time, you’re like, ‘Do I really love this, or is it just something that I do?’ When you actually get to experience a game, it solidifies the fact that I really do love this game that much and that love is something you can’t express unless you express it through playing.

“It was almost like a release.”

Scarnecchia is popular again this week. The former Gamecock quarterback joined Erik Kimrey’s podcast at River Rat Brewery on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, in between USC law school classes, he spoke with The State. On Saturday, he’ll be with friends to watch the Gamecocks take on Missouri.

That’s if Will Muschamp doesn’t grant his request to be on the team plane to the Midwest.

“I’m going to try and ask Muschamp to fly me out,” Scarnecchia said with a laugh, “but that’s probably a no-go. Might as well ask him, right?”

If anyone deserves a USC-comped traveling seat for this particular game, it’s probably Scarnecchia. He’s just 11 months removed from throwing for 249 yards, three touchdowns and leading an epic final drive that set up the winning field goal in the Gamecocks’ 37-35 thriller over Mizzou at rain-drenched Williams-Brice Stadium.

The details are still fresh in Scarnecchia’s mind. He was told the previous Sunday he’d be replacing an injured Jake Bentley. The biggest challenge that week in practice was establishing better chemistry with the first-team receivers. If there’s a play he wishes to have back, it’s the one where he was nearly intercepted by DeMarcus Acy late in the fourth quarter.

“Deebo (Samuel) slips and the DB almost picks it off,” Scarnecchia said. “Thank the Lord he didn’t pick it off.

“Turned out the linebacker that had been covering Rico (Dowdle) on the wheel route he was running didn’t cover him this one time. So Rico was wide open and probably would have scored a touchdown.”

Scarnecchia, though, recovered, two plays later, finding Bryan Edwards at the Tigers’ 16-yard line. Parker White kicked the Gamecocks to victory on the next snap.

Scarnecchia’s effort was praised afterward. Safety Steven Montac called it “amazing” and “sensational.” Muschamp said he was “extremely proud” of Scarnecchia.

But when his day in the sun (rain) ended, Scarnecchia went back to being No. 2 on the depth chart as Bentley returned to good health. Scarnecchia, despite some clamoring for him, only appeared again in mop-up time of USC’s 49-9 rout of Chattanooga on Nov. 17.

“I think I’ve established at least to the media and to the fans and to my teammates and coaches that I’m a big team player, so I’ll do whatever the team wants,” Scarnecchia said. “And obviously I respected Coach Muschamp’s decision that Jake was going to be the starter when he came back healthy. Obviously, I didn’t agree with it. I respected it. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.

“The locker room, I tried pretty much alleviating everything going on in the QB room because word was going on in the locker room who wanted to be the starter, word was going around social media, everyone knew what the deal was between Jake and I. So I tried making sure our relationship wasn’t going to be hindered because of what was going on or if it was going to be ruined because of Jake being a starter. I didn’t want to ruin anything because, to me, relationships mean more than playing.”

The competitor in Scarnecchia wanted another shot. The good teammate in Scarnecchia accepted the situation with grace.

But, man, that Mizzou game was fun.

“It’s an excitement that you can’t describe unless you play,” Scarnecchia said. “So obviously I love the game and I wish I could have continued playing, continued contributing to the Gamecock football team, but that obviously didn’t happen. But I’m happy with my career, there’s no regrets. There’s nothing that I wish I would have done differently.

“But of course I would have loved to keep playing.”

NEXT

Who: South Carolina at Missouri

When: 4 p.m., Saturday

Where: Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri

TV: SEC Network Alternate

Line: Missouri by 9.5

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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