A hit to his lower legs knocked South Carolina freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski out of Saturday’s game against Georgia, but how much it will affect him and the Gamecocks moving forward remains to be seen.
USC coach Will Muschamp, speaking after Carolina’s 20-17 upset win in double overtime, said he was unsure of Hilinski’s status.
“You know ... we’ll find out more. I mean, he was just not moving well enough to protect himself, and that was the reason why we took him out,” Muschamp said. “It was not that we feel like there’s any severe injury or anything. He just wasn’t moving well enough to protect himself, and the health of the student-athlete is the most important thing.”
Hilinski took several hard hits after throws throughout the first half and appeared to be limping on several occasions but kept returning to the field, helping guide South Carolina to a 17-10 halftime lead.
In USC’s second drive in the third quarter, however, he threw a short pass to senior receiver Bryan Edwards on third down. A moment later, outside linebacker Adam Anderson appeared to trip on an offensive lineman’s leg and fell into Hilinski’s legs, bending his left knee awkwardly.
The rookie signal caller immediately went to the turf and slapped the ground in pain. He was attended to by trainers and eventually helped off the field.
Anderson was flagged for roughing the passer on the play, and Muschamp was demonstrative on the sidelines expressing his anger. After the game, however, he declined to comment on the play.
Redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner took Hilinski’s place and threw for 39 yards on 6-for-12 passing. When asked if he would need to change or simply the offense for Joyner moving forward, should Hilinski miss time, Muschamp said he would not.
“Dakereon’s fine. He’s fine with everything we do. It’s no different than when you asked about Ryan (taking over),” Muschamp said. “I mean, it’s about finding out what they do best and what they’re most comfortable doing, and that’s what we need to do as far as those things were concerned. So we’ll drill down what we need to do when we know (Hilinski’s status) moving forward, which we don’t know that right now.”
With an ice pack strapped to his left knee, Hilinski did stay on the bench for the rest of the game Saturday, occasionally getting up to hobble over to the huddle and offer his teammates words of encouragement.
After the game, Hilinski, still limping, waited at midfield to greet Muschamp after the coach did an on-TV interview.
“I got your back coach,” Hilinski told Muschamp. “I’ll be back. I got you. We did it, coach.”
Several other players who went down at various points Saturday included Edwards, offensive lineman Sadarius Hutcherson and defensive lineman Aaron Sterling. Muschamp said all of them would be “fine” moving forward.