As SECN commetator and Heisman winner Andre Ware said before Saturday's game "I tell you what, when you turn the film on and you start to take a look at Jake Bentley, you cant help but excited about what he brings to the table for South Carolina." It's true.
Over at The Rubber Chickens, our friend Buck summed up nicely just what Jake Bentley gave us against Mizzou and in all three of his starts this season:
Bentley completed 22 of 28 passes (79%) for 254 yards and two 2 TDs, and has now completed 73% of his passes while averaging more than 200 yards per game in his three starts. Perhaps most importantly, he has six touchdown passes agains ZERO interceptions in 74 attempts. Of course he will eventually throw an interception, perhaps as soon as this weekend against the stout Florida corners, but what amazes me is I can’t think of a throw to this point where he’s even put the ball in significant danger.
Not to quibble, but I think Bentley's most dangerous pass so far was the 17 TD throw to Rico Dowdle that careened off of Mizzou's Eric Biesel - which was just a *tad* under-thrown ... and could have been picked had Beisel had his head turned.
But what a performance. What a second half of the season. It's like 2017 came early.
Well, the league office has certainly taken notice - naming Jake Bentley Freshman of the Week yesterday - his first award of SEC honors:
A lot of stomach acid was churned on these pages - and there was a blood-letting on the Boards - over whether Boom should pull Bentley's redshirt. I was firmly in the "no" camp until a pal offered the best reason I had heard to play Jake up to that point - we needed a spark to hold the 2017 recruiting class; something tangible on the field so that the recruits could visualize themselves playing for an offense that had been beyond anemic through the first half of the season. Win or lose after that point, we could still point to Jake and say "there is the future."
It was the gutsiest coaching decision in USC history. Period. Gutsier, even, than bringing back Kurt Roper as the OC. It's the kind of call that could be second-guessed for years. But it worked; no one can argue that point now. You have to tip your hat to Coach Muschamp.
And Jake has been more than just an iron infusion to our thin-blooded offense. He is pure Damascus steel. We're on the verge of bowl-eligibilty - with the critical, program-building fifteen extra practices that brings. We're getting positive media attention. There's excitement not dread in the stands when we take the field. And there is definitely a "Bentley Effect" on the recruiting trail.
Yes, yes. Deebo is healthy. Dowdle has emerged as a star. The OL is playing smarter. Other receiver weapons are emerging in Hurst, Edwards and Crosby. No one casts any aspersions on B-Mac or Perry Orth for their efforts or the two wins they delivered earlier in the season.
But Bentley is the real deal.
I've been watching USC football since the late '80s. We've had some talented guys play QB1 at Carolina in that span - Ellis, Fuller, Taneyhill, Wright, Petty, Garcia, Shaw and Thompson, to name a few. I've read about the guys before them in the modern era - Reeves, Suggs, Fair, Grantz, Bass, Harper and Hold, all leap to mind.
That being said, I've not seen anybody play under center for us like Bentley. Its almost like he embodies all of the best attributes of those top USC quarterbacks of old (and not so old) rolled into one - head, heart, vision, physicality, leadership, courage, game-management skills, playmaking-abilities, accuracy, touch, legs and pure joie de vivre.
Of course, Jake will have bad outings eventually. He will sooner or later throw a pick. He will lose a game. His "W" streak - like all streaks - must end at some point. There is nothing wrong with having to struggle; ask Coach Boom. We should not be afraid of adversity but embrace it.
But it's clear Jake is a winner. And, with luck and fortitude, he might just become the best quarterback to ever play for the Garnet and Black.
So congratulations on your first collegiate award, Jake. And thank you.