College Sports

‘He’s a true leader.’ USC gives Hilinski high marks after Alabama game, 2 starts

The 20th freshman quarterback to face Nick Saban’s Alabama since 2007 threw more times and completed more passes than the previous 19.

“Ryan,” said South Carolina senior receiver Bryan Edwards, “he’s a true leader. Any time we lose, he’s going to take the blame for it. I just told him, ‘You did a great job in your second start against a top five-ranked team.’”

The above message is what Edwards told Ryan Hilinski on the field at Williams-Brice Stadium following USC’s 47-23 loss to the second-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday. The lopsided defeat came despite an inspired performance from a rookie signal caller.

Hilinski, facing likely the best defense he’ll see all season, completed 36-of-57 passes for 324 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The yards are the fourth-most by a freshman QB against Saban’s Tide, ranking only behind the likes of Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (2018) and Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight (2013).

After two starts — one in a win over an FCS team and one in a loss to an FBS title contender — it’s clear Hilinski has made a positive impression on the Gamecocks.

“He looked composed,” said Edwards, who made a career-high nine receptions for 79 yards. “He was calm. He did a great job of leading and he just does a great job overall. I’m just really proud of him, honestly.”

Added senior center Donell Stanley: “I knew he’d get pressured a whole bunch, but he did well with that. He was composed.”

Hilinski has relieved the injured Jake Bentley by completing 69 percent of his passes for 606 yards, four scores and two picks in two weeks. He was sacked three times Saturday.

“Going against a really good secondary,” said Carolina coach Will Muschamp, “he made some tight throws and had some balls dropped when we had some opportunities to keep the chains moving.

“He hung in there and did a nice job.”

With the result well in hand, Hilinski found Kyle Markway for an 11-yard score to cap an 11-play, 76-yard drive. Only 11 seconds remained in the game.

“I don’t know if I learned anything about him today,” Muschamp said. “I felt he would play that way, I felt he would compete that way. And I’m real proud of his effort.”

NEXT

Who: South Carolina at Missouri

When: 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21

Where: Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri

TV: SEC Network Alternate

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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