COLUMBIA — Connor Mitch was released from an area hospital Tuesday and is convalescing at home from injuries that knocked the quarterback out of South Carolina’s game Saturday night, and will sideline him for several more weeks.
Mitch left the 26-22 loss to Kentucky with a separated right shoulder suffered in the scramble for a fumbled option pitch in the second quarter against the Wildcats. He spent several days in the hospital after a deep hip bruise suffered in the season opener against North Carolina became infected following Saturday night’s game.
The redshirt sophomore is “doing well,” according to team physician Dr. Jeffrey Guy. Mitch will be re-evaluated over the next several weeks for both injuries, though the shoulder separation could keep him out for six weeks or more.
“He’s in good spirits,” said head coach Steve Spurrier, who visited Mitch in the hospital Sunday along with quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus. “... They had to get him some IVs for the bruise, mainly. The bruise on his hip, his side, had some internal bleeding in there, so they had to keep him in a while. It could have been very serious. His shoulder separation is on his right shoulder. If it were his left, maybe he could play in two or three weeks, I think, but since it’s his throwing arm, shoulder, it will take a little more time.”
With Mitch out, former walk-on Perry Orth will start Saturday at No. 7 Georgia. Orth and quarterback Michael Scarnecchia also visited the hospital Sunday. Mitch won the starting job in a preseason competition over Orth, Scarnecchia and true freshman Lorenzo Nunez.
“So unfortunate what happened to him. I feel so bad,” Orth said. “A lot of people get caught up in that competition, and (ask), ‘Are you still friends?’ Absolutely, we’re best friends. I was his roommate for a year and a half in the dorms. First priority was going and checking to see if my friend was OK. This is not about football. I heard he had a hip infection, that’s no joke. I had to get in there and make sure he was doing OK.”
Orth passed for 179 yards and a touchdown in relief of Mitch. “The first thing he said to me was, he was proud of me for the way I came in and played against Kentucky,” Orth said. “He was happy for me. He just kept telling me, keep working hard, and hopefully Saturday will be a better outcome.”
Mitch isn’t the only USC player ailing. Spurrier said Tuesday that starting left cornerback Chris Lammons would likely miss a second consecutive game with a twisted knee suffered in practice last week. The sophomore started the final seven games of last season, and this year’s opener against North Carolina.
Lammons was replaced in the starting lineup against Kentucky by sophomore Al Harris Jr., who had a career-high six tackles in the loss. Defensive tackle Dante Sawyer (shoulder) also missed practice Tuesday.
Nunez, who made his USC debut by taking two snaps against Kentucky, could find his way into Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Georgia, Spurrier said. The true freshman is listed as Orth’s backup on the depth chart.
“It all depends on how the game is going, of course,” Spurrier said. “Lorenzo is a good player. He’s a good runner and a good passer. I think we have to use him somewhere along the line. He played a little bit last week. We were moving the ball with Perry, but we’ll get both of them available and sort of see how the game goes.”
Nunez entered the game for the final play of the first half, where the Gamecocks had planned to toss a Hail Mary from their own 44. The quarterback scampered for a 33-yard gain instead.
“He’s our Hail Mary guy, and he can run around a little back there,” Spurrier said. “To throw the Hail Mary, the quarterback has got to have about five seconds to give the players time to get down the field, so I told him, ‘You’ve got to run around now for a little while, dodge a few of them, and then throw it as far as you can.’ He came out there and there was nobody within 50 yards, and took off running. I don’t know if he could have reached the end zone, but ... at that time, anything sounded better than running a screen or draw play.”
USC’s depth chart for the Georgia game has Shon Carson listed as the No. 2 tailback behind Brandon Wilds. David Williams, who bobbled the pitch on the play where Mitch was injured and also had a few drops against North Carolina, is now No. 3.
“Shon, I think, his average per carry, he’s the best on the team right now,” Spurrier said of Carson, who has 111 yards and a touchdown on nine carries this season. “So, he has been productive when he gets the ball. Sometimes there was nothing there and he was able to make yards, so he deserves to be second. If we went by yards per carry, he’d be first.”
— David Caraviello