The pieces just fit.
Max Shortell is still working through a knee injury. Eli Jenkins came out Saturday’s game with sore ribs and gave way to a productive West for the final two and a half quarters.
Considering the Gamecocks (6-2, 2-2 Ohio Valley Conference) play a severely challenged winless Austin Peay team, they probably could get by without playing Shortell and keep Jenkins in reserve.
It’s not Clark’s nature to disclose anything that might provide an opponent a competitive advantage. Even so, the thought of starting West has crossed his mind.
“I think it is a possibility,” he said. “We don’t know about Max, how we’re going to push him. Eli, we think he’s going to be back; I think he’ll be ready. But (West) is in the mix.”
West entered the game with 7:19 left in the second quarter, played the rest of the half and the entire second half in a 34-14 win at Tennessee Tech.
Shortell hurt his right knee in the Tennessee State game two weeks ago. He dressed for Saturday’s game (brace included) and participated in pre-game warm-ups, but the coaches decided he wouldn’t play. Jenkins left the field after taking a shot in the ribs and didn’t return, leaving it all in the hands of West.
“We could’ve played (Jenkins), but I don’t know if he could’ve functioned at the rate we wanted,” Clark said. “It wasn’t dire and he wasn’t 100 percent. We want them to be tough, but we want to be smart.”
It’ll probably be two days into the practice week before the situation solidifies.
In terms of Shortell’s availability, Clark said if the Minnesota transfer is not 100 percent “we probably won’t play him this week.”
It wasn’t like West went in the game and the Gamecocks hoped for the best. He has played in five of the previous seven games and has drawn raves for his execution in the two-minute offense.
In his most extensive action of the season Saturday, he directed the Gamecocks to 265 yards of offense in 51 snaps. He led them to touchdowns on his first two possessions and, after a conservative lean much of the second half, a touchdown on his final full possession of the game.
He completed 11 of 17 passes for 138 yards and the first two touchdown passes of a career -- a passer rating of more than 170 points. For the year he is 21 of 35 for 258 yards.
“You’ve got a guy who came in and proved himself yesterday,” Clark said. “He really played well. He is in that mix to have that opportunity and did it in the game.”
Whoever starts at quarterback, the Gamecocks should be prohibitive favorites in the game.
Austin Peay has scored only four touchdown and 40 points this season. The Governors (0-8, 0-4 OVC) rank 120th or worse out of 122 FCS teams in total offense (120), passing offense (120), passing efficiency (120) and scoring offense (122). They are 100th in total defense, 111th in rushing defense, 118 in scoring defense and 119th in pass efficiency defense.
They are coming off a 38-14 loss to Tennessee-Martin that featured their third different starting quarterback in the last three games. Freshman Timarious Mitchell completed 12 of 26 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
“We have 23 seniors and the clock is ticking on those guys,” Govs coach Kirby Cannon said. “I want to salvage something from this season and see if we can’t just go out and win a ballgame.
“I don’t just want to get a few pats (on the back) for playing hard for 60 minutes; that should be given in a real good program. That should put us in a situation to win one.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.