The South Carolina Gamecocks got the bounce-back game they needed and kept their hopes for the season alive, outlasting the visiting Missouri Tigers for a 37-35 victory in a wet and wild edition of the Battle of Columbias on Saturday.
The game got off to a shaky start, as the Gamecocks went immediately three-and-out with new starting quarterback Michael Scarnecchia, who took the reins for an injured Jake Bentley. Missouri was quick to respond in just 1 minute and 12 seconds with a 45-yard strike to Jalen Knox, which set up Larry Rountree touchdown from the 1-yard line. The Tigers then tried to force the issue with an onside kick, but the ball didn’t travel the required 10 yards and the Gamecocks were able to set up shop in plus territory. Scarnecchia found Deebo Samuel on a slant for a 32-yard gain, then lofted up a 5-yard fade to Bryan Edwards in the corner of the end zone to tie the game.
After the teams traded punts, Missouri got on the scoreboard again with a six-play, 61-yard drive capped by a Damarea Crockett rushing score from the 2-yard line. At the close of the first quarter, the Tigers held a 14-7 advantage, aided mostly by 94 rushing yards.
Missouri opened the second quarter by adding a 22-yard field goal to push the margin to 17-7 after the Gamecocks were fortunate to come up with a stop inside the 5-yard line. South Carolina and Scarnecchia went back to work, marching down the field quickly thanks to a huge, 32-yard Samuel reception on third down that was followed by an incredible second effort and stretch for the goal line by Edwards for a 17-yard score.
With the score now 17-14, the Gamecocks forced a Missouri punt, but then turned it over on downs when their gamble in Tigers territory failed. However, the South Carolina defense came up with a stop of its own, forcing a 32-yard field goal after some busted coverages had let Missouri motor down the field. Now trailing 20-14, the Gamecocks stalled out again on offense, but stiffened again defensively to force another Missouri field goal attempt and close the first half with a 23-14 deficit.
Returning from the locker room, South Carolina’s defense picked back up where it left off, forcing a quick Missouri three-and-out. The Gamecocks then methodically drove down the field, converting on a fourth-and-5 thanks to Shi Smith to set up an 8-yard Samuel touchdown. With the Missouri lead now just 23-21, the Gamecocks looked to have seized momentum — until Crockett burst through the middle of the South Carolina defense for a 70-yard score. Upon review, however, he’d been pushed out of bounds around the 10-yard line, and a combination of pressure from the Gamecock defense and a handful of procedural miscues pushed Missouri out of the red zone and field goal range. South Carolina took advantage and also its first lead of the game on a 42-yard field goal by Parker White, his longest of the season.
On Missouri’s next possession and under a sudden rain storm in Williams-Brice, Drew Lock made an uncharacteristically poor decision and linebacker Sherrod Greene was there, hauling in an errant attempt to throw the ball away and carrying it 12 yards into the end zone to push South Carolina’s lead to 31-23. In response, Missouri quickly stormed down the field to once again reach the red zone, but the Tigers stalled again — and this time missed a 25-yard field goal.
After the wet and wild third quarter came to a close, the Gamecocks encountered a bad break of their own when Missouri blocked a punt to take over at the South Carolina 21-yard line. Rountree put the Tigers back on the scoreboard with a 2-yard rush, but a two-point conversion attempt failed to keep a slim 31-29 margin alive for the Gamecocks. Special teams reared its ugly head again, however, when Joseph Charlton mishandled a snap for a punt and allowed the Tigers to get the ball on the South Carolina 32. Missouri couldn’t quite cash in, but did regain the lead with yet another field goal to go up 32-31. On the Gamecocks’ next possession, White came through again with a field goal of his own, this one another impressive 42-yarder in poor conditions to put South Carolina up 34-32.
After the teams traded stops, South Carolina attempted a fake on a 51-yard field goal, but the resulting scramble came up short of the first down and Missouri took over on its own 29. Following a very long and very frustrating lightning delay, the Tigers attempted — and MADE — a 57-yard field goal to go up 35-34. Down to their last hope with about a minute left, Scarneccia guided the offense down the field and into range, with White drilling the game-winner from 33 yards out.
South Carolina improves to 3-2 (2-2 SEC) and will hang on to the Mayor’s Cup for a third straight year over the Tigers. The Gamecocks host Texas A&M at 3:30 p.m. next week.