On Saturday Missouri beat South Carolina 34-14, the Tigers’ first win over the Gamecocks since 2015. That meant the silver cup would be spending the year in the Columbia in Missouri for a change, after a long stay in Columbia, South Carolina.
A dominant defense led the way for Missouri (3-1, 1-0 in SEC), which held South Carolina to just 30 yards of offense in the first half. The Gamecocks (1-3, 0-2 in SEC) scored only 14 points, and 7 of those came after the South Carolina defense intercepted a pass and returned it down to the 1-yard line. The great defensive performance came the week after South Carolina’s offense looked capable in a loss to Alabama.
Missouri’s defense scored twice, probably the two biggest plays of the game. The first was an odd play, when South Carolina’s freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski threw a pass that was batted back toward him. Standing in front of his own goal line, he attempted to just knock the ball down, but caught it just long enough to be ruled a catch, and his subsequent motion throwing the ball down and into the end zone was ruled a fumble. Missouri linebacker Cale Garrett wisely jumped on the ball just in case, and a replay ruled it was indeed a fumble and a recovery for a Missouri touchdown. That put Missouri ahead 7-0.
The second huge play was in the third quarter. South Carolina trailed 24-14 but was driving down near the Missouri goal line. It was third down, and seemingly whatever happened the Gamecocks would be able to make it a one-score game, with either a touchdown or a field goal. Instead, Hilinski threw a pass that Missouri’s Ronnell Perkins intercepted in the end zone and ran back 100 yards for a touchdown as the crowd at Faurot Field, scarcely able to believe their good fortune, roared. It was now a three-score game, and Missouri was well on its way to winning.
Missouri’s offense also chipped in, struggling at times but ultimately making some big plays to keep a comfortable lead. Quarterback Kelly Bryant started slow, but college football games are long, and he ended up having a pretty good day, throwing for 227 yards and two touchdowns and running for 77.
The 34-14 win felt like a breakthrough, coach Barry Odom’s first against South Carolina. It also signaled Missouri might be the team in the SEC East to challenge mighty Georgia, who spent their Saturday night earning a grinding win over Notre Dame.
Missouri is now 3-1 and started conference play with a win. The Tigers avoided stumbling in their SEC opener, and now they can continue to build momentum and likely accumulate more wins. October could be the month excitement gradually grows and the Tigers can advance further along in the division race.
Next up, Missouri has a bye week, and then the Tigers are back in action when they host Troy on Oct. 5.