Missouri football's bowl hopes come to an end in South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Last time Missouri visited South Carolina, running back Russell Hansbrough was the hero, punching in a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line in the game's closing moments, preserving the team's chance at an SEC East title. The team had no such hero in their most recent visit to the other Columbia.
After a 31 to 21 loss, the Tigers are no longer bowl eligible and sit at 2-7. It is the first time they have lost at least seven of their first nine games since 2000. With their seventh loss, they are no longer automatically bowl eligible.
The Tigers came out flat and paid for it. Dimetrious Mason fumbled the ball deep in Tiger territory and the Gamecocks recovered. Four plays later, they were in the end zone. The drive was capped by a six-yard sweep run by receiver Deebo Samuel. He burned the Tigers through the air as well, finishing the game with nine catches and 125 yards.
After a couple more sloppy possessions, the Tigers finally figured it out on offense. At the beginning of the second quarter, they marched 90 yards in less than two minutes. Damarea Crockett continued to show promise as a true freshman; his 29-yard scamper tied the game.
Missouri couldn't build on the momentum, though. On their very next possession, the Gamecocks reclaimed the lead as Rico Dowdle got behind the secondary for a 17-yard score. He ripped through the Missouri defense on the ground, going for more than 150 yards.
However, the Tiger offense answered as they, too, scored on their next possession. Ish Witter finished the drive off with an impressive 25-yard run of his own. The running game worked well for in limited action for Missouri in the first half; their two backs totaled 83 yards on 11 carries.
Following the Witter score, the Missouri offense taunted the South Carolina fan section located behind the end zone. A fan threw a water bottle on the field. Quarterback Drew Lock proceeded to pick it up and pour it over his face mask before discarding it on the sideline.
The offense's swagger didn't transfer to the defense. Once again, that unit allowed the Gamecocks into the end zone before the half. K.C. Crosby made a nice catch after the ball hit off linebacker Eric Beisel's back and scored from six yards out.
At halftime, South Carolina led 21-14.
Missouri came out of the second half running a more up-tempo offense and it paid off. In just 2:26, the team marched 72 yards and capped the drive off with a nine-yard touchdown to Kendall Blanton.
The up-tempo offense continued in the team's next possession, but Lock made an ill-advised throw into double coverage and was picked off at South Carolina's two-yard line. The Gamecocks then promptly went 98 yards for a score, going back up by a score. That was the turning point of the game.
Missouri's lack of defensive playmakers was apparent. An already porous defense lost linebacker Michael Scherer and defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. to torn ACLs and that left even more holes in a defense that was already allowing more than 30 points per game.
From the time the Tigers tied the game 21-21, the Gamecocks put their foot on the gas and didn't look back. They added 10 unanswered points and marched past Missouri.
The Tigers will host Vanderbilt at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday.