Missouri suffered one of the SEC’s worst losses of the season in last week’s 31-27 defeat to Indiana. The Tigers rebounded on Saturday with a 21-20 upset of No. 13 South Carolina. Here are three thoughts from the game:
1. Maty Mauk and Missouri owned the fourth quarter
The Tigers’ offense couldn’t get anything going for much of the night. Quarterback Maty Mauk and company compiled just 181 yards and seven points on their first 13 possessions. But everything changed in the fourth quarter.
Mauk engineered scoring drives of 68 and 51 yards, respectively, to give Mizzou the lead. The Tigers’ final scoring march featured two fourth-down conversions, including tailback Russell Hansbrough’s one-yard touchdown run with 1:36 to play. Missouri’s defense then stepped up to force quarterback Dylan Thompson and South Carolina into a turnover on downs to seal the result.
Through three quarters, Missouri didn’t look like a contender. But the Tigers stood tall in the fourth to improve to 1-0 in SEC play.
2. South Carolina’s defense looked strong -- for three quarters
The Gamecocks came into their meeting with Missouri allowing an SEC-worst 480 yards per game (6.8 per play). That unit looked much better than against the Tigers, but not when it counted.
South Carolina limited Mizzou to a 2-of-15 conversion rate on third downs. The Tigers averaged just 4.0 yards per play. Through the first 52 minutes, coach Gary Pinkel’s team found the end zone only once.
None of that made a difference. The Gamecocks’ defense couldn’t get it done in the fourth quarter. That’s when Mauk notched a 25-yard run and passes of 26 and 41 yards to help rally the Tigers to victory. South Carolina showed flashes of immense potential, but it didn’t get that effort for 60 minutes.
3. Where is the Gamecocks’ clutch gene?
Don’t we go through this every year with South Carolina? Coach Steve Spurrier has done a remarkable job in his tenure with the Gamecocks, but one thing has always eluded him: Bringing an SEC title to Columbia.
Last season South Carolina unexpectedly dropped a road game at Tennessee. The year before, it lost consecutive contests to LSU and Florida. Spurrier has lost at least two SEC games in each of his 10 seasons with the program. The league isn’t getting any weaker. So, have the Gamecocks reached their peak? And if not, when will we see the finished product?