Drew Lock was showered with cheers when he walked in David Vaught’s Introduction to Leisure Studies class earlier this week.
Lock, a true freshman at Missouri, did his best to keep a low profile after he was thrust into the starting quarterback role Tuesday when junior Maty Mauk was suspended along with backup left tackle Malik Cuellar.
“I went to Chipotle only twice this week,” Lock said. “I normally go like three or four times.”
There was, of course, no avoiding the spotlight Saturday when Lock took the field against South Carolina at Memorial Stadium.
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Surely, the ovation he received from the crowd of 66,751 dwarfed the one from class as Lock helped lead the Tigers to a 24-10 win in his first college start.
“It exceeded any expectations I had,” said Lock, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 136 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. “Growing up — Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, the Gamecocks — it’s kind of crazy to think, ‘Hey, we beat those guys today and I was the quarterback for the team that beat them.’”
Lock managed to avoid back-breaking mistakes, allowing Missouri — 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the SEC — to become increasingly conservative in the second half of the first Southeastern Conference game with two true freshmen as starting quarterbacks.
“He did a lot of good things,” MU coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s got a lot of ability. It was a lot of pressure to be under — playing in the SEC and delivering in a big game like this. That was the first time in 39 years as a coach that I’ve ever started a true freshman, so this was a real fun week for me.”
Perhaps it was after emerging victorious.
South Carolina’s Lorenzo Nunez didn’t fare as well.
He finished 15 of 24 for 172 yards and added 60 yards rushing, but threw three third-quarter interceptions.
The Tigers only cashed in one of those miscues, but it was more than enough as the the defense put up its third second-half shutout of the season.
Senior cornerback Kenya Dennis and senior safety Ian Simon snuffed out South Carolina’s first two drives of the second half with interceptions, but the score remained 17-10 as it had been at halftime.
That changed after redshirt freshman Walter Brady’s interception near midfield and a 22-yard return.
“He lobbed it up and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to come down with it. It’s right there,’” Brady said. “I just knew I had to make a play. We did a great job getting pressure on him and forcing a throw.”
Nunez panicked with Simon coming on a blitz and Brady’s return set up the Tigers’ offense with a short field.
Seven plays later, with a jumbo package that featured an extra offensive linemen and three tight ends, sophomore Ish Witter rolled into the end zone from 1 yard out for the only score in the second half.
It was the first rushing score by a running back this season.
Witter wound up with 17 carries for a career-high 98 yards, powering a rushing attack that generated a season-best 163 yards.
Missouri’s much-maligned run game also delivered the death blow, grinding away the final 6:42 after a penalty erased a South Carolina touchdown.
Gamecocks tailback Rod Talley scored on a 25-yard catch and run, which would have trimmed the Tigers’ lead to one touchdown, but junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper was flagged for offensive pass interference.
Cooper, who finished with game highs of nine catches and 102 yards, picked junior linebacker Michael Scherer, who was in coverage Talley slipped up the middle from the backfield.
South Carolina, 2-3 and 0-3, which finished with 298 total yards and went five of 13 on third down, went in reverse from there and was forced to punt.
The Tigers never gave the ball back.
“This week was an intense week of practice, because we really had to get to work to get back to winning,” said Scherer, who finished with a team-high nine tackles.
Missouri only managed 299 yards, playing conservatively in the second half, but did manage to go nine of 16 on third down.
After starting the game with a three-and-out, Lock led Missouri to the game’s first points.
He converted on fourth and 3 with a 9-yard run before hooking up with sophomore Nate Brown on an 8-yard touchdown pass four plays later.
Lock moved right and backpedaled to avoid the rush as Brown came across the middle.
With the ball still in the air, Lock pointed to the sky with both hands and continued jogging off the field.
Elliott Fry and Andrew Baggett traded field goals before South Carolina drew even on a fluky deflected touchdown.
Two plays after Terry Beckner Jr. was ejected for targeting, Nunez floated a ball toward Cooper with Simon coming on another blitz.
Tigers cornerback Aarion Penton leaped in front of Cooper but could only tip the pass to senior running back Shon Carson, who caught the ball around the 5-yard line and plunged in for the game-tying score.
Lock, who went 16 of 19 passes for 108 yards with both touchdowns in the first half, broke the tie and provided a 17-10 halftime lead with a laser-beam touchdown to Brown, who had six catches for 33 yards. The nine-yard strike zipped inches over the helmet of South Carolina defensive back T.J. Gurley, who had no clue the ball had been thrown.
SOUTH CAROLINA 10
TableStyle: SP-byperiodsCCI Template: SP-byperiods
MU: Brown 8 pass from Lock (Baggett kick), 7:19.
SC: FG Fry 34, 2:11.
MU: FG Baggett 21, 13:42.
SC: Carson 8 pass from Nunez (Fry kick), 9:20.
MU: Brown 9 pass from Lock (Baggett kick), 4:48.
MU: Witter 1 run (Baggett kick), 3:36.
TableStyle: SP-footballstatsCCI Template: SP-footballstats
Pnt/Int Ret Yds
RUSHING: South Carolina, Nunez 15-60, Da.Williams 9-40, Orth 2-7, Carson 8-5. Missouri, Witter 17-98, Hansbrough 11-43, Hunt 3-17, Abbington 1-9, Lock 7-0, Team 3-(minus 4).
PASSING: South Carolina, Nunez 15-24-3-172, Orth 2-5-0-14, P.Cooper 0-1-0-0. Missouri, Lock 21-28-0-136.
RECEIVING: South Carolina, P.Cooper 9-102, Adams 3-32, Heard 1-15, Markway 1-14, Belton 1-10, Carson 1-8, Da.Williams 1-5. Missouri, Reese 6-47, Brown 6-33, Hansbrough 3-9, J’.Moore 2-19, Leftwich 2-13, Hilton 1-9, Echard 1-6.