KEYS TO THE GAME
The key: Just as everyone — including the experts in Las Vegas, who set the over/under for the game at 71 — predicted, the first quarter featured a whopping three points. After South Carolina missed a 33-yard field goal, Missouri sophomore Tucker McCann delivered a 3-0 lead with a 43-yard field goal.
The key: Missouri made an unwise decision to boot a kickoff into Deebo Samuel’s hands and paid a hefty price when he zipped 97 yards for a touchdown. Drew Lock’s interception to begin the next drive compounded things.
The key: Lock went 4 of 9 for 95 yards in the quarter, marking the second quarter he misfired on more passes than he connected on. That includes two throws to the end zone before another McCann field goal.
The key: It appeared freshman cornerback Adam Sparks may have pushed into him, but sophomore wide receiver Johnathon Johnson’s muffed punt after a three-and-out kept South Carolina’s offense on the field for a back-breaking TD march.
Missouri key players
Sophomore running back Damarea Crockett had 18 carries for 97 yards before sidelined most of the second half with a bruised tailbone, MU coach Barry Odom said. Senior tight end Jason Reese, who turned 22 on Saturday, hauled in two passes for a game-high 88 yards with a 61-yard touchdown.
Defensively, sophomore Cale Garrett had his struggles, including when he bit on a play-action fake on Hayden Hurst’s 39-yard touchdown, but he also finished with a career-high 10 tackles.
South Carolina key players
Missouri bottled up junior receiver Deebo Samuel fairly well — only five catches for 45 yards — aside, of course, from the game-deciding kickoff return touchdown and a 25-yard jet sweep for a touchdown 30 seconds later.
Senior linebacker Skai Moore, who missed last season after neck surgery, finished with a team-high seven tackles.
Missouri finished with a respectable 423 total yards and 6.1-yard average per play, but the Tigers never got going with any tempo and managed a meager 13 points. That won’t win many games. Among MU’s 69 snaps, two were interceptions by junior Drew Lock, who finished 14 of 32 overall with at least four dropped passes in the mix.
South Carolina sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley finished a fairly pedestrian 18 of 28 for 187 yards with a touchdown. Plus, Missouri limited the Gamecocks to a 4.3-yard average and created four negative plays.
The sheer volume of special-teams miscues was shocking. Sophomore Johnathon Johnson failed to catch punts that rolled an extra 20 yards and muffed another catch. Penalties further hurt field position. There was a blocked field goal. Oh yeah, the game also turned on the Deebo Samuel’s kickoff return TD. Just awful.
The defense was better. Let’s start there. The tackling was better, and that group looked like a passable, though still not formidable, unit. But the offense never got untracked and special teams was a special kind of trainwreck.