South Carolina survived one of the craziest games in recent memory on Saturday. The victory allowed the Gamecocks to keep a semblance of hope alive for the rest of their season. The 37-35 win over the Missouri Tigers had everything you could imagine. Will Muschamp’s team refuses to quit. They overcame another bad start, a potent Missouri offense, a few special team’s mistakes, a third-quarter monsoon, and a lightning delay to earn the victory. The Gamecocks did all of this with a career back-up running the show at quarterback. It was a wild day for sure, and one that the players on the field and fans in attendance won’t soon forget.
Will Muschamp’s Team Refuses to Quit
Michael Scarnecchia made his first career start against Missouri, and he made the most of his opportunity. The senior completed 20-35 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He also avoided the turnovers that have plagued Jake Bentley in the Gamecocks’ two losses. Scarnecchia was efficient and composed and did not look like a player taking meaningful snaps for the first time. Despite a conservative game plan that often forced him to deal with 3rd and long situations, he was able to protect the ball and lead six scoring drives. He also led a game-winning drive with only a minute to play.
Scarnecchia made quick decisions and good throws all game. He looked comfortable running the offense, including the up-tempo and RPO packages. Six different receivers caught passes on Saturday as the Gamecock offense totaled 377 yards. This was the first time since the middle of 2016 that a quarterback other than Bentley had taken meaningful snaps. After producing a win with his steady performance, Scarnecchia has earned the right to start next week.
Living Up to the Billing
In the off-season, much was made about all the talent Will Muschamp’s team had at receiver. While the wide-outs have made their share of plays, inconsistencies have quieted the hype they entered 2018 with. Bryan Edwards had his worst game in garnet and black last Saturday in Lexington, Ky. He dropped multiple passes, and he wasn’t the only one. Edwards didn’t sulk, however, and responded with a big game against Missouri. The junior had seven catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns. He did have two crucial drops on third down but made up for those in the fourth quarter. Twice on a drive late in the game, Scarnecchia looked to Edwards on key third downs. Both times, the Conway native made clutch catches in traffic to keep the drive going.
Deebo Samuel has not had the season most expected of him to this point. While he has been solid, the explosive play-maker has had too many drops and not enough big plays through the four games. His day against the Tigers was much closer to what was expected of him in 2018. Samuel had four catches for 88 yards and a score Saturday. He was finally able to get the ball in space and showcase his explosive open field ability. Missouri also hurt itself by trying to kick away from him in special teams, and for the most part that led to good field position for the Gamecocks. His 32 yard catch and run after a failed onside kick attempt by the Tigers set up the first score of the game. Samuel scored on an eight-yard slant on the first drive of the third quarter. Muschamp’s team needs Samuel to provide them with big plays, and the senior was finally able to do that on Saturday.
Not Quit in These Gamecocks
The resolve of this team continues to be on display. Coming off a disappointing performance in a loss to Kentucky, things were not looking good in Gamecock country. Fan unrest, mounting injuries, and inconsistent play on both sides of the ball had things looking bleak. Muschamp’s team didn’t give in to the turmoil and were able to scrap their way to a second SEC victory on the season. Carolina has more issues than expected before the season, but a lack of fight is not one of them. The rains began to pour down right as things looked worst, but the Gamecocks reveled in the adversity and rose to the challenge.
Freshman Jaycee Horn made the biggest play of the game, and it encapsulated Carolina’s refusal to quit. Missouri tailback Damarea Crockett burst down the sideline for what looked like a long touchdown run. Horn was relentless in his pursuit and was able to clip Crockett’s feet forcing him to step out of bounds at the 10-yard line. The defense stepped up following the replay review. Helped by a false start, a personal foul and a bad snap, the Gamecocks were able to hold Missouri without a point on that drive. Horn’s effort to chase the play down saved a touchdown and allowed Muschamp’s team to keep momentum on its side. A field goal drive and a pick six followed and Carolina had suddenly taken an eight-point lead. Whatever stretches of bad football this team plays, it is clear they will not give up. Horn also has four pass breakups and was named SEC Freshman of the Week.
Things were looking awfully bad for South Carolina. They had endured a game week filled with drama and negativity. They had a first-time starter under center, and Missouri racked up 300 first-half yards of offense. Down 23—14 at the half, they needed something crazy to happen. A forty minute downpour of sideways rain was just the kind of crazy they needed. Will Muschamp’s team embraced the bad weather and actually played better in it. Their career backup quarterback led a game-winning drive with less than a minute to go and the Gamecocks were able to move to 3-2 on the season.
With their backs against the wall, this team did not flinch. They have issues to work on in the coming weeks to be sure. What isn’t a concern is whether this team will fold when things go wrong. There is no quit in this team. Now they have to find a way to capture this momentum and move forward.