Published September 23, 2012 - 6:45pm
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That’s how road games feel in the Southeastern Conference.
Get used to it.
Through three quarters Saturday, Missouri’s vaunted hurry-up spread had seven first downs and a slew of three-and-outs at South Carolina. Quarterback James Franklin was noticeably rattled in a raucous environment, the Tigers’ run game never got going against a fierce defensive front and Mizzou looked downright deflated most of the afternoon. As for the Tigers’ secondary, a unit with a number of ballhawks that was scheduled to slow down Steve Spurrier’s passing game?
It was exposed after allowing Connor Shaw to have a career effort as the junior quarterback completed his final 20 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Mizzou was particularly sloppy on special teams as well, giving up big gains in the return game that set up Gamecock scores.
It wasn’t the effort Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel expected in his second SEC game after his Tigers were competitive in a Week 2 loss to Georgia.
“I was very disappointed in how we played,” Pinkel said.
Shaw, whose played sparingly this season, did what he wanted to in Mizzou’s second spotlight game of the season. He showed poise from the pocket, touch on his throws and a command of the huddle. To put in bluntly, the Tigers — a 9.5-point underdog — were never in the game. South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore didn’t have many holes, but found enough room to score two touchdowns and pick up 145 yards of total offense on 28 touches.
Lattimore’s first score, a 2-yard plunge in the second quarter, was his 33rd rushing touchdown in school history — a new record.
Mizzou’s 255-yard effort was a season-low for the Tigers, a disappointing total in a contest some writers — including myself — thought Missouri could win. Mizzou’s makeshift offensive line, plagued by injuries, had little answers for the Gamecocks who brought little pressure much of the afternoon. South Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing stressed the importance of his front four’s pass-rush prior to kickoff.
“If we can bring pressure with four, that’s what we’ll try to do,” he told a local radio affiliate.
Rushing four, led by ends Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney, allowed South Carolina the opportunity to drop seven in coverage and blanket wideout-heavy sets. The Tigers rarely took shot down the field and couldn’t exploit a height advantage they had on the outside with little or no time to throw.
Missouri’s TJ Moe blamed his team’s lack of offense on dropped passes and failed chances. It looked more like the Tigers hadn’t expected South Carolina’s defense to be so quick and athletic to the football. Missed tackles have been a concern for the Gamecocks during the first month of the season, but that wasn’t the case Saturday. Linebackers wrapped up, swarmed Kendial Lawrence and knocked Missouri’s no-huddle off its course.