Mizzou football: 5 things to like about the Tigers' win over South Carolina
For the 2nd straight season, Mizzou went home with the Mayor’s Cup, this time after beating a Mitch Muschamp-less South Carolina Gamecocks squad, 17-10 on Saturday.
It didn’t look pretty, but a win is exactly that — a win — and Mizzou is now at .500 as they prepare for the Battle Line Rivalry next Saturday against Arkansas (3-5), a team they have beaten the past 4 games.
While the Tigers eye the Razorbacks, we’ll look back at the win. Here are 5 things to like in Mizzou’s victory over South Carolina.
Mizzou didn’t let Kevin Harris and Shi Smith get going
South Carolina has 2 players who are considered among the best at their positions in the SEC in running back Harris and Smith, a shifty wideout. Mizzou fans knew if the Tigers limited those guys on Saturday, good things would happen.
The defense did just that.
Harris rushed for just 58 yards and averaged 3.6 per carry without finding the end zone. Smith was hurt on the Gamecocks’ 1st drive of the game and didn’t return.
With those 2 being non-factors, South Carolina’s offense didn’t do much and tried both Collin Hill and Luke Doty at quarterback. Doty was the one who made the 2nd half quite interesting and moved the ball.
Keep in mind that this was a Mizzou defense that wasn’t near 100 percent. It was missing several players who have started at least 1 game this season, including D-linemen Trajan Jeffcoat, Markell Utsey and Kobie Whiteside and 2 defensive backs who have played a lot of snaps this season in Adam Sparks and Ishmael Burdine.
The Nick Bolton-led defense won the game
While the offense was shut out in the 2nd half, Mizzou’s defense defended the lead and played well all night. It’s not a surprise that the one who was leading the charge was Bolton.
Bolton once again proved he is among the best linebackers in the SEC. He finished his night with a game-high 14 tackles, 2 for a loss, and was a straight-up disruptor for everything the Gamecocks wanted to do on the ground. They rushed for only 114 yards and 3.2 per carry.
Nick Bolton hates your run game pic.twitter.com/4YJ4nhmBzP
— Represent Mizzou (@RepresentMizzou) November 22, 2020
Yes, South Carolina’s program is in a bad place right now. It’s without a head coach, had 2 star players on its defense opt out for the NFL Draft last week and has quarterback issues. But Mizzou’s defensive performance was impressive.
And when it became clear that Mizzou wasn’t going to have defensive coordinator Ryan Walters because he was back home due to contact tracing, that performance became even more special. Credit to assistant David Gibbs, who was calling the defense in the game.
Eli Drinkwitz’s offense did just enough to win the game
While Mizzou’s defense played winning football for 4 quarters, the offense did for only 2 — but it turned out to be enough to get the victory.
The Tigers had 212 total yards at halftime, passing for 140 and rushing for 72. Knowing South Carolina’s defense was without star corners Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu, quarterback Connor Bazelak wasn’t shy about testing their replacements when he saw single coverage.
Bazelak tossed a beautiful 20-yard touchdown pass to wideout Tauskie Dove in the opening quarter that gave his team a 7-0 lead. It was a good read against 1-on-1 coverage, and an even better catch by the redshirt sophomore from Texas. Dove is a guy who is flashing his skills, and that might earn him more playing time.
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) November 22, 2020
Bazelak also led a 10-play, 56-yard drive that resulted in 3 points to end the 1st half. That drive started with just 1:29 left on the clock, and Bazelak calmly nickel-and-dimed the Gamecocks defense with accurate passes of 5, 7, 6, 7 and 3 yards. He converted 2 3rd downs with his arm on that drive and even ran for a 1st down on a 14-yarder. It was a great drive for the redshirt freshman, and the 20-yard field goal by Harrison Mevis turned out to be very important.
Mizzou’s offense had its own problems with depth along the offensive line, and being held to just 89 total yards in the 2nd half was alarming. But as a whole, it did what it needed to do in the 1st half. It wound up being enough thanks to the defensive effort.
Larry Rountree rises in the record books
Mizzou’s rushing attack gained just 98 yards on the night. Drinkwitz would be the first to tell you that’s not good enough.
But it had to be a special night for Rountree, who, 19 rushing yards into his 58 total, became the 2nd-leading rusher in program history and 1st among running backs. He currently sits at 3,283 and is behind only quarterback Brad Smith, who had 4,289.
Take a bow, Grant McKinniss
Mizzou’s punter came to play.
McKinniss was clutch on Saturday as he had 7 punts for 305 yards. The best punt was his last, as he pinned South Carolina on their own 1-yard line with less than 3 minutes left.
Pinning Doty at his own 1 was exactly what Mizzou wanted, and it paid off big time when the inexperienced quarterback, who did make some impressive backyard plays, threw an awful pass right into the hands of Mizzou linebacker Devin Nicholson to end the game.
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) November 22, 2020
Nicholson got to wear the turnover robe, and he left it on while the teams met on the field after the game.