That layoff didn’t cause any problems for Missouri.

The Tigers built a three-score lead at halftime on the strength of a defense that held South Carolina to just 68 yards of total offense, and hung on for a 17-10 victory after some white-knuckle moments down the stretch. The Gamecocks were 2-for-8 on third down in the first half. The second half was a different story as the Gamecocks got a spark from freshman QB Luke Doty, and the South Carolina defense found some answers for the Missouri offense.

After that defense held the Tigers, Doty faced a drive that started at his own 1-yard line with 2:37 remaining. He appeared to find some early success, but then threw an interception with 53 seconds remaining to Missouri’s Devin Nicholson.

In the first half, meanwhile, the Tigers had 140 passing yards by halftime and scored on three of their first six drives. They averaged 5.4 yards per play in the first half. But the Tigers struggled in the second half with less than 15 yards gained on three of their first four drives to start the second half.

For the Garnet and Black, the first game this season without coach Will Muschamp on the South Carolina sidelines yielded many of the same issues that led to his firing. One main difference was the Gamecocks didn’t have WR Shi Smith for much of the first half, after he suffered an apparent injury midway through the first quarter. Smith walked gingerly to the injury tent midway through first quarter, and later went to the locker room.

Without Smith, the Gamecocks offense struggled mightily and had just 28 yards at the end of the first quarter.

Doty entered for the second time in the second half, and led the Gamecocks to their first points of the night, a Parker White field goal with 10:13 left in the third quarter. Doty then engineered a 13-play, 77-yard scoring drive capped by a Deshaun Fenwick touchdown with 4:59 left in the game. The freshman dual threat QB started 9-for-16 passing for 93 yards. He replaced Collin Hill, who was 6-for-10 passing for 39 yards in the first half.

Yet it was a remarkable effort by the Tigers, who traveled to South Carolina with less than the 53 scholarship player limit yet the Tigers had a solid start on defense and produced over 200 yards of total offense by halftime.

South Carolina interim coach Mike Bobo struggled to produce different results than Muschamp, though four players opted out this week, including star cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu, and the offense lost its most dependable playmaker.

Missouri, which returned to action for the first time in three weeks after it postponed last week’s Georgia game because of COVID protocols, looked sharp behind QB Connor Bazelak and a host of running backs. On a scoring drive capped by a Larry Rountree touchdown that put them up 14-0, the Tigers used Tyler Badie with a 28-yard catch and run out of the backfield. Then Elijah Young nearly reached the goal line on a jet sweep before Rountree cashed in with the 1-yard TD.

Earlier, Missouri got on the board with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Bazelak to Tauskie Dove, who made an acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone.

Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz returned to Williams-Brice Stadium 12 months after he led App State to a win over the Gamecocks.

Cam Smith offered a rare bright spot for the Gamecocks with an interception late in the first half.