During a week when South Carolina needed something to bring the splintered fan base back together, it was the hot-shot freshman who offered loads of potential in offseason workouts, and who was always mentioned as an option in the game plan, to finally deliver a glimpse of what he has to offer.

Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they dropped their 4th straight game on Saturday, 17-10 to Missouri. The 1st half showed many of the same ills that plagued the program during the Will Muschamp era. But the 2nd provided optimism, even though the game ended on an ill-advised pass over the middle that was intercepted.

Freshman quarterback Luke Doty showed why he drew the respect of teammates, offered promise to the coaching staff and now gives fans something to look forward to amid the coaching search.

The scrappy team continued to show the grit it did under Muschamp, and interim coach Mike Bobo sounded a lot like Muschamp after the game. Ultimately, it was too little, too late.

“It’s a bottom-line business, and we didn’t get the W tonight,” Bobo said. “I want to say one thing — I’m proud of that team out there tonight. There was no quit.”

The toughest blow was the loss of star wide receiver Shi Smith to injury. He left midway through the 1st quarter and did not return.

Doty was 14-for-23 for 130 yards and an interception, and he also led the team with 59 rushing yards on 11 carries. Under his leadership, the Gamecocks had 215 yards of offense after they mustered just 68 in the 1st half.

Doty came in after start Collin Hill struggled to connect with his receivers. Hill was just 6-for-10 for 39 yards. There were multiple dropped passes, and Hill was under plenty of pressure. The other issue was that Kevin Harris, the SEC’s leading rusher entering the day, was held to just 58 yards on 16 carries.

“We had a plan coming in that Luke was going to play more in this game, because we felt he gave us an extra hat in the run game, and it would open up some seams for him to be able to tuck the ball and run,” Bobo said. “At halftime we went through things, talked about what we were going to do in the 2nd half, and walking out I made the decision we had to go with Luke. I felt he gave us the best chance to win.”

There are plenty of questions about the quarterbacks, and most will be made by the next head coach. Hill’s future appears limited, and Ryan Hilinski’s role is as unknown as ever after he took the bulk of the QB snaps in 2019. Hilinski hasn’t been able to win the job from Hill, and he may have been passed by Doty.

“I’m going to say this about Luke Doty. The moment is not too big for him. That was obvious in this game. He was calm, he was cool and he was collected,” Bobo said. “Now, it was a lot of backyard ball out there, and running around like a chicken with our head cut off, but it looked like a calm and collected guy doing it out there. I think the team was proud of him the way he battled. When I made the decision at halftime, I basically told everyone on defense we were going with No. 4, told everyone on the offensive line we needed to step up and hold the rope a little tighter. They did that and put us in position to win, but unfortunately, we came up short.”

The task doesn’t get any easier this week against Georgia, though the Bulldogs defense looked a bit shaky against Mississippi State.