South Carolina Football: Gamecocks in first place in SEC East

COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 9: Deebo Samuel /

The Missouri Tigers played host to the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC’s first conference game of the 2017 season on Saturday night.

With both teams entering Saturday’s SEC East showdown after season opening victories, the stage was set for one of these teams to take command of the conference standings, and it was South Carolina football fans that came away celebrating.

Deebo Samuel knew what was at stake and he commanded the attention of college football fans everywhere, fueling the Gamecocks to a 31-13 win over their first SEC foe of the new season. Let’s take a look at three significant stats from South Carolina’s win over Missouri.


Deebo Samuel scored two touchdowns

Samuel cemented himself as one of the SEC’s best receivers after a breakout year in 2016, which he compiled 783 receiving yards. But Samuel is more than just a pass catcher. With versatility comparable to that of arguably the SEC’s best receiver — Christian Kirk — Samuel can also return kickoffs and he’s pretty darn good at it.

For the second week in a row, Samuel returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He returned one last week against NC State on the opening kickoff and he housed a 97 yarder against Missouri on Saturday, giving him his first touchdown of the game. His second one came just 15 seconds later as the speedster took a jet sweep to the left and raced to the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown run after Drew Lock threw an interception on the very first play of Missouri’s drive. Which brings me to my next stat…

COLUMBIA, MO – SEPTEMBER 9: Jake Bentley went 18-for-28 for 187 yards with a touchdown in South Carolina’s 31-13 win over Missouri.
COLUMBIA, MO – SEPTEMBER 9: Jake Bentley went 18-for-28 for 187 yards with a touchdown in South Carolina’s 31-13 win over Missouri. /

Turnovers: Missouri (3), South Carolina (0)

Typically, if a team wins the turnover battle the odds of said team capturing the victory increase exponentially. Once again, this standard rule of thumb proved it’s significance on Saturday afternoon. Drew Lock threw a pair of interceptions and Jonathan Johnson fumbled the ball away for the Tigers’ third turnover of the game. On the flip side, the Gamecocks took exceptional care of the football.

Missouri went 1-for-3 in the red zone

Missouri’s high powered offense generated north of 400 yards on a very respectable Gamecock defense, but on multiple occasions Barry Odom watched his offense stall in the red zone. On Missouri’s first trip inside the Gamecocks’ 10-yard line, Tucker McCann’s 25 yard field goal got blocked and the Tigers’ offense came up empty after piecing together an 11-play, 71-yard drive.

Fast forward to the third quarter with South Carolina clinging to a 21-10 lead. Lock manufactured a 9-play, 73-yard drive all the way down to the Gamecocks’ 4-yard line, but could’t hit his receiver on third and goal, and Missouri was forced to settle for a 22-yard field goal.

Missouri’s third trip inside South Carolina’s 10-yard line fizzled out after Lock threw an incompletion on 4th down of Missouri’s final possession. All in all, Missouri’s three red zone trips only resulted in three points. That was the difference in this game. While South Carolina was putting up points on the other end of the field, the Missouri offense got stuffed in the red zone, making it impossible for the Tigers to match every one of South Carolina’s decisive blows.


South Carolina Gamecocks (2-0) 

South Carolina got outgained by over 100 yard for a second straight week, but once again, the Gamecocks got the job done as its defense embraced the “bend, but don’t break” mentality. They have all the pieces in place to be a legitimate contender in the SEC East.

The Gamecocks’ offense is fueled by a star quarterback in the making, Jake Bentley, a solid stable of running backs, headlined by sophomore Rico Dowdle, and a receiving corps that ranks among the best in the SEC with Samuel, Bryan Edwards, and Hayden Hurst on the receiving end of Bentley’s passes.

Although I expected South Carolina’s defense to be more efficient, it’s still a very capable unit that will only get better as the season progresses. It’s certainly worth noting that this defense has given up 927 yards of offense through two games. There’s no doubt that Muschamp has this team trending in the right direction but the defense absolutely has to play better if South Carolina wishes to compete for an SEC Championship in December. An offense can only carry you so far. Just ask Missouri fans.

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Missouri Tigers (1-1)

For Missouri, it’s simple. Offensively, everything is there. Lock is slowly becoming one the SEC’s most prominent quarterbacks and like South Carolina, it boasts a talented committee of running backs and a receiving corps led by one of the most underrated receivers in the country — J’Mon Moore. The offense is as prolific as they come in this day in age of college football, but there’s no defense to complement it.

Look no further than Missouri’s season opener. This defense gave up 43 points to a middling FCS team in week 1. Clearly, Barry Odom has had enough. Missouri parted ways with defensive coordinator Demontie Cross just one day after the Tigers’ 31-13 loss to South Carolina. Until things get figured out on defense, Missouri will remain a cellar-dweller in the SEC East.