Every football team wants to score each time it gets the ball, but a realistic coaching staff knows there’s always a mitigating factor: field position.
Start inside your 15-yard line, and it’s a pretty big slog for any score. Start on your 45 and you’re thinking touchdown or bust.
So when South Carolina cornerback Rashad Fenton hauled in a difficult interception on the Gamecock’s 2-yard line Saturday against Missouri, coach Will Muschamp didn’t have seven points at the forefront of his mind.
“As much as anything, your thought process is to get a first down,” Muschamp said. “You get one first down, at least you can flip the field, and they’re going to be on their side of the 50. Defensively, your mindset is 3-and-out. You get a punt, you’re at midfield. One first down, you’re in field goal range. So that’s just a general mindset most coaches have.”
Instead, his team got off the goal line with a couple runs, and then USC hit three 20-yard plays the next six snaps to march 98-yard for the go-ahead score.
The drive was balanced with four runs and five passes. Jake Bentley hit Deebo Samuel on passes of 25 and 22 yards. Tailback Rico Dowdle had an 18-yarder to get USC out of the shadow of its own end zone and capped the march with a 20-yard touchdown run.
“When we start a drive at the 2, we want to just get the ball off our own goal line,” tight end Hayden Hurst said. “Jake just brings a confidence to the offense, and we feel that we can score from anywhere. We just have to get off our goal line and start moving the ball.”
Muschamp called the drive a sealing point and where momentum shifted. Missouri went from first and 10 on the Gamecocks’ 42 to down a score late in the third quarter.
Dowdle ran an inside zone and a power run on the drive’s first plays. They worked, but Muschamp said the team almost went with something a little more aggressive.
“We felt like we had a shot dialed up early,” Muschamp said. “We checked into the run game. We were going to test them on a vertical ball. But when you’re able to run it off your goal line, that’s demoralizing for a defense.”
98-yard drive summary
South Carolina drive start at 07:03 mark in 3rd quarter
▪ 1-10, SC 02: Rico Dowdle rush for 4 yards to the SC6 (Hilton, Cam).
▪ 2-6, SC 06: Rico Dowdle rush for 18 yards to the SC24, 1ST DOWN SC (Burkett, Joey). R14
▪ 1-10, SC 24: Jake Bentley pass complete to Hayden Hurst for 5 yards to the SC29 (Sherrils, A).
▪ 2-5, SC 29: Jake Bentley pass complete to Deebo Samuel for 22 yards to the MU49, 1ST DOWN SC (Gibson, P15 John).
▪ 1-10, MU 49: David Williams rush for 2 yards to the MU47 (Beisel, Eric).
▪ 2-8, MU 47: Jake Bentley pass complete to David Williams for 2 yards to the MU45 (Warren, T.J.).
▪ 3-6, MU 45: Jake Bentley pass complete to Deebo Samuel for 25 yards to the MU20, 1ST DOWN SC, P16 out-of-bounds.
▪ 1-10, MU 20: Jake Bentley pass incomplete to Deebo Samuel.
▪ 2-10, MU 20: Rico Dowdle rush for 20 yards to the MU0, 1ST DOWN SC, TOUCHDOWN, clock 03:24. R17
Score: South Carolina 28, Missouri 21
Drive summary: 9 plays, 98 yards, 3:39