In the third quarter Saturday night, South Carolina’s chances of beating Missouri had fallen below three percent, according to win probability statistics.
Still, it wasn’t the best comeback Gamecocks radio analyst Tommy Suggs has seen. In fact, it’s not even the best one in which he’s been personally involved. That honor goes to a 32-27 win against North Carolina on Sept. 28, 1968. South Carolina trailed 27-3 in the fourth quarter that day, and scored 29 points in 10:01.
“It was a crazy game,” Suggs said. “We could do nothing right, kind of like Carolina on Saturday, kind of the same way. We were stumbling all over ourselves and then all of a sudden, the momentum changed, and we really took it to them. I have told people over the years that had the time not run out we would have scored about 30 more points. It really was an interesting turnaround.”
As was The Miracle at Mizzou. The No. 14 Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2 SEC) trailed then-No. 5 Missouri 17-0 with 13 minutes left in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday. At that moment, advanced statistics showed South Carolina’s chances of winning the game stood at 2.8 percent, according to ESPN. Nonetheless, the Gamecocks scored 17 unanswered points in regulation and went on to win 27-24 in double overtime.
“I have never won one like that,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “I had a buddy of mine I talked to after the game. He said, ‘After they hit that long pass and you guys missed that fourth down in the second quarter there, it looked like they are going to blow you out.’ I said, ‘Yeah, it appeared that way at that time.’ ”
It was the Gamecocks’ biggest comeback since rebounding from a 17-point deficit to beat East Carolina 56-37 in the 2011 season-opener. Suggs, who is in his 40th year as the analyst on South Carolina’s radio broadcasts, thought briefly of his own comeback after Saturday’s game, he said.
“I really didn’t (think of it much) because I was so excited for our team,” he said. “You felt it turning out there on the field. I wanted us to make sure we closed the deal and won it because I didn’t want it to turn and us to still come up short. We really had played somewhat ugly football for seven quarters, and I knew we were a lot better than that. I just couldn’t put my finger on (why). All of a sudden, it turned.”
South Carolina’s win against Missouri was its first road win against a Top 5 team since 1981, when it beat No. 3 North Carolina 31-13.
Don Barton, a 1949 South Carolina graduate who went on to become the school’s second full-time sports information director as well as the author of a book about the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry, watched Saturday’s game and thought back to two other significant comebacks in the school’s history.
In 1952, the Gamecocks trailed No. 16 Virginia 14-0 with six minutes left in Norfolk, Va. In a span of one minute, 45 seconds, South Carolina scored three touchdowns to escape with a 21-14 win.
“That’s hard to beat,” Barton said.
In 1949, South Carolina trailed Clemson 13-0 when it made a quarterback change, bringing in Bo Hagan, who had been ruled out during the week because of a knee injury.
“He hobbled off the bench and led Carolina to a comeback that they won 27-13,” Barton said, pointing out the parallel to Connor Shaw’s performance against Missouri last week.
South Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles kept his eyes closed on the sideline much of the time his offense was on the field last week, he said.
“I knew off the Missouri fans’ reaction if we did something good or bad,” he said. “After the game, I have never felt like that before. I have been playing football all my life, and I’ve never felt that happiness. It was something you just can’t explain.”