South Carolina hasn’t won a stat sheet yet this season, but the Gamecocks are 2-0 where it matters.
Missouri outgained South Carolina 423 yards to 359 Saturday night, but the Gamecocks turned another big night from Deebo Samuel, a decisive special teams performance and a rejuvenated second-half running game into a 31-13 victory in front of 55,023 fans at Faurot Field.
“We may have given up some yards, but I could care less about yardage,” coach Will Muschamp said. “Don’t get caught up in the stats. Let them get in the red zone, and they are going to have a hard time running, and we are going not make some plays.”
That’s how it worked out Saturday. The Tigers (1-1, 0-1 SEC) totaled three points in their three trips inside the red zone as South Carolina got its first road win since the season opener a year ago and only its second road win in its past 12 tries.
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“We did the things good football teams do on the road in this league,” Muschamp said. “Really proud of our guys. We didn’t play well on the road last year, and it’s something we really emphasized this year. We have a better football team. That has a lot to do with it.”
The Gamecocks (2-0, 1-0 SEC) have been outgained 927 yards to 605 this season, but find themselves 2-0 for the first time since the 2012 season. They are all alone in first place in the SEC East.
“It was an outstanding team win,” Muschamp said. “We answered offensively. We answered on special teams.”
Ty’Son Williams had 14 carries for 78 yards to lead a rushing attack that was held to 51 yards in the first half, but responded with 123 yards in the second half.
“We just started to wear them down and things started to open up,” said Williams, who didn’t have a carry last week.
Quarterback Jake Bentley finished 18-for-28 through the air for 187 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Star of the game: Samuel. Again. The junior wide receiver touched the ball seven times. He turned it into 167 yards and two touchdowns. Samuel scored on a 97-yard kickoff return and a 25-yard rush. He has five touchdowns and 352 all-purpose yards in two games this season. “No. 1 is a special guy with the ball in his hands,” fellow wide receiver Bryan Edwards said.
Plays of the game: There were actually three, and they came in quick order. After Missouri took a 10-0 lead on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock to tight end Jason Reese with 13:07 left in the second quarter, South Carolina scored 14 points in the span of three plays and 30 seconds of game time. First came Samuel’s 97-yard kickoff return. Then Jamyest Williams intercepted a pass on the first play of Missouri’s ensuing drive. Then came Samuel’s 25-yard run on the first play of South Carolina’s next drive with 12:37 left in the second quarter. The Gamecocks didn’t trail again. “When you’re on the road, you have to kill their momentum,” Muschamp said. “You need to make plays like that on the road to put the fire out.”
Stat of the game: The Gamecocks won the turnover battle 3-0. Linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams and Williams each had interceptions, and Javon Charleston recovered a muffed Missouri punt. For the season, South Carolina is plus-four in turnover margin (five gained and one lost).
Tight end touches: After catching just one pass in the first game of the season, junior tight end Hayden Hurst had two touchdowns Saturday night. Hurst had three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown and added a 2-yard touchdown run. “We tried to get Hayden more involved as you can see,” Bentley said.
There he is: Williams, the highest-ranked player in South Carolina’s 2017 recruiting class, made the first big play of his collegiate career. Williams, who started at nickel back, intercepted Lock on the first play of the Tigers’ fourth drive of the game, stepping in front of an out pattern to give the Gamecocks the ball at the Missouri 25-yard line. Williams also had six tackles.
Special teams win: The Gamecocks won the battle of special teams by a large margin. In addition to Samuel’s 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the Gamecocks got a 73-yard punt from Joseph Charlton and a blocked field goal from Javon Kinlaw in the first half. For Samuel, it was his second return touchdown in as many weeks, matching a mark set by King Dixon in 1957. Samuel’s kickoff return touchdown was the third of his career, giving him South Carolina’s career record in that category. In the third quarter, a Missouri punt that pinned the Gamecocks at their 5-yard line was wiped out by a procedure penalty. The next kick was a touchback. Then the Tigers fumbled a punt early in the fourth quarter.
Who: Kentucky at South Carolina
When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 FM
South Carolina 31, Missouri 13
MIZ—FG McCann 43, 5:33
MIZ—Reese 61 pass from Lock (McCann kick), 13:18
SC—Samuel 97 kickoff return (Woznick kick), 13:07
SC—Samuel 25 run (Woznick kick), 12:37
SC—Hurst 39 pass from Bentley (Woznick kick), 8:41
MIZ—FG McCann 22, 6:31
SC—FG Woznick 32, :18
SC—Hurst 2 run (Woznick kick), 10:25
Time of Possession
RUSHING—South Carolina, Ty.Williams 14-78, Dowdle 14-48, Samuel 1-25, A.Turner 5-16, Bentley 4-5, Hurst 1-2, (Team) 1-(minus 2). Missouri, Crockett 18-97, Witter 12-72, Rountree 4-12, Lock 3-(minus 3).
PASSING—South Carolina, Bentley 18-28-0-187. Missouri, Lock 14-32-2-245.
RECEIVING—South Carolina, Samuel 5-45, Edwards 5-35, S.Smith 4-22, Hurst 3-69, Dowdle 1-16. Missouri, Mason 4-48, E.Hall 3-66, J.Moore 3-29, Reese 2-88, Witter 1-8, Crockett 1-6.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—South Carolina, Woznick 33. Missouri, McCann 25.