The first half of South Carolina and Missouri’s football game Saturday unfolded as many experts predicted — led by backup quarterback Michael Scarnecchia, the Gamecocks struggled to move the ball while Missouri jumped out to a 23-14 lead.
More than a few of the 73,393 in attendance at Williams-Brice Stadium headed to the exits to beat the oppressive October heat, which cracked 90 degrees.
But when the two teams returned from the break, things changed. The sun kept shining, but rain started to fall. Missouri and highly touted quarterback Drew Lock went three-and-out. And USC marched down the field in a monsoon to score a touchdown and make it 23-21.
Things went from bad to worse for Mizzou on the next drive. After running back Damarea Crockett had a 70-yard touchdown run called back on review after he stepped out of bounds, the Tigers committed a false start, a personal foul and then another false start to back themselves to third-and-34. Coach Barry Odom elected to punt in the rain, and the snap was dropped for another 13-yard loss, setting up a go-ahead field goal for Carolina.
“It was a strange third quarter,” Odom simply said. “I thought that the things, the penalty that really knocked us back, and then the guard flinched, and another five-yarder in the pouring rain. We’ve gotta make sure our focus is down then, no matter the circumstance, because obviously you get knocked back 20 yards then you’re not playing very good football.”
“I just feel like things built on each other, and we lost focus there for a quick second,” Crockett said.
From Odom down, the Tigers said they were shocked by the intensity of the weather.
“I looked this morning and I think it said a 20 percent chance (of rain),” Odom said. “So in my mind I was thinking there was an 80 percent chance it wasn’t going to.”
“We came out, and it was like the Sahara desert out here, it was hot,” redshirt senior offensive lineman Paul Adams said. “It was a lot different than it was in Columbia (Missouri) ... Did not expect the rain. That came out of nowhere.”
Both Lock and Crockett called it some of the worst weather they had ever played in.
“I did not expect the rain. If it was gonna rain, I wouldn’t have told you it was going to rain like that. That was something else,” Lock said.
But while Missouri fell apart, South Carolina surged. Scarnecchia seemed comfortable throwing the ball in poor conditions, and kicker Parker White nailed a 42-yard field goal while splashing through puddles on the field.
That stark difference was not lost on Mizzou.
“You know how it is in the South. It can rain five minutes, rain 10 minutes and be extremely hot again,” redshirt freshman receiver Kentrell Barber said. “They played out there well. You saw their receivers catch the ball. We gotta be the same way.”
Instead, the water helped South Carolina to knock the Tigers off their rhythm, Barber said.
“It changed it, man. We couldn’t tackle very well, you could see a couple plays they were blocking a little bit better. Reads were different. We couldn’t catch the ball at all,” he said. “Little stuff just threw us off.”