Editor’s note: Our sincerest apologies to the Hilinski family today for the unfortunate headline in our print edition today. Hilinski’s Hope works to raise awareness about mental health issues, especially for student-athletes. Although the connection between the headline and the foundation was unintentional, there is no excuse for such poor wording and we have reached out to the family and university to express our regrets.
Interested eyes were glued to Ryan Hilinski not long after he stepped off the bus outside Memorial Stadium. The man most responsible for any kind of renewed hope in South Carolina’s 2019 season was carrying a duffel bag in his left hand and another bag rested on his right shoulder.
His right elbow, though hidden by a suit sleeve, appeared in normal condition.
Hilinski looked healthy enough. He was going to start. That was the first major step in South Carolina’s quest to gain its first win over an FBS team this season.
Step No. 2 was going out and actually beating Missouri.
Hilinski, bothered by elbow tendonitis or not, struggled as the Tigers rode their defense to a 34-14 win before a crowd of 50,012 on Saturday afternoon.
USC, at 1-3 (0-2 SEC), is off to its worst start since the winless 1999 campaign. Mizzou improved to 3-1 (1-0 SEC). The Gamecocks have lost six straight games to Power 5 opponents for the first time since ‘99.
“I thought we had good preparation this week,” said fourth-year Carolina coach Will Muschamp, “and I’m disappointed with the outcome.”
Hilinski, who earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors in a losing effort against No. 2 Alabama, wasn’t in nearly the same form seven days later. The rookie completed 13-of-30 passes for 166 yards with a touchdown and two crucial turnovers. He exited the game with 2:16 left in the third quarter after taking a hit from Jordan Elliott, Missouri’s 315-pound defensive tackle, but later returned. Dakereon Joyner eventually replaced Hilinski for good late in the fourth quarter.
“He had some soreness in his elbow this week,” Muschamp said of Hilinski. “We didn’t throw him on Wednesday. We’ll go back and evaluate. Certainly, he would not have played if he was hurt. So he was not hurt.
“We’ll go back and evaluate the things we gotta do. We didn’t help Ryan today, much.”
Hilinski never found a rhythm against the nation’s fourth-ranked defense. South Carolina’s second possession ended when Hilinski caught a pass batted back at him and then, upon official review, fumbled into the end zone, where Missouri’s Cale Garrett recovered for a touchdown.
No review was needed for a Hilinski interception in the third quarter that was returned 100 yards by Ronnell Perkins for a score, extending the Tigers’ lead to 31-14 and all but ending USC’s hopes.
“It’s tough any time you turn the ball over in the red zone,” said senior receiver Bryan Edwards. “It’s kind of like a cardinal sin. It is tough, it’s a big swing, obviously.”
South Carolina, which rolled up 459 yards on the Crimson Tide last week, was held to 30 first half yards against the Tigers. Bryan Edwards more than doubled that on the Gamecocks’ first play of the third quarter when he took a Hilinski screen 75 yards for a score, cutting the lead to 17-14.
But the Tigers, behind Clemson transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant, responded with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive, giving them a double-digit lead for good.
Bryant finished with 304 total yards, 33 more than USC as a whole. The Gamecocks, who allowed four sacks, managed 16 rushing yards on 24 carries. That’s the lowest by the Gamecocks since failing to gain a yard against LSU on Oct. 18, 2003.
“We knew they were going to be a team that plays up the field,” said senior center Donell Stanley. “They love playing in people’s backfields. We knew they were going to get pressure, but we didn’t handle it the way we should have.”
Star of the game: Hilinski threw the pass, but Edwards did most of the work on his own for the third quarter score. The senior’s inspired play since the opener continued Saturday with his second 100-yard game in three weeks.
Play of the game: South Carolina was three yards away from cutting the deficit to three points when Hilinski threw right to Perkins’ gut, leading to the pick-six.
Stat of the game: 1. For as bad as South Carolina’s offense was for long stretches, the Gamecocks didn’t need long to score its touchdowns. USC had two one-play scoring drives, one for one yard (Rico Dowdle run after a D.J. Wonnum interception return to the Mizzou 1-yard line) and one for 75 (Edwards catch and run to begin second half).
1. Lopsided losses: Since beating Ole Miss, 48-44, on Nov. 3, 2018, the Gamecocks have not only lost six straight to Power 5 foes, they’ve done so with an average margin defeat of just under 17 points.
2. Bryant vs. Hilinski: Neither quarterback had particularly great games through the air, but Bryant out-performed his rookie counterpart because of his legs. His 77 rushing yards were his most since going for 88 against N.C. State while quarterbacking Clemson in 2017.
3. How low can it go?: South Carolina is 1-3 and next faces a Kentucky team it hasn’t beat in five years.
Who: Kentucky at South Carolina
When: 7:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 28
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
Andrew Ramspacher: @ARamspacher
MIZ—Garrett 0 fumble return (McCann kick), 8:31
MIZ—FG McCann 47, 13:22
SC—Dowdle 1 run (P.White kick), 9:35
MIZ—Okwuegbunam 3 pass from Bryant (McCann kick), 4:06
SC—Edwards 75 pass from Hilinski (P.White kick), 14:49
MIZ—Badie 21 pass from Bryant (McCann kick), 10:50
MIZ—Perkins 100 interception return (McCann kick), 5:43
MIZ—FG McCann 25, 9:17
Time of Possession
RUSHING—South Carolina, Dowdle 8-17, Feaster 6-14, (Team) 1-(minus 1), Joyner 6-(minus 4), Hilinski 3-(minus 10). Missouri, Rountree 23-88, Bryant 17-77, Badie 11-18, J.Johnson 1-13, (Team) 2-(minus 2).
PASSING—South Carolina, Hilinski 13-30-1-166, Joyner 6-11-0-89. Missouri, Bryant 19-33-1-227.
RECEIVING—South Carolina, Edwards 6-113, Markway 3-52, S.Smith 3-32, Dawkins 2-30, C.Smith 1-16, Muse 1-9, Vann 1-8, Feaster 1-5, Hilinski 1-(minus 10). Missouri, Nance 4-60, J.Johnson 4-52, Parker 4-46, Badie 3-42, Okwuegbunam 3-19, Knox 1-8.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—South Carolina, P.White 50. Missouri, McCann 39.