South Carolina’s football team improved to 2-0 on Saturday by beating Missouri 31-13 in Columbia, Mo. Two games into the Gamecocks schedule, the team is ahead of schedule in its rebuilding project under second-year coach Will Muschamp. Here are five things we took away from Saturday’s victory:
Timely defense will be key
Whether it’s making red zone stops or forcing turnovers, South Carolina has made the right defensive plays at the right time. The Gamecocks have given up 927 yards of offense this year, but they have allowed only five scores in their opponents’ nine trips inside the 20-yard line, and they have forced five turnovers in two games. Even something as simple as defensive linemen tipping passes has played a big role through two games. Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw had two pass breakups against Missouri.
Hayden Hurst is still around
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The junior tight end only had one catch in the first week of the season, but he got a lot more involved against Missouri. Hurst had two touchdowns – one of 39 yards through the air and another of 2 yards on the ground – doubling his touchdown total from his first two seasons at South Carolina. Hurst’s rushing touchdown came on a jet sweep. “That’s something that we put in because of his athleticism and how big he is,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “I didn’t think he was going to get in when I handed it to him. They actually played it really well. He just made a big boy play and bullied himself into the end zone.”
Special teams’ work paying off
The Gamecocks, specifically Deebo Samuel, have returned two kickoffs for touchdowns already this season, and that’s not the only area in which their special teams have excelled. Kinlaw blocked a short Missouri field goal Saturday, and Javon Charleston forced a muffed punt that South Carolina recovered to essentially end any chance of a Tigers comeback. “We spend a lot of time on special teams,” Muschamp said. “When you have a guy like Deebo Samuel, it makes it look good.”
Deebo, Deebo, Deebo
Speaking of the Gamecocks’ best offensive weapon, he didn’t have a touch in the first quarter against Missouri but finished the game with 167 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. “We were going to get him the ball,” Muschamp said. “We had some things called (in the first quarter). It just didn’t manifest itself.” Samuel is going to be tough for opposing defenses to hold down for entire games. He has 352 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in two games. “It’s not about plays, it’s about players, and that’s what we’ve got dialed up, ‘How are we going to get No. 1 (Samuel), No. 89 (Bryan Edwards), No. 81 (Hurst) the ball?’ We are going to find different ways to do it.”
Run game renewal
Through the first half of Saturday’s game, it looked like more of the same for South Carolina as the Gamecocks gained only 51 yards on the ground. However, South Carolina ground out 121 rushing yards in the second half, and Ty’Son Williams finished with a game-high 78 yards on 15 carries. For the game, South Carolina averaged 4.3 yards per carry, almost triple the 1.5 per carry it gained against N.C. State. “He’s a hard runner,” Muschamp said. “We have three really good backs. Whoever has the hot hand, we are going to go with, and it felt like he was getting some positive yardage so we went with him.”