South Carolina (3-2 overall, 2-2 SEC) beat Missouri (3-2, 0-2) 37-35 on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium. Here are five things we learned from the contest:
Michael Scarnecchia can get the job done
The senior replaced injured junior Jake Bentley and was more than up for the task. Scarnecchia completed 20-of-35 passes for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. On third down in the second half, he was 7-for-10 for 83 yards. Bentley is nursing a knee injury, and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp hasn’t said whether Bentley will be available this week against Texas A&M. If he’s not, the Gamecocks fan base won’t be worried about Scarnecchia the way they were headed into the Missouri game. The Aggies are sixth in the SEC in total defense. The Tigers are 11th so Scarnecchia will get a stiffer challenge in his second start if there is a second start.
Bryan Edwards can bounce back
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One week after what he called his worst game in garnet and black, the junior wide receiver had a game-high seven catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards also made the 12-yard catch in the fourth quarter that made Parker White’s game-winning field goal 33 yards instead of 45 yards. “He was outstanding like he is almost every time he puts on that garnet and black,” Muschamp said. Edwards, who also broke up Missouri’s Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the game, did all this with a sprained ankle. He’s now seventh in the SEC in receiving with 61.8 yards per game.
The run defense is a mess
Muschamp was in a great mood Saturday evening, but there was one moment in his postgame news conference that brought a grimace. That was when he, unsolicited, brought up his team’s run defense. In short, it’s not good. The Tigers rushed for 286 yards. Damarea Crockett had 154 yards on 20 carries. For the season, the Gamecocks are 13th in the conference and 100th in the nation in rush defense, allowing 194 yards per game on the ground. The Ole Miss defense, which everyone agrees is horrible, allows 195.7 per game. The Gamecocks are giving up 4.49 yards per rush. The combination of all this likely is Muschamp’s biggest concern moving forward this season.
Penalties are still a problem
Muschamp will point out that South Carolina was the least penalized team in the SEC last year. That’s true. It’s also true that the 2018 team has a problem in this area. The Gamecocks were flagged nine times and lost 83 yards because of it against Missouri. For the year, they are 13th in the SEC in penalties, averaging eight per game and losing an average of 74 yards because of it. South Carolina was flagged four times for unsportsmanlike conduct on Saturday, and after one of those flags, cornerback Rashad Fenton continued to gesture demonstrably toward the Missouri sideline after being flagged. Fenton’s behavior went on so long that teammate Steven Montac had to come over twice to push him back toward the Gamecocks players.
South Carolina can save its season
The noise around the program would have been deafening if the Gamecocks had dropped this game. Instead, a dramatic comeback leaves South Carolina and its fans feeling pretty good about the team. At 1-3 in the SEC, any hope of finishing second in the SEC East would have been lost, but at 2-2, the Gamecocks can now see a path back toward the top of the conference. Of course, that’s going to take beating Texas A&M next week and a resurgent Florida later in the season, etc., etc.