When a game goes two overtimes, you can pretty much impose whatever narrative on it you care to. That's the nature of close losses. There's a story for everybody. I'm sure this week we'll read lots of different narratives about football gods, history of futility, and such. Fair enough. Papers have to sell and people like stories they already know.
Sometimes--and yeah, I think this is one of those times--there just is no narrative. Not really. (I am literally typing this sentence as a World Series game ends on an obstruction call. The right call, by the way.) This was a tough, hard fought football game. No one around these parts of the Interwebz thought it would be otherwise. The Tigers had long stretches of very good, even near-dominant play. So did South Carolina, particularly when their offense got a shot of consistency with a chaser of brilliance from Connor Shaw. Still, if Missouri plays that well from here on out and they still win the East (easily).
1. So, Andrew Baggett's misses have puzzled me all year
It doesn't look like he should miss so often. He strikes it well, and the snaps generally appear consistent and good. After tonight I wonder if we need to go back and look at Braylon Webb's holds on all his misses. Webb failed to turn the laces on two near-perfect FG snaps. It doesn't appear, to my untrained eye at least, that Webb tried to clear the laces on either snap. That failure led directly to both FG misses. Now, I am wondering if Webb frequently fails to clear the laces. Ball placement and spinning the laces are paramount.
2. South Carolina averaged 5.4 yards per play
The Gamecocks attempted 56 passes for 7.6 ypa and rushed 35 times for 2.1 ypc. That per play average was right around what the defense did to Georgia in 2012. A team that runs 91 plays is going to get yards. A team that throws 56 times is going to make the defense play zone. Period. That zone played right into Connor Shaw's hands. He had to be brilliant and he was. Steck made South Carolina earn every yard, and they did.
South Carolina's play count is probably the biggest indictment of Missouri's offense on a night the Tigers averaged a healthy 6.1 yards per play. But, you saw what I saw. Lots of fits and starts. Lots of inconsistency. My impression is that South Carolina blitzed a lot and Mauk was unable to make many changes at the line of scrimmage.
The fact is, this was a "Jim Valvano" second half. The late coach used to say that the last four minutes of a game that's clocked is won on offense--not defense. Long before the last four minutes, Missouri needed one more drive. One more first down in the second half. We probably hold on.
Mauk isn't going to shrink from this. He's going to get better. He's going to make more plays.