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Lackluster Missouri performance ends in loss to South Carolina

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In a tale of two halves, the Tigers blew a nine-point half time lead and a potential game-winner from Tucker McCann as they fell to the Gamecocks

NCAA Football: Missouri at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Missouri (3-2, 0-2 SEC) had a lot going its way against South Carolina (3-2, 2-2 SEC) on Saturday.

The defense shut down the rush for a majority of the first half, and although the Tigers could not get in the end zone on three red zone trips in the second quarter, they went to halftime with a nine-point lead.

Then, the second half happened. At the fault of pouring rain, deflating penalties, fumbled snaps on punt attempts, and a lightning delay in crunch time, the game resembled a Pop Warner game more than it did an SEC contest.

At the end of the poor showing from Missouri, a career-long 57-yard field goal by Tucker McCann with just over a minute remaining looked to have bailed out the Tigers.

It wouldn’t last, though, as the Gamecocks marched 53 yards deep into Missouri territory, and a Parker Wright field goal sent the Tigers packing with a 37-35 loss

With the pre-game news that starting receivers Emanuel Hall and Nate Brown would not be available against the Gamecocks, the pressure fell to their backups and the running back unit to pick up the slack.

On the Tigers’ first drive, Jalen Knox flashed his own Hall-like moves and caught a deep ball for 44 yards to get Missouri to the one. Larry Rountree III did his part to contribute to the offense, running for 18 yards on the same drive and punching in a one-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers up seven.

The first quarter was marked by the differences in Missouri’s ability to defend the pass and the rush.

The front seven contained South Carolina’s run-game early, breaking through for three tackles behind the line of scrimmage — highlighted by Terry Beckner Jr. absolutely manhandling Ty’Son Williams for a loss of four.

Meanwhile, the secondary let up the only South Carolina first downs of the quarter and allowed the Gamecocks to reach the end zone on a five-yard Bryan Edwards reception.

The Tigers were efficient on the ground throughout the quarter, though, putting up 94 yards on just 17 carries. Damarea Crockett had a one-yard rushing touchdown of his own late in the first, and the Tigers ended the quarter with a seven-point lead.

Against Georgia in Week 4, Missouri were unable to score on some huge opportunities afforded by the Bulldogs. That inability to take advantage reared its head once again in the second quarter Saturday.

Johnathon Johnson let a sure touchdown pass slip out of his hands on the first play of the quarter, and the Tigers settled for a field goal. Two offensive drives later, Missouri got the ball to South Carolina’s 14-yard line, but a 10-yard holding penalty and two incompletions forced the Tigers into another field goal to go up six.

Missouri had first and goal late after Lock found Samson Bailey for 21 yards, but, as had been the case the entire quarter, the Tigers came up empty. McCann knocked in his third field goal with 23 seconds on the clock, but Missouri went to the half up just nine when the lead should have been bigger.

If the Tigers were on a downhill slide in the first half, the third quarter turned into a free fall.

It started with Missouri’s first three-and-out of the game after Lock threw just 1-for-3 for four yards. Michael Scarnecchia then drove the Gamecocks 66 yards down the field, capping it off with an eight-yard touchdown to Deebo Samuel to cut the lead to two.

Crockett gave the Tigers some momentum on a 59-yard run down the right side, but multiple flags and tackles for a loss forced Missouri into a punt.

As an added bonus to how ugly the quarter had been, Corey Fatony fumbled the snap on that punt near midfield, leading to a South Carolina field goal for the lead. Lock then threw a pick-six three plays later, and just like that, the Tigers faced an eight-point deficit.

Rountree responded with a 41-yard rush to give Missouri some life, but the rest of the drive did not, uh, go very well:

Heading into the fourth somehow down by just eight, it looked like the Tigers had finally figured it out.

After blocking a Joseph Charlton punt at South Carolina’s 21, Missouri took just three plays to reach the end zone. Charlton then fumbled the snap on another Gamecock punt attempt, and Tucker McCann kicked one in from 44-yards out to put the Tigers up 32-31.

But the defense broke down on the next drive, giving up 20 yards in the air and on the ground before a White field goal put South Carolina back up two.

McCann and Wright then traded their lead-changing field goals after the game was delayed for over an hour, and a hail mary from Lock fell short as the Tigers fell to 0-2 in the conference.