The Mayor’s Cup will be staying home.
For the fourth consecutive meeting and eighth time overall, the Missouri Tigers defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks in the battle of Columbias. Behind a fierce rushing attack and stout defense, the Tigers took down the Gamecocks 23-10 and spoiled their Homecoming.
Heading into the matchup, Mizzou and No. 25 South Carolina looked to be trending in different directions.
The Tigers, fresh off playing in their own Homecoming game and earning their first SEC victory, entered with a 1-3 record in conference play and seemed somewhat lost offensively. The Gamecocks, however, began the afternoon on a four-game winning streak after taking down then-No. 13 Kentucky and Texas A&M in their previous two games to catapult themselves into the AP Top 25.
Despite the opposing directions, their meeting made for quite the showdown.
Quarterback Brady Cook and the Mizzou offense received the opening kickoff, looking to expose a Gamecocks’ defensive unit that entered with 168.1 rush yards per game. After a quiet first drive from both sides that resulted in punts, the Tiger offense showcased what it’s capable of.
Starting on its own four-yard-line, Mizzou pieced together a 15-play drive that featured eight rushes for 47 yards as well as three third down conversions, including Cook’s three-yard touchdown rush. For one of the first times all season, the offensive line looked poised and held its own against a fierce South Carolina pass-rush.
Transitioning back to defense, the Tigers rattled Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler. Defensive back Ennis Rakestraw Jr. forced South Carolina tailback Ahmarean Brown for a three-yard loss and then defensive lineman DJ Coleman sacked Rattler on a key third down.
On the ensuing drive, Cook continued his cookin’ of the South Carolina defense.
He converted yet another third down on a seven-yard competition to wide receiver Barrett Banister before finding fellow receiver Dominic Lovett on a 57-yard pass to quiet the sellout crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Utilizing the run game and another 10-yard competition to Lovett, Mizzou set itself up for a one-yard touchdown rush from running back Cody Schrader, who took over as the Tigers’ primary back earlier this week.
Back on offense, South Carolina gained eight total yards before punting it right back to the Tigers. Rakestraw stepped up once again on coverage, breaking up a third-down pass attempt to Gamecock receiver Josh Vann. The ensuing punt set Mizzou up at its own 23-yard-line with an opportunity to make it a three-score game.
Given another drive on offense, Cook ran with it...literally.
After gaining 50 yards via his arm and a defensive pass interference call, Cook took off on a third down for 23 yards and then added another nine on the following play. The rushes set the offense up in the red zone once again, and Mevis knocked through a 19-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 17-0 lead.
In dire need of a score, Rattler and the South Carolina offense displayed hints of what has made their offense electric at times this season. Running back MarShawn Lloyd began the drive with a 12-yard carry and Rattler found tight end Austin Stogner for a 25-yard competition.
Three penalties on Mizzou set the Gamecocks up at the Tigers’ 22-yard-line before South Carolina used a balance of rushes and passes to score its first points on a seven-yard touchdown carry from Rattler and sent the them to the locker room with a 10-point deficit to the Tigers.
Both defenses silenced the opposing offenses to begin the second half. Mizzou defensive lineman Kristian Williams began the defensive stand, stuffing Rattler at the line of scrimmage and then forcing running back Juju McDowell into a three-yard loss. Defensive lineman Ty’Ron Hopper added to the party, pressuring Rattler into an incompletion as well.
After gaining 13 yards within their first four plays on the following possession, the Tigers stalled out against the Gamecocks’ front. Back-to-back passes to Mizzou receiver Luther Burden III fell incomplete, bringing the South Carolina offense back out.
That’s when the terror of Mizzou’s defense struck the Gamecocks.
On a 3rd & 8 from its own 11-yard-line, Rattler took off for the first down, but lost the football on a hit from Mizzou defensive back Jaylon Carlies. Fellow defensive back Daylan Carnell recovered the loose ball and brought the Tigers’ offense back out for another possession.
Even with the strong field position, however, the Mizzou offense could only gain seven yards. Nightmare struck moments later for the Tigers when All-American kicker Harrison Mevis missed another chip shot, this time from 21 yards.
The South Carolina offense worked right back down the field to respond with a 39-yard field goal of its own from kicker Mitch Jeter to cut the Mizzou led to seven points.
Looking to make that big play, Cook found Lovett on the following possession for 34 yards down the sideline. The reception pushed Mizzou into field goal range, and Mevis bounced back in dramatic fashion with a 50-yard field goal make.
The bounce-back performance continued on defense, where Mizzou may have put together its most dominant stand of the season.
On first down, Hopper stopped Antwane Wells Jr. for a two-yard loss. Defensive back Joseph Charleston followed that up with a one-yard loss on McDowell, setting up another key third down. That’s when defensive lineman Isaiah McGuire broke free, sacking Rattler for a nine-yard loss.
The emphatic stand helped to give the Mizzou offense strong field position at the South Carolina 49-yard-line following a 36-yard punt. After a 29-yard rush from Schrader, Mevis, with the help of the upright, banked in a 32-yard field goal.
Looking for any type of success, Rattler completed a 20-yard pass to Stogner on the ensuing drive’s first play. The rest, however, was all Mizzou. Hopper and defensive back Martez Manuel forced Rattler into an incompletion, and McGuire added another sack, this one for eight yards before a punt gave Mizzou possession.
The ensuing drive featured 10 rushes, all from Schrader, for 34 yards to kill over six minutes off the clock. Facing their last chance at a score, the Gamecocks could not get the job done. Manuel notched a six-yard sack before Rattler threw an interception to defensive back Dreyden Norwood, sealing the spooky Halloweekend victory for Mizzou.
Cook finished with 224 yards passing, 53 rush yards and a touchdown. Perhaps, most importantly, he finished the game without a turnover. Schrader, in his first true game as the No. 1 option, he racked up 81 yards and a touchdown. Lovett tallied 10 receptions for 148 yards as well.
Defensively, the Tigers combined for 11 tackles for loss, four sacks and two turnovers. The Gamecocks were held to just 203 yards on offense, including only 32 rush yards. The Blake Baker defensive turnaround continued its success.
The victory improves the Tigers to 4-4, including 2-3 in SEC play. South Carolina, meanwhile, falls to 5-3 (2-3 SEC). Missouri will welcome Kentucky into Columbia on Saturday at 11 a.m. with an opportunity to pull off another upset and cement itself in contention for a bowl berth.