The 4-5 Missouri Tigers need two wins in their final three regular season games to secure bowl game eligibility, and they might not have a better shot at victory than their home matchup against South Carolina.
The Gamecocks are coming off a shocking 40-17 win over Florida, earning them their second SEC win of the season in dominant fashion. Mizzou’s last score line dramatically contrasted in a 43-6 loss to (1) Georgia.
Even with the lopsided loss, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks saw an improved effort from his rushing defense, allowing the lowest amount of rushing yards to an SEC team all season.
“I thought we did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage,” Wilks said. “‘My gap’ mentality, you saw that in the first half… where I think [Georgia] had a total of 69 yards rushing. You know, guys took responsibility of doing their jobs, staying in their gaps, and it’s going to be the same thing this week in order for us to win this football game. They have three outstanding running backs, and their run game is phenomenal.”
The Gamecocks barely break into the top 100 FBS teams in rushing yards per game, but they put up a season-high 284 rushing yards against the Gators. Redshirt senior Zaquandre Wright and junior Kevin Harris led the way, each topping 100 yards and at least eight yards per carry.
But arguably the biggest difference in South Carolina’s offensive attack from weeks past was at the quarterback position. St. Francis (FCS) transfer Jason Brown drew his first start of the season due to injuries to Luke Doty and Zeb Noland, and he looked solid. Brown was 14 for 24, throwing for 175 yards and two touchdowns without any interceptions. He had great chemistry with leading receiver Josh Vann, who caught half of Brown’s completions for 111 yards and a score.
The Tigers are facing some big injuries as well. Ish Burdine, Shawn Robinson and Johnny Walker Jr. will all miss another game. Mekhi Wingo is listed as questionable, a concern for a rushing defense looking to reinforce its strong performance from last week. In addition, Hyrin White popped up as questionable, which may present issues for an offensive line facing top defensive end prospect Kingsley Enagbare, who leads the Gamecocks in sacks.
But arguably the biggest questionable listing for the Tigers is Connor Bazelak, who could potentially miss his second consecutive game to a soft tissue injury. That would likely mean Tyler Macon and Brady Cook sharing the offense between each other, depending on how Elijah Drinkwitz wants to capitalize against the Gamecocks defense.
They did an outstanding job in shutting down Florida’s run game with mobile quarterback Emory Jones, so it may be a bit more of Cook than Macon if Bazelak does indeed sit out. South Carolina also has one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC with senior Jaylan Foster, who leads the team in tackles and has five interceptions this season.
It remains to be seen who will lead the Tigers’ offense tomorrow afternoon on a cold day at Faurot Field where action kicks off at 3 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on SEC Network.