Second Thoughts: Missouri
He wasn’t supposed to play.
He wasn’t supposed to lead a 17-0 comeback in the fourth quarter.
He wasn’t supposed to win the game.
But he did.
Connor Shaw added a big stamp on his South Carolina legacy with his performance against Missouri on Saturday night. Dealing with an injured knee, a stomach virus and whatever else he deals with on a day-to-day basis, Connor Shaw was masterful in leading the Gamecocks to a come-from-behind victory. He passed for three touchdowns with no interceptions. He wasn’t as mobile as we were used to seeing but he still was able to play extremely smart football and make enough plays to keep the Gamecocks comeback dreams alive.
This game was basically all Missouri until the fourth quarter. South Carolina struggled on offense for most of the game. Mike Davis fumbled the ball twice and wasn’t the punishing running back we’ve seen this year. Yet, somehow, despite the crucial turnovers, the defense held Missouri in check enough to give the Gamecocks hope. 17 points seemed like a lot to come back from in the fourth quarter but South Carolina knew it could do it thanks to the spark Connor Shaw provided off the bench.
The Gamecocks, who seemingly had their season goals diminished last week with the loss to Tennessee, have brought those goals back to life and still have a chance to play for an SEC Championship. A lot of things need to happen for the Gamecocks to get a crack at whatever SEC West team makes it to Atlanta, but the door is opened yet again thanks to the thrilling double overtime victory over Missouri.
Now, let’s take a look at some Second Thoughts from Saturday’s win over Missouri:
-- On South Carolina’s first scoring drive of the day, they picked up several key first downs that helped put them on the scoreboard. The first was a fourth-down conversion at the Missouri 46-yard line. Shaw completed a 10-yard pass to Bruce Ellington for the first down. The Gamecocks then made their way to the Mizzou 33-yard line. It was third and long and Shaw found Jerell Adams for 17 yards on the play. Next came one of the biggest of the day.
After an incomplete pass and a sack, the Gamecocks faced a third and 19 from the Missouri 25-yard line. South Carolina drew up the screen play and it worked to perfection. Mike Davis got the pass and bulldozed his way to a first down. The next play, Shaw hits Ellington from six yards out for the Gamecocks first touchdown.
Would South Carolina have won without those conversions? I guess we don’t know the answer to that question but it wouldn’t have been easy without that score and those big conversions from Connor Shaw.
-- I’m amazed at what Connor Shaw was able to do Saturday. On a bad knee, he gave South Carolina life. To add to the story, he was suffering from flu-like symptoms. Spurrier thought he could play earlier in the week but the illness that popped up late likely erased those ideas. Still, there he was leading South Carolina down the field in the fourth quarter. This young man is cool and calm and has always shown a knack for just getting it done.
People may not life the flash or style of play from Connor Shaw, but trust me, you will miss this young man next year. What he did Saturday night put belief in his team and they showed their love for their tough quarterback by carrying him off the field on Saturday. That doesn’t happen too often. So when it does, you know it’s because something special just happened.
What Shaw did Saturday night was special. We’ll always remember that.
-- Mizzou made it look easy in the first overtime period on offense. The Gamecocks struggled to slow down Mizzou’s run game and they scored in four plays. And it looked like that would continue on their second overtime possession as well. Marcus Murphy picked up 17 yards on the first play. Already with their backs to the wall, the defense stepped up. Chaz Sutton stopped Murphy on the next play and then provided the pressure on Maty Mauk on second down. Facing third and goal, Mauk was forced to run but the Gamecocks kept him out of the end zone and set up a short field goal attempt for Missouri. Of course we all know what happened next.
-- There were some great receiving performances from the Gamecocks led by Bruce Ellington. Ellington had quite the day with 136 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 10 catches. He looked like he was in the groove Saturday night, catching passes left and right, and made one of the biggest of his career on fourth and goal from the 15-yard line. Facing a tough position knowing this was to keep the game alive for the Gamecocks, Connor Shaw found a wide-open Bruce Ellington in the end zone for the touchdown to help South Carolina keep their momentum and keep this game going.
It wasn’t the best rushing performance from Mike Davis, but his receiving skills were on display Saturday night. Davis finished the day with 10 catches for 99 yards but was huge on the Gamecocks final possession of the fourth quarter. South Carolina ran three-straight screen plays for Davis that netted 36 yards and put South Carolina at the Missouri one-yard line. Two plays later, this is a tied ballgame and South Carolina had made the comeback. Davis was instrumental in Saturday’s game and that’s what great players do. When things aren’t going right, they find a way to make things happen. Davis did exactly that on Saturday.
-- Elliott Fry deserves some credit for his big kicks Saturday night. His 40-yard kick in the second overtime period was the eventual game winner for the Gamecocks. He missed an earlier kick in the game, so to be able to come back and do what he did was pretty impressive.
-- Kelcy Quarles was an animal on defense. Time and time again, he was making plays and being disruptive. He was impressive for this defense and definitely stepped up big on Saturday night. I just wish he wouldn’t get so banged up during the games. He seems to leave games early with minor injuries here and there.
Speaking of the defense, they all played pretty well considering the firepower Missouri has on offense. The Tigers did have a few big plays, the 96-yard touchdown comes to mind, but South Carolina had several near interceptions and Mauk wasn’t very accurate. The defense is getting better. They may not be the same Carolina defense we’ve seen in recent years, but these guys are working to get it done. That’s all I can ask of them.
-- Let’s not get down on Dylan Thompson. He wasn’t very accurate with the football Saturday night but he did a solid job for South Carolina. The fumbles played a big part early for South Carolina’s offensive miscues so you can’t blame Thompson for that. Spurrier said it was time for a spark and that’s why he went with Shaw. Thompson is a guy that can lead this team, but right now, this is the Connor Shaw show.
-- How excited were you to see Jerell Adams and Busta Anderson make plays on Saturday night? I certainly was. These two guys have been getting more involved and I like it. I think they are the perfect complement to our shorter, talented receivers. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see them make plays the rest of the year.
Enough can’t be said about how important this win is for the program. South Carolina has built a winning program the last few years that is nationally seen around the country. However, eventually, people will start wanting more. This is what has happened with the Gamecocks. People expected big things this season and last week’s loss to Tennessee almost ended all of those hopes and dreams right there.
But this is the SEC. Each week brings change and this week, the Gamecocks fortune has changed for the better. South Carolina now has a chance to win an SEC East title and play for an SEC Championship. They still need some help, but they are in much better shape now and people are beginning to believe that it will happen.
A win like Saturday’s can do a lot for the mental makeup of this bunch. They got down but never folded. The comeback was due to a total team effort. Sure, Connor Shaw gets the credit but everyone contributed on that field Saturday night. This is the kind of win that you can build on and South Carolina has a chance to do so on Saturday in a very winnable game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The return home to Williams-Brice added in with the upset victory over Missouri should give the Gamecocks all they need to come out and play well this Saturday. They certainly can’t let up this weekend and will need to stay focused towards winning one game at a time.
Mississippi State will certainly hope to knock off the Gamecocks this weekend but they will be fighting a completely different team that’s got some momentum on their side.
It certainly is good to be a Gamecock.