Mizzou dominated in SEC road test

2012-09-23T01:05:00Z 2012-09-23T13:13:46Z Mizzou dominated in SEC road testBY VAHE GREGORIAN stltoday.com
September 23, 2012 1:05 am  • 

COLUMBIA, S.C. • Two weeks ago in its first league game as a member of the Southeastern Conference, Mizzou suffered a disappointing but hardly demoralizing 41-20 loss to then-No. 7 Georgia.

The Tigers led most of the first three quarters and largely appeared on par physically with Georgia before two critical turnovers did them in late.

But MU's first SEC road game Saturday at No. 7 South Carolina offered no such consolation or points of encouragement.

The Gamecocks seized a 21-3 halftime lead on the way to a 31-10 victory that wasn't as close as it sounded.

South Carolina turned the ball over twice at the MU 15 and had an 80-yard touchdown run called back for a clip, and Mizzou's lone touchdown came in the final seconds with reserves in the game.

"I think it was evident we were a little stronger than Missouri," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said with rare understatement.

Said MU coach Gary Pinkel: "That was a pretty dominating performance."

Mizzou fell to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in SEC play. South Carolina, winner of eight in a row for the first time since 1984, is 4-0 and 2-0.

Before more than 80,000 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks outclassed the Tigers in every phase of the game, smothering MU's mistake-prone offense, efficiently dissecting Missouri's defense and converting big returns through flailing would-be tacklers into crushing touchdowns.

"The field position was staggering," said Pinkel, whose team was outgained 106-0 on punt returns. "So much of it was tackling. A lot of it was hang time. especially with the quickness of the people they have back there. You're asking for trouble."

The Tigers had 180 yards of total offense when starter James Franklin was replaced in the final minutes of the runaway by Corbin Berkstresser, who guided MU to a token TD on a 1-yard pass to Marcus Lucas with 17 seconds left.

Before the Tigers got four first downs on their final drive, they had nearly as many fumbles — five, losing one — as first downs (eight). Franklin was under siege with MU having to play catch-up in the second half.

"We made some plays against Georgia," said MU receiver T.J. Moe, comparatively adding, "Really, we were so bad today offensively we didn't put ourselves in the position to make any plays. And that's hard to do."

South Carolina racked up 396 yards and was so unmussed offensively that quarterback Connor Shaw completed 20 straight passes — the second-best streak in SEC history — before leaving midway through the fourth quarter.

Shaw finished 20 for 21.

"He got off to a slow start; he missed his first one, I think," Spurrier said.

Shaw completed his 19th straight with 2 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third quarter for a 13-yard touchdown and a clearly insurmountable 28-3 lead against an MU team that managed 20 yards of offense in the third quarter and had been outscored 30-0 in the fourth quarters the previous two weeks.

Serving to reinforce that it was over, MU punted rather than go for it on fourth and 5 at the South Carolina 44 near the end of the third.

MU never got traction, but the first wave of collapse came right after a bright moment that offered the possibility of momentum for Mizzou.

After a scoreless first quarter, South Carolina gambled for a touchdown on fourth and goal at the MU 1 only for the Tigers to bristle as Kony Ealy, Donovan Bonner and Will Ebner swarmed Shaw at the MU 2.

But four plays later, South Carolina's Ace Sanders returned a 45-yard Trey Barrow punt 49 yards to the MU 4.

Sanders shrugged off or swiveled away from a number of tacklers but none more apparently than Kip Edwards, who midway through Sanders' romp had Sanders in his grasp but focused on ripping the ball loose instead of taking him down.

"An underclassman mistake," Edwards called it, adding, "I should have just made the tackle, and I blame the whole momentum shift and the way the game went on me. The game was still 0-0."

Two plays later, it was 7-0 on Marcus Lattimore's 2-yard run.

And, wham, five plays later it was 14-0.

Carrying for the first time since the opener against Southeastern Louisiana and just the fifth time in his career, MU freshman reserve tailback Russell Hansbrough fumbled and South Carolina recovered at the Mizzou 37 after Tigers freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham couldn't haul the ball in despite initially being the only player near it.

Shaw then hit Nick Jones for a 36-yard pass that set up a 1-yard TD run by Lattimore, the school-record 32nd of his career.

The scores stood until Andrew Baggett's 22-yard field goal for Mizzou with 1:20 left in the half culminated a 76-yard drive, MU's first sign of offensive life.

The Tigers had 53 yards before that drive started.

But South Carolina trumped MU's field goal with 24 seconds left in the half on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Shaw to Sanders, teed up by Bruce Ellington's 50-yard kickoff return.

Then the Gamecocks stifled the Tigers in the second half, making for a different sort of welcome to the SEC than MU got two weeks ago.

Asked what positives Mizzou could take from the game, even the perpetually upbeat Franklin said, "We'll see that when we watch the film. Right now, it doesn't really feel like there's a lot of positives."

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