The 2022 edition of the Mayor’s Cup between South Carolina and Missouri started slow and developed into a defensive battle over four quarters at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The defense was Missouri’s calling card coming into the game and key defensive plays paved the way for the Tigers to grab the 23-10 win in Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday.
“We play in the SEC. Everybody's going to be good. We’ve just got to be ready for everything that's thrown at us. And we'll be better, that’s all,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Debo Williams said.
Missouri finished with 11 tackles for loss which pushed the Gamecocks back 45 yards and only allowed five third-down conversions from 13 opportunities.
In comparison, South Carolina had four tackles behind the line of scrimmage for eight yards and recorded only one sack for a loss of two yards in the game.
“We’ve got to get back on our A-game,” freshman defensive back Nick Emmanwori said. “We had a pretty good week on the perimeter in practice and stuff. We’ve just got to execute and set the edge better and play fast.”
The Tigers’ defense played fast and rallied to the ball all night, forcing junior quarterback Spencer Rattler and the Gamecocks into obvious passing situations. In these instances, the defensive line for Missouri stepped up and made a difference in the game.
Missouri sacked Rattler four times for 28 yards and recorded three quarterback hurries in addition to four pass breakups in perimeter coverage. South Carolina’s defense played a gear slower than its opponent in the game and was reactive, instead of proactive, when trying to stop the Tigers.
“Really the first quarter, we looked like a team that was on our heels and just assumed everything was going to be okay, and just waiting for something to happen,” head coach Shane Beamer said.
The South Carolina defense has suffered losses by way of injury during the season, but the players refuse to use that as an excuse. Williams said the defensive unit had a solid game plan entering the game, but on-field execution remains vital.
“Every week, we prepare to play our best and even with injuries, next man up, you’ve got to play your best and that's all you can ever do. Just try to execute everything we’re given, and we’ve just got to keep going,” Williams said.
One way the defense for the Gamecocks has been able to influence games this season is with takeaways but on Saturday it was Missouri’s defensive unit that forced the turnovers. Missouri recovered a Rattler fumble and got an interception in the fourth quarter to close the door on a Gamecock comeback.
The South Carolina defense consistently allowed long drives, giving Missouri five red zone opportunities to score points. Missouri finished with nearly 150 rushing yards while its defense allowed only 32 yards on the ground.
The Gamecocks conceded first down conversions on half of the Tigers’ third down attempts, allowing the visitors to possess the ball for over 36 minutes. South Carolina now looks toward Vanderbilt who it will travel to face on the road next weekend.
“Like every game, win or lose we always get back to work on Sunday morning and see what the issues are what we did well, what we didn't do well,” Beamer said. “But certainly, tonight we were not good enough and we’ve got to figure out how to be better.”