The South Carolina football team picked up its first SEC win after defeating Mississippi State 37-30 Saturday night in a game full of explosive passing plays from both sides.
Redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Rattler and Bulldog senior quarterback Will Rogers combined for 775 passing yards and four touchdowns. Big plays were common, with one occurring almost every drive.
“(Rogers) is one of the best quarterbacks in this conference and has shown that over the years and is a veteran guy,” head coach Shane Beamer said. “They got talented receivers, and they got a really big-time quarterback as well, so the number of times they threw it didn't necessarily surprise me.”
Mississippi State had 10 passes go more than 15 yards, one of which resulted in a 65-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Lideatrick Griffin. The Gamecocks did not have as many big passing plays as the Bulldogs, but three of its five resulted in touchdowns.
Fifth-year wide receiver Xavier Legette caught two of Rattler's passes —— the first for 76 yards and the second for 75 yards. Graduate tight end Trey Knox made the other play, catching a 17-yard touchdown.
“On the first one, I just seen straight green grass,” Legette said. “The second one, (Rattler) put it in the great spot. I just had to outrun the DB.”
Legette finished with three other receptions to bring his yardage total to 189 for the game.
The Gamecocks started fast, scoring on its first two possessions of the game. The team built a 14-0 lead after scoring touchdowns on consecutive 99 and 98-yard drives.
Rattler continued to play as confidently as he has all season, completing 18-20 passes for 288 yards and picking up an additional 43 yards on the ground.
“Credit the offensive line and then Spencer (for) doing a great job keeping his eyes downfield when it's not there. He's got a knack for being able to run the ball without a doubt," Beamer said. "That's a weapon for us.”
The success of each team’s run game was a major factor in the game.
South Carolina has struggled to rush the ball all season, averaging just 53 rush yards a game entering Saturday, but the team may have made the necessary adjustments after rushing for 144 yards against Mississippi State.
A significant reason for the Gamecocks' ground success was redshirt senior running back Mario Anderson. Anderson received a season-high 26 carries, picking up 88 yards and a touchdown.
“It was great for him,” Legette said. “He got his opportunity, and he ran with it.”
While the Gamecocks found success in creating a balanced offense, the Bulldogs struggled to get anything going on the ground, accumulating just 32 yards on 23 carries.
Beamer credited his defense for being disruptive and forcing Mississippi State to rely on Rogers’ arm. This created pressure opportunities for the Gamecocks’ defensive line, which recorded nine tackles for loss and compelled the Bulldogs to make mistakes.
The Gamecocks forced an interception, a recovered fumble and a turnover on downs. The recovered fumble occurred at the start of the fourth quarter and led to the touchdown that would ultimately give South Carolina the win.
“We've been preaching how much we can affect the game all weekend,” redshirt junior defensive tackle Alex Huntley said. “We just had to take it into our hands and do as much as we could to help the team.”
This victory improves the Gamecocks' record to 2-2 on the year and 1-1 in the SEC. The team will now prepare for a stretch of games where it will play three of the next four on the road.
South Carolina will travel to Tennessee next week for a rematch of last season's upset victory against the Volunteers. The game is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.