The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecocks' poor red zone offense, defensive struggles contribute to 3rd straight loss

<p>FILE — Head coach Shane Beamer walks the sideline during South Carolina’s game against Florida on Oct. 14, 2023, at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks lost to the Gators 41-39.</p>
FILE — Head coach Shane Beamer walks the sideline during South Carolina’s game against Florida on Oct. 14, 2023, at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks lost to the Gators 41-39.

The South Carolina football team fell to the No. 20 Missouri Tigers 34-12, dropping its third straight conference game.

This game marks the fifth straight year that the Tigers have beaten the Gamecocks and the fourth time that the Gamecocks have lost to the Tigers on the road in the series' history.


Missouri came out with firepower behind junior quarterback Brady Cook. The Tigers marched down the field to score on every drive of the first half after going three-and-out on its opening possession. Cook was 14 of 24 for 198 passing yards, 64 rushing yards on nine carries and two touchdowns — one passing and one rushing. 

Graduate student running back Cody Schrader complimented Cook in tearing up the injury-riddled Gamecock defense with 159 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. Schrader had 102 yards on 13 attempts and a touchdown before halftime

Redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Rattler and South Carolina's offense could not hang with Missouri in the first half. Fifth-year wide receiver Xavier Legette was held to one catch for 20 yards on two targets before going down with an undisclosed upper-body injury during the first half

“We had plenty of opportunities,” Beamer said. “We didn’t play well enough in the first half, didn’t coach well in the first half, but we had opportunities to make plays, and we didn’t get that done.” 

The Gamecocks also struggled with red zone offense. In four trips to the red zone, the South Carolina offense could only put up three field goals. Rattler completed just two out of six of his passes for nine yards and rushed for two yards when the team was in scoring range

In the first red zone trip, which did not happen until the beginning of the second half, the Gamecocks' special teams unit was penalized with a delay of game, moving senior kicker Mitch Jeter from the 36-yard line to the 41-yard line for the field goal attempt

"We were ready to play, we just didn't make enough plays in the first half," Beamer said. "The energy that we played with in the second half, that's what we got to continue to do going forward."

One of South Carolina's best chances came when Missouri sophomore punter Luke Bauer fumbled the fourth down snap of Missouri’s third quarter opening drive, giving the struggling road offense great field position at the Missouri 34-yard line, but Rattler was sacked on third down for a loss of seven yards, leading to a 38-yard field goal from Jeter

The final trip to the red zone came in the fourth quarter after Rattler threw the ball 29 yards to redshirt sophomore wide receiver O’Mega Blake, who was tackled at the Missouri 16-yard line. Rattler was unable to connect with fifth-year wide receiver Ahmarean Brown for the touchdown three plays later, however, ending the drive with another Jeter field goal from the 21-yard line.

On the other side, the Tigers ran through the Gamecocks' defense for 418 yards, 220 of which were rushing yards, and four touchdowns

Rattler had one of his worst games of the season, finishing the game 23 of 40 for 217 passing yards, -15 rushing yards on 13 attempts and one interception. This is the second game in a row where Rattler has thrown his sole interception in a must-score situation.

“On all of (the fourth downs), I considered going for it because at some point you need touchdowns,” Beamer said. “But you also got to do a good job of making plays on third down to get yourself to stay out of fourth down and getting a first.”

The Missouri defense also forced two fumbles — neither recovered — and the offense converted the interception from Rattler into an insurance touchdown. The Tigers' defensive line also sacked Rattler six times for 48 yards

Despite the loss, South Carolina true freshman wide receiver Nyck Harbor had a one of his best games. Harbor led the team in receiving yards, catching his two targets for 50 yards

The Gamecocks move to 2-5 (1-4 SEC) and stay on the road for another conference road battle on Oct. 28 at noon against Texas A&M, which will be available to watch on ESPN.