Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
October 27, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Steve Spurrier's first words when the Marathon in Missouri finally ended perfectly summed up one of the epic victories in Gamecock lore.
"I believe the good Lord was smiling on the Gamecocks," Spurrier uttered in disbelief walking off the field after No. 21 South Carolina stunned No. 5 Missouri, 27-24, in two overtimes Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 67,124 at Faurot Field.
Missouri's short field goal attempt to force a third overtime period ricocheted off the left upright and the entire Gamecock team raced onto the field in celebration of their sixth victory of the season, which secured bowl eligibility for the 10th straight season.
But just going to a bowl game was the farthest thing from USC's mind after the first overtime victory in school history and the first in Spurrier's head coaching career.
And the Gamecocks have gutsy Connor Shaw to thank.
The hobbled senior quarterback entered the game just past the midway point of the third quarter and led USC to 17 points over the final 12:13 of regulation, extending the game to overtime by throwing touchdown passes to Bruce Ellington and Nick Jones during the unforgettable rally from the three-score deficit.
"We're very happy, of course," Spurrier said. "I thought we were dead. But we made some points there in the fourth quarter. Connor Shaw brought us back and guys made some catches. The defense stopped them. Our guy, Elliott Fry, made the field goal and their guy missed. So, we're very fortunate and very thankful. Hopefully, we can learn from it and move on and get ready for Mississippi State."
Shaw saved his best for last, firing a fourth down touchdown pass to Ellington in the first overtime session to send the game to a second extra session.
Fry booted a 40-yard field goal on USC's possession in the second overtime. Missouri had first-and-goal at the 9-yard line, but the defense held and Tigers' placekicker Andrew Baggett trotted onto the turf for a seemingly makeable 25-yard attempt.
But his kick bounced off the upright, silencing the crowd and improving USC to 6-2 overall, 4-2 in the SEC following the biggest road win for the Gamecocks in 32 years when they beat third-ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill in October of 1981.
"You have the crowd and everyone going crazy, but you have to find a way to stay calm and do what you do," Fry said about his eventual game-winning field goal. "It is really about focus. A big part of the kicking game is mental and being able to focus when the time comes."
The overtime win kept USC's hopes of an SEC East crown alive, denied Missouri's quest to virtually clinch the division before the end of October and guaranteed the Gamecocks will be nationally ranked for a 57th straight week, tying them with Stanford for the fifth-longest streak of being ranked in the AP Top 25.
"It was do-or-die. We had no chance in the division unless we won this one," Spurrier said.
Saturday night's wild win marked the conclusion of a three-game road swing that took the Gamecocks to Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. USC now closes out the regular season with four consecutive home games starting with next Saturday's matinee matchup with Mississippi State (12:21 p.m., SEC TV) at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Although Dylan Thompson was lifted in favor of Shaw after completing 15-of-27 passes for 222 yards, he is now 3-0 record as starting quarterback.
Shaw was 20-of-29 passing for 201 yards after coming into the game with 6:46 left in the third quarter. The 423 passing yards by USC is the second-highest single game total in school history, and the most since 1995 when Steve Taneyhill threw for 490 yards at Mississippi State.
Trailing 17-0, USC's reversal of fortune started when Spurrier put Shaw into the game hoping he could pull something out of the fire to spark a lethargic, turnover-prone Gamecock offense.
"I went over and asked him if he could play and he said, 'Sure,'" Spurrier said. "So I said we have to make the move now. Dylan was just a little off here and there. He had a few guys I thought were open and he zinged them out. But he threw some good balls. It wasn't his night. Connor gave us a little sharpness in there."
Shaw was 14-of-18 for 168 yards in the frantic fourth quarter.
"I wasn't even supposed to be playing in this game," Shaw said. "They said I was supposed to be out two to three weeks. I am thankful to be able to play in this game."
Mike Davis rushed for 51 yards on 19 carries, moving him to within 50 yards of the 1,000-yard mark for the season, and fumbled twice. Davis made up for those miscues by catching 10 passes for 99 yards, while Bruce Ellington also grabbed 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
"No, I didn't lose hope at all," Davis said. "I'll tell you what, our guys came together and we all played for each other and we never gave up."
Defensively, the USC secondary held Missouri's 'Big Three' receivers (Marcus Lucas, L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham) to five receptions, although one was a 96-yard touchdown play.
"Our defensive backs battled their good receivers," Spurrier said. "They knocked down some jump balls that they threw. Our defense played very well. They kept us in the game."
USC won the overtime coin toss and defended first. Two scrambles by Mauk moved the ball to the 9-yard line where two more runs by Marcus Murphy to the left side produced a Mizzou touchdown.
Knowing USC had to score a touchdown to extend the game, Shaw rolled right and connected with Ellington for a 16-yard gain.
When a sack and two incomplete passes led to all-or-nothing play on fourth-and-goal from the 16, Shaw calmly stepped back and rifled a pass to Ellington, running a corner route, in the right corner of the end zone to deliver a second overtime.
"We hit Bruce Ellington on that corner route after getting a good call from up top," Spurrier said. "Steve Jr. said try the corner route. Maybe they'll play man again, Sure enough, they played man instead of their usual zone."
USC couldn't pick up a first down and Fry booted a 40-yard field goal to put the Gamecocks ahead for the first time in the contest, 27-24.
Missouri gained 17 yards on the ground to give it first-and-goal at the 8-yard line. But the Gamecock defense stiffened and the field goal attempt bounced off the upright.
The comeback from the 17-point deficit marked the largest rally by USC since it roared back from a 17-point deficit against East Carolina in the 2011 season opener in Charlotte.
After a forgettable first half for the Gamecock offense (three turnovers, 1-for-7 on third downs), USC got a break when a tipped pass found the arms of Damiere Byrd in the third quarter. Soon, the Gamecocks faced a fourth-and-6 from the UM 32. Thompson lofted a pass into the end zone for Busta Anderson, who got tangled up with a Mizzou defender. No flag was thrown and the Tigers took over after the 8-play, 55-yard drive by the Gamecocks came up empty.
Missouri benefited from a questionable pass interference call on Victor Hampton and completed the drive with a 27-yard field goal with 6:46 left in the third quarter to make it 17-0.
Trailing by three scores, Spurrier inserted Shaw, who suffered a sprained knee at Tennessee last weekend, into the game in an effort to spark the Gamecock offense. He fired a pass to Anderson for an apparent first down, but the junior tight end was flagged for offensive pass interference.
Moments later, USC gained an automatic first down when Missouri was called for roughing the passer (hands to the face). However, a second down sack doomed the drive.
In the opening moments of the fourth quarter, USC gambled on fourth down in Mizzou territory and converted, keeping the drive alive.
The decision paid dividends when Ellington used some fancy footwork to stay inbounds just past the pylon in the front right corner of the end zone to put the Gamecocks on the board with 12:13 left in the fourth quarter.
Ellington caught his fourth touchdown of the season, while Shaw threw the 44th TD pass of his career, moving him to within three of Stephen Garcia (47) for third place on USC's all-time list. His later TD passes to Jones and Ellington gave him 46 in his career.
Missouri drove as far as the SC 28 on the ensuing drive, but a 46-yard field goal sailed wide left, keeping USC's dreams of a heroic comeback alive.
With Shaw looking like the old Shaw, moments after USC picked up a first down at the UM 34, he fired a bullet to Jerell Adams over the middle to move the ball inside the 10-yard line.
However, USC had to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Fry when the flag on a potential pass interference penalty was picked up by the officials when Shaw's high pass was ruled uncatchable.
Trailing 17-10, the Gamecock defense came up with the critical stop it absolutely had to get and USC took over at its 37 following a short punt.
Shaw directed a memorable 63-yard drive culminating in a short touchdown pass to a leaping Nick Jones with 42 seconds left, forcing the extra session.
Based on the way the first half unfolded, few people could have predicted the final outcome.
After allowing Missouri QB Maty Mauk to scramble for a first down on Mizzou's opening possession, middle linebacker Kaiwan Lewis dove to snag a tipped ball at the SC 47 for his first career interception. But three straight incompletions forced the second punt of the night by Tyler Hull.
The first four possessions in the game produced three punts and a turnover.
USC picked up its initial first down on its third possession when a well-executed middle screen to Anderson gained 23 yards to the SC 47. However, the drive faltered on the fringe of the red zone and Fry missed a 40-yard field goal.
Mizzou took control and promptly drove 77 yards on nine plays for the first touchdown of the game on an 11-yard scamper around left end by Murphy marred by poor tackling by multiple Gamecock defenders.
Earlier in the drive, USC cornerback Jimmy Legree had a sure interception slip through his fingers. Mauk hit a 32-yard pass to Washington on the next play.
Energized by a sensational backwards catch by Byrd, USC advanced into Mizzou territory early in the second quarter, but Davis was rocked on a third-and-2 carry and lost his grip on the football. The Tigers recovered at the SC 31.
When USC got the ball back, Thompson connected twice with Byrd and Ellington. The second completion was a laser beam over the middle to Ellington, who fought his way to the UM 2.
The golden scoring opportunity was wasted, though, when Davis powered into the middle of the line and fumbled for the second time in the game. Mizzou fell on the fumble, denying the Gamecocks a chance to even the score
The significance of the turnover was quickly revealed.
On third-and-8 from the 4-yard line, Missouri burned a USC blitz (and zone defense behind it) when Mauk fired a slant pass to Washington for a 96-yard touchdown play. Just to make matters worse, two USC defenders had a chance to bring Washington down around midfield, but failed to do so, allowing him to coast into the end zone.
The longest pass completion by Missouri in nearly 40 years pushed the deficit to 14-0 with 4:16 remaining in the second quarter.
On the second play of USC's ensuing possession, Thompson heaved a long pass down the left sideline, but Mizzou's John Gibson intercepted at the UM 10 for USC's third turnover of the first half.
Later, Thompson was stuffed on fourth down to give Mizzou the ball at the SC 34, but the defense held firm to keep the deficit at 14 points heading to the locker room.
Thompson was 12-for-20 passing for 171 yards in the first half, while Davis had 29 yards on 11 carries, an average of 2.2 yards per attempt, with two fumbles.
Missouri outgained USC, 261-225, in the first half even though the Gamecocks registered more first downs (12-9) and controlled the ball for 16:43. The Tigers, though, averaged 7.9 yards per play compared to 5.8 yards for USC.
More Rush's game coverage: Click here for more Rush's game coverage
South Carolina NEWS