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5 Takeaways: Gamecocks pull one out behind Scarnecchia, timely defense

After South Carolina’s thrilling (and bizarre) 37-35 shootout win over Missouri, the Gamecocks stand at 3-2. Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s rain-soaked contest.

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Michael Scarnecchia || CJ Driggers
Michael Scarnecchia || CJ Driggers (C.J. Driggers)

1. Scarnecchia is at worst a serviceable back-up

First off all, let’s establish that Missouri’s pass defense is not very good. But even still, Michael Scarnecchia brought a spark to the South Carolina offense. Scarnecchia hit Bryan Edwards on two beautiful touchdown passes early in the game and managed the game well, taking shots when needed. His completion percentage was hurt by a few drops, especially when the rain came, but Scarnecchia was accurate.

I won’t advocate for Scarnecchia to start over Bentley, but at the very least he’s earned the trust of the coaching staff. If Jake Bentley’s injury lingers, Will Muschamp should have no hesitation starting Scarnecchia.

2. Jaycee Horn was phenomenal

Immediately, Horn’s four pass breakups jump off the page. But it’s not just the that statline or the fact that Horn seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Horn brings an attitude to the defense that it desperately needs.

Horn had two breakups of what seemed like sure touchdowns and a huge play on Missouri’s 2-point conversion attempt. The pass deflection — not one of the four as 2-point stats don’t count — came against 6-5, 250-pound Albert Okwuegbunam, one of the top tight ends in the country.

It was Horn’s effort that knocked Damarea Crockett out of bounds at the 10-yard line on what looked like a sure touchdown. Instead, the Tigers punted on the drive. On the play before Sherrod Greene’s pick-six, Horn baited senior Drew Lock into making a throw to the flat that Horn jumped.

Horn looks to be finding his feet in the SEC. With his talent, Horn has the potential to be special. We may have witnessed the first glimpse of that this afternoon.

Also see: Missouri game recruiting notes

3. This is Will Muschamp’s worst defense at South Carolina, but...

Yes, they’re missing D.J. Wonnum, but even with excellent performances from Horn and Bryson Allen-Williams, the Gamecock defense struggled mightily. Missouri had three touchdowns overturned, twice to the one-foot line. A fumbled snap, four penalties and some dropped passes made sure the Tigers only got 10 points out of those drives.

The Gamecocks gave up six yards per play and were gashed for 286 yards on the ground — the most the unit has given up since October 9, 2016 against Georgia.

The safety play has remained inconsistent and the linebackers were again out of position. Muschamp has always played a bend-not-break defense since arriving at South Carolina, but without Taylor Stallworth and Skai Moore, the Gamecocks are struggling not to break against the run.

Still, South Carolina buckled down when it had to. The red zone defense was fantastic and despite giving up a long field goal at the end of the game, they left 1:18 on the clock for the offense, which ultimately made the difference.

4. The Running Game is almost non-existent

Missouri’s run defense is decent, much better than its pass defense, at least. Still, 2.7 yards a carry is not getting it done. Yes, Missouri loaded the box to force Scarnecchia to beat them (which he did), but the Gamecock running backs have to get the job done.

Ty’Son Williams heated up midway through the second quarter and Rico Dowdle had a few nice runs in the monsoon minutes, but the consistency was not there.

Things may open up if teams have to respect the pass, but this rushing output is not sustainable.

5. Parker White.

Before the season, I wrote extensively about how Parker White’s freshman struggles weren’t all on him; that if he were put in a better position, he could be one of the best kickers in the history of South Carolina.

White is now 8-9 on the season, including a three big field goals today. In his career, he is now 21-23 on field goals inside of 45 -- the best percentage on such kicks in school history.

White is no longer kicking off and with the offense’s newfound aggressiveness on fourth downs, White hasn’t been put in a position to succeed. South Carolina needed him today.

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