South Carolina aims to secure bowl eligibility when they face Missouri in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference encounter at Columbia, Mo.
The Gamecocks (5-4, 2-4 SEC) are coming off an uplifting 40-17 victory over Florida. Before rolling over the Gators, they had scored just 23 points or fewer in their previous seven games.
South Carolina will catch the Tigers (4-5, 1-4) coming off a 43-6 road loss to the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs. Missouri is still looking for its first SEC home victory of the season at Faurot Field.
With top Gamecocks quarterbacks Luke Doty and Zeb Noland injured, Jason Brown started against Florida and completed 14 of 24 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
Brown passed for 3,124 yards with 28 touchdowns in 18 games (including 12 starts) at FCS school St. Francis (Pa.) before transferring to South Carolina. But he spent much of the season at No. 3 on the Gamecocks’ depth chart.
Doty is out for the season with a foot injury. Noland resumed practicing after recovering from minor knee surgery, but Brown will start against Missouri.
“He’s got a great work ethic,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said of Brown. “He has had to put in a lot of work. We told him he needed to lose weight after spring practice. … Then just from a physical standpoint, footwork, throwing the ball, and from a mental standpoint.
“He’s gotten very comfortable, confident in what he’s doing it.”
South Carolina outgained Florida 284-82 on the ground while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. They built a time-of-possession advantage of more than 12 1/2 minutes.
Now the Gamecocks face a Missouri defense that has allowed 270.2 yards per game on the ground, the second-highest average among FBS schools.
Defensively, the Gamecocks will have to prepare for multiple quarterbacks. With Missouri starter Connor Bazelak sidelined Saturday by injury, Tyler Macon and Brady Cook alternated at quarterback.
Macon was the better runner against Georgia (42 yards on 11 carries) while Cook was the better passer (14 of 19, 78 yards).
“I thought those guys both played really hard, they both showed a lot of toughness, and they both did some really good things,” Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “But at the end of the day we didn’t play well enough at that position to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Bazelak returned to practice this week, albeit at less than 100 percent, so there is a chance he could play against the Gamecocks.
“How we play this game will be determined based on where we’re at after (Wednesday’s) practice and who we feel like is available and why they’re available and that will determine the direction that we go,” Drinkwitz said.
Whoever plays quarterback for Missouri will rely heavily on running back Tyler Badie, who has rushed for 1,030 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 45 passes for 315 yards and four TDs.
–Field Level Media