Don’t look now: Gamecocks in thick of SEC East title race

uscfoot-89mizThree turnovers forced by the Gamecock defense and a big day rushing by freshman Rico Dowdle led South Carolina (5-4, 3-4 SEC) to a 31-21 win over Missouri (2-7, 0-5 SEC) on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

A forced fumble helped the Gamecocks get on the board first. Sophomore Steven Montac ripped the ball away from a Missouri receiver after a pass play deep in Tiger territory, and junior Chris Lammons recovered the fumble, setting up South Carolina at the Missouri 20. Four plays later, sophomore Deebo Samuel ran in the end-around for a six-yard score.

The Tigers and Gamecocks traded scores in the second quarter. Missouri had scoring runs of 29 yards by Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter, both of which tied the game. Freshman quarterback Jake Bentley had two touchdown passes in the period, hitting Dowdle from 17 yards out before finding sophomore K.C. Crosby for a 6-yard TD and a 21-14 lead that stood at the half.

Mizzou tied the game at 21-21 on the first drive of the second half, capping the 72-yard drive on Kendall Blanton’s nine-yard reception from Drew Lock.

The Gamecocks stopped another Tiger drive deep thanks to Rashad Fenton’s interception at the SC 2. South Carolina proceeded to take the lead after the team’s longest scoring drive of the year, a 98-yard march. Dowdle’s 20-yard run capped the series and put the Gamecocks back on top, 28-21.With 7:35 to play, senior placekicker Elliott Fry hit a 24-yard field goal to push the Gamecocks’ lead to 10, 31-21.

Senior Chris Moody ended Missouri’s hopes of a comeback with his interception in the end zone with 29 seconds to play.

The win puts the Gamecocks in the thick of the SEC East championship chase. They travel to Florida next week.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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