South Carolina tries to keep success against Missouri goingSouth Carolina's Shi Smith, center, goes up for a touchdown pass while defended by Alabama's Jordan Battle, left, and Shyheim Carter during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
The only player on the Missouri roster who knows what it's like to beat South Carolina is Kelly Bryant, and the quarterback transfer didn't even accomplish the feat with the Tigers.
He did it two years ago while playing for Clemson.
The Tigers, who welcome South Carolina to Faurot Field for their SEC opener Saturday, haven't beaten the Gamecocks since 2015. And some of the games have been downright brutal defeats, including last year, when Missouri led by nine points at halftime only to watch South Carolina storm back and get a field goal in the final seconds for a rain soaked 37-35 victory.
''Collectively they made more plays than we have, you know, at the end of the day,'' Missouri coach Barry Odom said. ''Turnover margin is always going to be a huge factor in this game. And then the ability when you get down in the red area to be able to come up with touchdowns. You know there's times that we got down there we had to settle for field goals and they didn't. They scored.''
Oh, and rain is in the forecast again for Saturday.
''Every Thursday we put a heavy emphasis on, you know we may have five gallon buckets of water out there, wet ball drills, do all the things,'' Odom said. ''We had a number, two or three practices I guess, in fall camp it was rainy out so we got a little work there. But also it is the focus and the determination and the grittiness and the toughness to handle whatever the adversities are.''
The Tigers (2-1) are on a bit of a roll after following a stunning loss to Wyoming with blowouts of West Virginia and Southeast Missouri State. South Carolina (1-2) is still trying to get right after sandwiching losses to North Carolina and Alabama around a rout of Charleston Southern.
''We're desperate right now. We need a win,'' Gamecocks defensive back Jaycee Horn said. ''Things haven't started how we need them to so we need to come out fast and physical and play good.''
In truth, nobody was expecting South Carolina to match up well with the second-ranked Crimson Tide. But their games against Missouri and next week against Kentucky should be indicators of whether coach Will Muschamp is continuing to build following a blowout bowl loss to Virginia last season.
''It's not where we want to be or where we thought we'd be, but this is where we are right now,'' said Muschamp, who met with the team's leadership after the Alabama loss. ''Understand where we are and what we need to do to crawl out of it. That's what we're going to do.''
Bryant grew up in Calhoun Falls, South Carolina, and was recruited hard by the Gamecocks when Steve Spurrier was the coach. Their wide receiver, Jay Urich, played with Bryant in high school, and running back Tavian Feaster played with him at Clemson before leaving as a graduate transfer. Bryant said he also knows South Carolina natives Zacch Pickens, Shi Smith and Bryan Edwards.
Gamecocks quarterback Ryan Hilinski dazzled against Charleston Southern, but it was his outing against the Crimson Tide's stout defense that left fans feeling jazzed. The freshman had 324 yards passing and two touchdowns against a team filled with NFL-caliber talent.
Hilinski will go against another tough defense in Missouri, which ranks second national against the pass. The Tigers shut down West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall a couple weeks ago, and their defensive backs were the rare bright spot for the defense in their loss to Wyoming.
''We're three games down. That's what the numbers are,'' Odom said. ''If we continue to play well, on a high level then our numbers will stay where they are and if they don't, then they'll drop off. But you know we'll be tested this week.''
Muschamp said 14 players didn't practice recently as an illness swept through the team. There were still a few players sick early this week, and Muschamp said the football facility has been deep-cleaned twice already and the school was planning to do it again late this week.
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Missouri defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat hopes to play for the first time this season after hurting his right elbow the first day of fall camp. He was listed as a starter prior to getting hurt, and the South Carolina native would like nothing more than to make his season debut against the Gamecocks.
''I'm just ready to get back with my team, do my part, contribute and just keep winning,'' he said.
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