Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said the games don’t come down to one play. But at fourth-and-goal from the seven-yard line, down by three in double overtime, the No. 5 Tigers needed three points to extend the game.
Sophomore kicker Andrew Baggett missed the potential game-tying 24-yard field goal, knocking it off the top of the left upright. The ball ricocheted wide and Missouri (7-1, 3-1 SEC) lost its first game of the season, falling to No. 21 South Carolina 27-24 on homecoming.
Pinkel and Missouri players said Baggett took the loss hard.
“Of course he’s upset with himself, he’s a competitor,” junior defensive lineman Markus Golden said. “Andrew Baggett works hard, man. That’s a hard worker. That’s one of the hard workers on our team. Without him we wouldn’t be here. If anybody should win this game for us, it should’ve been him.”
The game would’ve already been over if it weren’t for a big conversion in South Carolina’s half of the first overtime. Down seven and facing fourth-and-goal from the 15, senior quarterback Connor Shaw found junior receiver Bruce Ellington on a corner route to extend the game to another extra session.
“They just made a good play,” Golden said.
Missouri led 17-0 through three quarters. The Gamecocks outgained the Tigers 168-38 in the final quarter. Pinkel said Missouri was trying to play conservatively and protect the lead.
“When you get into the fourth quarter, you try to conserve, you try to run the clock out the best you can, force them to use timeouts,” Pinkel said.
Junior Dylan Thompson started at quarterback for South Carolina. Coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday that usual starter Shaw would back up Thompson after Shaw sprained his knee last Saturday.
Thompson went 15-27 with an interception before Spurrier replaced him with Shaw after two and a half quarters. The senior lit it up, going 20-29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
“I went over and asked him if he (Shaw) could play and he said sure,” Spurrier said. “I said we had to make the move now. Dylan was just a little off here and there. I thought he had a few guys open and he zinged them out, but he threw some good balls. It just wasn’t his night and Connor gave us a little sharpness in there.”
Shaw said he was grateful for the chance to play.
“I wasn’t even supposed to be playing in this game,” Shaw said. “They said I was supposed to be out 2-3 weeks. I am thankful to be able to play in this game.”
Missouri built its lead by keeping South Carolina off the board on long drives and capitalizing on those opportunities.
First, kicker Elliott Fry missed a 40-yard field goal attempt wide-left. Then after two straight possessions ending in Mike Davis fumbles, John Gibson intercepted a deep pass by Thompson at the MU 10 yard line.
The Tigers cashed in on the missed field goal and the second Davis fumble. After the missed field goal, Missouri put together a nine-play, 77-yard drive ending with junior running back Marcus Murphy shedding defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney on his way to the end zone.
Following Gibson’s fumble at the Missouri two-yard line, redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk completed a 96-yard pass to senior receiver L’Damian Washington, the second longest play from scrimmage in Tiger history.
“He kind of ran a slant, then took it up, and there was nobody there,” Mauk said. “He runs under a four-three, so I had confidence that he was going to run by everybody.”
The win was South Carolina’s first overtime victory in school history. Spurrier was 0-3 in overtime games heading into Saturday.
“I thought for many seconds there I was going to be 0-4, but we hit Bruce Ellington on that corner route after getting a good call from up top,” Spurrier said.
Even with the loss, Missouri remains atop the Southeastern Conference East division standings. Missouri is the only team sitting with one loss, although South Carolina now owns the tiebreaker over the Tigers.
“I told our football team, ‘The loss will not define us,’” Pinkel said. “What will define this football team is how we deal with it.”