Preview: Missouri’s SEC opener against South Carolina will be ‘fourth-quarter game’

Last year’s matchup between Missouri and South Carolina was impacted by severe weather, and the Gamecocks pulled out a 37-35 win over the Tigers.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant celebrates a successful play on Sept. 14, 2019 at Memorial Stadium. Missouri defeated Southeast Missouri 50-0. Madeline Carter

After three weeks of nonconference play, Missouri faces its first Southeastern Conference opponent — South Carolina — on Saturday at 3 p.m. CDT at Memorial Stadium.

Although Columbia, Missouri, has seen temperatures of 90 degrees and higher this week, there’s potential for storms Saturday. Even if there wasn’t, coach Barry Odom doesn’t believe in taking chances on the weather, especially against the Gamecocks.

“Bring an umbrella,” Odom said. “Always understand: don’t trust the weather forecast.”

Last year in Columbia, South Carolina, heavy rains disrupted much of the third quarter before an eventual lightning delay was called with 2:41 left in the game. The delay lasted one hour and 16 minutes.

When play resumed, then-junior kicker Tucker McCann cleared a 57-yard field goal to put the Tigers in the lead 35-34 before the Gamecocks got one final chance with the ball. Quarterback Michael Scarnecchia led South Carolina 53 yards downfield across nine plays before then-redshirt sophomore Parker White made a 33-yard field goal to seal the game for the Gamecocks, 37-35.

“The last one, it was in a monsoon, some of the players were talking … That was one of our emphases, weather conditions, just finish,” graduate transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant said. “The coaches relay the message to the whole program, we’ve got to finish in the fourth quarter. We fell a little short last year, but we’ve got the message: it’s going to be a four-quarter game on Saturday.”

Odom mentioned during a press conference Tuesday that the team holds wet ball drills every Thursday. He also noted there were a few rainy practices during fall camp.

The weather may prove to be a returning factor in this year’s matchup, but one big difference from last year’s game will be who’s under center for both teams. While Bryant’s starting position has been expected since his commitment decision last December, South Carolina’s current starting quarterback — freshman Ryan Hilinski — was thrown into the position after senior Jake Bentley suffered a foot fracture on Aug. 31 against North Carolina.

“I’ve tried to search and look for the big differences [between Bentley and Hilinski] and I don’t really see any,” Odom said. “A lot of respect for both of the quarterbacks that they’ve played this year and I don’t see that they’ve missed a beat.”

Statistically speaking, Missouri and South Carolina are evenly matched. Both have scored an average 38 points per game and picked up a rough total yardage of 500 yards. The Tigers have an edge in points allowed, with an average of only 15 compared to the Gamecocks’ 27, as well as in yards allowed with the Tigers having allowed an average of 218.

Stakes may generally be higher in any conference matchup, but both Odom and Bryant expressed how focused the team is on taking each game one at a time.

“Everybody’s 0-0,” Bryant said. “Everybody’s trying to continue to progress each and every week.”

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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