Missouri tops South Carolina in SEC East showdown
College Contributor Network
If it wasn't a rivalry game after 2013's overtime thriller, it is now. South Carolina and Missouri -- both conveniently located in Columbia -- fought for the Mayor's Cup as well as SEC East prominence. So, before the game, I sat down with College Contributor Network member and University of Missouri student Alex Schiffer to hash out the details concerning this year's matchup between the Tigers and the Gamecocks. I tried my best to provide answers to his questions about South Carolina, but that has proven to be more difficult that imagined this season -- even for the Head Ball Coach. I revisited these answers after South Carolina's 21-20 loss to Missouri.
Q: Everyone knows what defensive end Jadeveon Clowney did in Columbia during his stint there, but a lot of NFL scouts and reporters said that line was deeper than it looked and has plenty of guys ready to step up now that he's gone. Clowney wasn't much of a factor during last year's game, so will any member of the defensive line pose a problem?
A: I think it's tough to say Jadeveon Clowney wasn't much of a factor in any game last season -- except the one he missed against Kentucky -- solely because of his presence on the field. This year was supposed to be the year that redshirt senior J.T. Surratt stepped up and played on the level of the Devin Taylors and Jadeveon Clowneys that came before him. That hasn't necessarily been the case this year, and it's tough to say that will change against a mobile quarterback like Maty Mauk. The Gamecocks have had enough trouble generating pass rush against teams with prototypical pocket passers.
What really happened: South Carolina managed to scrape together eight quarterback pressures as well as a couple sacks. The defense played arguably the best they have played all year, allowing only 280 total yards to Missouri. But they fell victim to a fourth-quarter comeback, ultimately losing grip of the game.
Q: Maty Mauk looked good against South Carolina last year but wasn't able to help Mizzou seal the game in regulation which helped lead to the overtime loss. If the game is close as many expect it will be, how will Mauk handle the pressure this year?
A: I think Mauk is very dangerous to a -- let's face it -- terrible South Carolina defense. He is near the top of the SEC in passing yards, as is Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill, and everyone knows what he did when he visited Columbia. South Carolina came into the season starting true freshman Al Harris Jr. at cornerback, and also moved safety Brison Williams to cornerback to provide depth at the position. It's hard to imagine Mauk cracking under the pressure this year, but Williams-Brice is definitely a tough place to play.
What really happened: Mauk looked off Saturday night, to put it kindly. He completed only 35% of his passes (12-34), which is the lowest completion percentage of his career. Mauk still managed to perform when his back was against the ropes, leading the Tigers to consecutive fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
Q: Bud Sasser is having a very overlooked year at the wide receiver position and many think he should've played more last year despite all the Tigers depth there last year. Now that Sasser is lining up against SEC cornerbacks will he continue to produce or will he lay an egg?
A: Let's hold on a second. Yes, South Carolina is in the SEC. And, yes they do have cornerbacks. But I don't know if I would compare them to the Patrick Petersons and Dee Milliners of years past. The Gamecocks have been awful against the pass all season. Sasser recorded a career-high in receptions last week against Indiana despite the loss, hauling in 12 passes for 153 yards. Coming off a performance like that, it's likely that defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward made Missouri's receivers a focal point in practice.
What really happened: Sasser led the team, once again, in both receptions and receiving yards, but did not put up spectacular numbers because of Mauk's subpar performance. His biggest moment was a 41-yard reception that kicked off an unprecedented Missouri comeback.
Q: Andrew Baggett missed an overtime field goal to give the Gamecocks the win last year. Does he play with a chip on his shoulder or does history repeat itself?
A: Baggett is already off to a rocky start this season, having missed two field goals on three attempts in Missouri's opener against South Dakota State. Again, the environment alone at South Carolina is enough to quake the confidence of any kicker, let alone one who is already struggling. I don't foresee Missouri having to settle for too many field goals this time, however.
What really happened: Bagget missed his only field goal of the night -- a 48-yarder -- but converted on all three of his extra point attempts. He knocked is final PAT through the uprights while the game was knotted at 20-20.
Q: My biggest question for the game is the Missouri offensive line. They looked awful last week between high snaps and letting Mauk take a beating. And not to mention the fact that they lost senior lineman Anthony Gatti for the year with an ACL tear. How do they respond as an entire unit especially since a few players have been moved around now?
A: Ward has already indicated that South Carolina's defense will have to blitz its linebackers in order to pressure quarterbacks this year since the defensive line just isn't producing. That leaves less bodies in coverage, however, which we all know South Carolina needs this time around. Mauk's ability to scramble and make plays is very reminiscent of what Connor Shaw used to do for the Gamecocks. I think that if Missouri's offensive line does let a player or two squeak through, there will be a receiver somewhere wide open.
What really happened: Missouri's offensive line wasn't horrible Saturday night, even though they allowed the two sacks. They got the push they needed, and blocked for a Missouri rushing game that totaled 148 yards on the ground.
David Roberts is a fourth-year English major at the University of South Carolina. He was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, but relocated to the land below the Mason-Dixon line in grade school, citing earthquakes and Raiders fans as minor nuisances. David is a die-hard Cubs fan and still breaks down when thinking about the 2003 NLCS. Follow him on Twitter: @davidjayroberts
Alex Schiffer is a sophomore journalism student at the University of Missouri and hails from Westfield, New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter: @TheSchiffMan