Gamecocks face first true road test of the year at Mizzou

Gamecocks face first true road test of the year at Mizzou
South Carolina running back Rico Dowdle (5) can't believe he just came short of the endzone after diving towards it as Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis (24) looks on during second-quarter action in Columbia, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA) (Source: Travis Bell)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (WIS) - The Mayor’s Cup is on the line once again in the “Battle of Columbia” as South Carolina takes on Missouri in its first true road test of the season.

The Gamecocks currently own a three-game winning streak over the Tigers including last season’s 37-35 win that saw two weather delays thanks to a sudden thunderstorm that parked over Williams-Brice Stadium.

However, this year’s game is for more than just the Mayor’s Cup, if you ask the Gamecocks. Sititng at 1-2 on the season, Carolina is in dire need of a win with a tough stretch of games against SEC East foes on the docket.

“When you're in the locker room when the game is over and you see the guys are hurting, it's not a good thing but it's a good thing and it bothers them,”: Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said. “We have really good leadership and a good culture in this organization. The leadership is in a really good spot. Meeting with those guys on Sunday and talking about where we are and being realistic and understanding it's not where we want to be and not where we thought we were going to be, but this is where we are right now. Understand where we are and what we've got to do to crawl out of it and that's what we're going to do."

The Gamecocks find themselves facing a familiar foe in Kelly Bryant. The former Clemson quarterback opted to play for a new set of Tigers after playing in four games under Dabo Swinney in 2018. Bryant may not be in the same system as he was during his time at Clemson, but Muschamp understands the graduate transfer is still just as dangerous.

“He's a winner,” Muschamp said. “That's the one thing that jumps out at you. He throws the ball extremely well. He throws the vertical ball well. He evades and moves to throw the ball more than run with the ball. I don't know that facing him before at another school means an awful lot other than I've got tremendous respect for him."

With Mizzou, Bryant has completed nearly 68% of his passes for 798 yards and six touchdowns.

He’ll look to senior wide receiver Johnathon Johnson, sophomore running back Tyler Badie, and All-SEC first-team junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam to ensure the passing game remains successful this Saturday.

“They have a really good offensive football team and are very athletic and big on the offensive line,” Muschamp said. “(Tyler) Badie and (Larry) Rountree are both really good runners. The tight end, Albert O, is a really good player. I'm not going to pronounce his last name. I probably won't get it right. Both receivers, (Jalen) Knox and (Jonathan) Nance are both guys that can finish on the top end. They've got a really talented offensive football team.”

In all, the Tigers are averaging 40 points per game. Plus, the Gamecocks are surrendering an average of 311 yards through the air. If the Gamecocks hope to win Saturday, their defensive backs will have to limit the success of the Tigers’ passing game.

“I always say, the secondary and the offensive line, those are the two areas that you better be communicating,” Muschamp said, “and you better be playing at a high level or you're in for a long day. That's not something where we've played at a high level this year.”

Defensively, Mizzou has held teams to just under 15 points per game. Led by senior linebacker Cale Garrett and defensive lineman Chris Turner, the Tigers can be extremely disruptive for opposing offenses if given the opportunity. They’ll look to challenge freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski and the Carolina offense in the Gamecocks’ first game away from home this season.

South Carolina takes on Missouri at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Copyright 2019 WIS. All rights reserved.