Gamecocks’ SEC East hopes go up in smoke, again–for now


It was there for the taking for the South Carolina Gamecocks: a distinct advantage in the SEC East.

They had beaten Georgia in a stirring, emotional contest. As flawed as they were against Vanderbilt, they still left Nashville with a win. A win over Missouri would have put them 3-0 in the division and virtually handed them a two-game lead over Georgia, having won the head-to-head matchup.

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So what happened? The defense, despite giving up a couple of early scores, was solid, then simply went to sleep on Mizzou’s final two drives. From between the missed field goal and the two touchdowns at the end, ten of the Tigers’ eleven drives ended in punts and resulted in 69 yards over 39 plays. The eleventh one, cut short by the halftime whistle, was a kneeldown. The final two drives: twelve plays and 119 yards.

That’s not to let the Gamecocks’ offense off the hook.

Carolina had trouble adjusting to Mizzou’s pass defense and suffered a number of short drives of their own. When they did try to move the ball, much of their damage was self-inflicted. Dylan Thompson was sacked three times in the second quarter, squelching promising drives and owing both in part to his inability to just throw the ball away under duress. Shaq Roland had a false start on third and one on the team’s final possession of the half to put the brakes on another good-looking possession. Busta Anderson had two critical drops in the third quarter and committed a false start of his own on third and one moments later. Special teams were a disaster late in the game when it mattered.

Even if South Carolina does win out in its final three divisional contests, they have lost control of their own destiny at this point in time.

The most frustrating part is that the final three games on the division schedule are very much winnable. They travel to Kentucky next week, then, after a non-conference game against Furman, it’s on to Auburn in a crossover contest, followed by home against Tennessee and a trip to the Swamp to face Florida. The Vols, by the way, gave Georgia a battle today before ultimately losing.

Now, with the loss, even if South Carolina does win out in its final three divisional contests, they have lost control of their own destiny at this point in time. Suffice it to say they’ll need to be rooting for the rest of the East to start winning: Mizzou can finish no worse than 4-1 in divisional play down the stretch and still clinch due to a tiebreaker.

Fortunately for Steve Spurrier, he’s still on track for another 11-2 season. Unfortunately, the story of the 2014 season looks like it will end the same way it has for the past several years: with his team on the outside looking in at the race for the SEC East title.