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South Carolina 31, Missouri 10: The Gamecocks State Their Case

The Gamecocks showed that they belong in the discussion for the conference title game.
The Gamecocks showed that they belong in the discussion for the conference title game.

Neither South Carolina nor Missouri looked overwhelming for nearly the first 20 minutes of this game. Perhaps it was just that both were trying to figure out what the other was going to do. It almost certainly had something to do with South Carolina refusing to put the ball in Marcus Lattimore's hand for two consecutive plays on the one-yard line. In any case, that all ended with this.

This time, South Carolina did go to Marcus Lattimore on the next two plays -- and scored a touchdown. Less than a minute later, after a Missouri fumble and a long Connor Shaw pass, they handed it to Lattimore again for his second touchdown of the day. And the rout was on.

Missouri tried to get back in the game with a quick drive at the end of the half, ending in a field goal. South Carolina responded with a long kickoff return -- the first of the season -- this one by Bruce Ellington to set the Gamecocks' offense up at the 50-yard line. By the time Shaw hit Ace Sanders for the 23-yard touchdown pass, the game was essentially over. Missouri would not score again until they finally put a touchdown on the board with 17 seconds left in the game.

The win did not answer every question about South Carolina -- if the offensive line doesn't improve dramatically, it's hard to see this team winning the SEC East or winning the title game even if it does claim the division.

But many of the issues surrounding the Gamecocks' hopes for the season seemed to be resolved. Shaw responded to questions from several fans, self included, about whether he should be the starting quarterback by completing his last 20 passes to finish 20-of-21 for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He added 41 yards on the ground. And Marcus Lattimore looks to be getting stronger as the season goes on, rushing for 85 yards and a pair of scores on 21 carries. The defense limited Missouri to 255 yards.

South Carolina is going to need to play like that frequently over the next couple of months if it's going to make a play for Atlanta. The Gamecocks will play all of its remaining SEC games in a row, starting next week at Kentucky and wrapping up at home Nov. 10 against Arkansas. In between are games against Georgia, at LSU and at Florida -- back to back to back.

Missouri, meanwhile, will end its first month as an SEC member winless in the conference. But Vanderbilt visits the other Columbia on Oct. 6, followed by a likely loss against Alabama before Kentucky swings by. There's no reason to believe that the Tigers' second month in the league will be quite as futile as their first.

But winning the East, for this season, appears out of reach. There was only room for one contender to come out of the Battle of Columbias, and South Carolina looked for all the world like they were that contestant.