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Missouri downs South Carolina in SEC opener

A pair of defensive touchdowns set the tone for the Tigers.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time under Barry Odom, the Missouri Tigers are 1-0 to open SEC play.

Mizzou moved to 1-0 (3-1 overall) on Saturday after picking up a 34-14 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks at Faurot Field.

Early in the game, both teams struggled to get going offensively, as Mizzou saw their first two drives sputter out, leading to a punt and a turnover on downs. With South Carolina holding the ball on 2nd and 7 at their own 10, Ryan Hilinski had a pass deflected back to himself. In a moment of panic, the true freshman quarterback tossed the ball away behind him, into the end zone. MIssouri’s Cale Garrett alertly jumped on the ball, and the Tigers took a 7-0 lead.

Their offensive woes would continue, though. Of Mizzou’s nine offensive drives in the first half, just two ended in points, as Tucker McCann booted a 47 yard field goal through the uprights early in the second quarter, and Kelly Bryant found Albert Okwuegbunam for a three yard touchdown pass as the half was winding down. Bryant also threw an interception at the Mizzou 22 that was nearly returned for a touchdown, setting up South Carolina’s lone score of the first half when Rico Dowdle scampered in for a one-yard rushing touchdown.

South Carolina struck first in the second half, as well. On their first play out of the break, Hilinski hit Bryan Edwards, who took the ball 75 yards for a touchdown to cut the Missouri lead to 17-14.

Mizzou was finally able to start getting it together on offense, though. Bryant led a 10 play, 75-yard drive ending with a Tyler Badie 21 yard touchdown to answer and put Mizzou back up by ten.

Then came the back-breaker, thanks to a ferocious defensive unit. The fumble recovery in the end zone was one thing, but perhaps the play of the day on the defensive end came with five minutes left in the third quarter with South Carolina knocking on the door of the end zone. Hilinski’s pass was intercepted by Ronnell Perkins, and Perkins took it all the way back for a 100 yard touchdown. From there, the Gamecocks would reach Mizzou territory just one more time, taking a turnover on downs on their final drive of the game.

Bryant finished the day 19-33 with 227 yards and two touchdowns, recovering nicely from a dreadful first half that saw the normally efficient passer go 10-20. Missouri’s rushing attack also shined bright despite not finding the end zone, as Bryant, along with Larry Rountree, combined for 40 rushes for 165 yards.

On the South Carolina side, Hilinski took a bit of a step back from his strong performance against Alabama last week. The freshman quarterback went 13-30 for 166 yards and a touchdown, to go along with the fumble and interception that both led directly to Mizzou scores.

The Tigers will go into their bye week at 3-1 before hosting Troy on October 5.

The Gamecocks fall to 1-3 and will host Kentucky on Saturday.