COLUMBIA, S.C. — Russell Hansbrough scored two of his three rushing touchdowns in the final seven minutes and Missouri rallied from 13 points down to beat No. 13 South Carolina 21-20 on Saturday.
The Tigers (4-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed 20-7 and managed just 181 yards of offense through three quarters when Maty Mauk began the comeback with passes of 41 yards to Bud Sasser and 26 yards to Wesley Leftwich to South Carolina’s 1 before Hansbrough drew them within a score.
After the Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2) went three-and-out on their next series, Missouri was in business again. The Tigers converted two fourth downs in the sequence, including Hansbrough’s 1-yard TD run with 1:36 remaining.
The outcome was a sweet turnaround for Missouri, which lost a 17-point lead in the Gamecocks’ double-overtime victory last year. It also gave the Tigers a strong start in defense of their SEC East crown against the preseason divisional favorites.
Hansbrough finished with three touchdown runs while Marcus Murphy ran for 98 yards. Mauk completed just 12 of 34 passes for 132 yards, but made his biggest throws at the most crucial times.
South Carolina had one last chance with 1:36 to go. But Dylan Thompson threw four incomplete passes and Missouri ran out the clock. The Tigers sprinted to their fans in the corner of an emptying Williams-Brice Stadium to celebrate their seventh straight road win — two shy of the school’s all-time best mark.
It looked like the Gamecocks defense would win this one, holding Missouri to two first downs in the first 23 minutes of the second half and continually harassing Mauk into poor throws.
Thompson’s 23-yard touchdown throw to Pharoh Cooper with 7:25 left made it 20-7. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier acknowledged he should’ve tried for a two-point conversion on that score, but did not consider it because of how well the Gamecocks defense had performed.
South Carolina would soon regret that as Mauk led the Tigers back.
Missouri wrenched early control of the division from South Carolina.
which was the preseason pick to take the East and had taken down Georgia on this field two weeks earlier.
Missouri has stood strong in the SEC since entering before the 2012 season. The Tigers won the Eastern Division a year ago and came into this one with a six-game winning streak on the road.
Defensive end Shane Ray, the SEC sacks leader coming in, got two more against Thompson as the Gamecocks could not move the ball. They trailed 7-3 until Mike Davis’ 17-yard TD run with 1:36 left in the half. That score was set up by Thompson’s simple screen to Davis, who took off 24 yards the play earlier.
South Carolina’s defense, one of the best in the league in the past years led by NFL No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, came in next to last in the SEC with 36 points allowed per game this season.
But their pass defense — also next to last in the SEC — limited Mauk to 57 yards the first 30 minutes. Mauk, the SEC leader with 14 touchdown throws, ended the half 6 of 19 and missed on his last eight throws.
In fact, it was Spurrier’s insistence on getting his attack started that led to Missouri’s first TD. The Gamecocks went for a fourth-and-1 on their 42 their first series, but came up short. Four plays later, Hansbrough ran for an 18-yard score.