COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) As Missouri senior linebacker Cale Garrett prepared to answer reporters’ questions after a 34-14 victory over South Carolina on Saturday, he reached for the remote control clicker on the table in front of him in the Tigers’ meeting room. For a football film buff, it’s a habit.
Garrett’s football IQ was on full display in the first quarter against the Gamecocks, when he was the only one of the field – including the officials – who realized South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski spiked the ball backward rather than forward after a batted pass landed in his hands.
Garrett scooped up the ball in the end zone and signaled touchdown. After a video review, the original call on the field of incomplete pass was reversed, and Missouri was awarded a touchdown. That was the first of two defensive touchdowns for the Tigers (3-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference).
“I could tell he had possession and actually made an effort to throw it down, and then it happened to be backwards,” Garrett said. “I got on it. That’s what we’re coached to do anyway when it’s on the ground, so it all makes sense.”
Garrett’s touchdown gave Missouri a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. When South Carolina (1-3, 0-2 SEC) threatened to tighten the game in the third quarter, the Tigers made another game-changing defensive play. Gamecocks quarterback Ryan Hilinski misread a run-pass option play and threw the ball right to Missouri safety Ronnell Perkins, who returned the interception 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 17-point lead.
“It told Perk, I did it the easy way. He had to do it the hard and long way,” Garrett said.
The Gamecocks gained just 16 yards rushing. Hilinski completed 13 of 30 passes for 166 yards. Bryan Edwards caught six passes for 113 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter.
“It’s hard to win on the road when your offense gives up 14 points,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “We didn’t get anything going in the run game. We got whipped up front. And then defensively we couldn’t get off the field in some critical third-down situations in the second half. They obviously wore us down a little bit.”
Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant completed 19 of 33 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He also hurt the Gamecocks with designed runs, carrying 17 times for 77 yards.
Missouri coach Barry Odom called the Tigers’ defensive performance “dominating” and said it was no surprise that Garrett was in the middle of one of the biggest plays. It was the second straight week Garrett scored on a turnover.
“Any time you look on film, you see No. 47 around the ball,” Odom said.
Maybe that’s why Garrett is so eager to beat everyone else to the football facility and start watching for himself.
“I guarantee,” Odom said, “tomorrow morning he’ll be in here no later than 5:40 or 5:45 watching film.”
ROUGH DAY FOR HILINSKI: After throwing for 606 yards in his first two starts against Charleston Southern and Alabama, true freshman Hilinski took his lumps against Missouri.
“He had some soreness in his elbow this week,” Muschamp said. “We didn’t throw him on Wednesday. We’ll go back and evaluate, but certainly we would not have played him if he was hurt. We didn’t help Ryan much today. We didn’t get anything in the run game. There was a lot of pressure with those four- and five-man pressures that they brought.”
South Carolina used backup quarterback Dakereon Joyner at times, mostly as a runner. He took over on the last drive and guided the Gamecocks 84 yards before a fourth-and-goal play failed from Missouri’s 4-yard line.
RETURN OF THE MAYOR’S CUP: Missouri had lost three straight to South Carolina before Saturday’s victory. That meant the return of the Mayor’s Cup – a recent tradition concocted because both schools are located in towns named Columbia – to Missouri. The Tigers had squandered double-digit deficits against the Gamecocks in the previous two meetings.
“Big for our guys, big for our seniors,” Odom said. “We’ll find a place for it and hopefully keep it here for a while.”
Missouri: Safeties Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie played a key role in shutting down the Gamecocks. One three-play sequence after South Carolina drove into Missouri territory in the first quarter was the best example. Bledsoe tackled quarterback Joyner for a loss on first down. Gillespie sacked Joyner on second down, and then he broke up Hilinski’s pass to Bryan Edwards on third down. That forced a 50-yard field goal attempt by Parker White, and he pushed it right.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ path to a bowl game is getting rocky. Four of their remaining eight games are against teams that entered the weekend ranked in the Top 25. Muschamp was asked what message he gave the team in the locker room.
“Let’s get back to work,” he said. “That’s all we can do.”
Missouri: The Tigers have an off week before playing host to Troy on Oct. 5.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks return home Saturday to face Kentucky.