Gamecocks have new life as Bulldogs visit

South Carolina kicker Elliott Fry celebrates the game-winning field goal against Missouri that gave the Gamecocks new life in the East. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

South Carolina kicker Elliott Fry celebrates the game-winning field goal against Missouri that gave the Gamecocks new life in the East. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

A week ago, it appeared that South Carolina had played its way out of a SEC Eastern Division crown.

The Gamecocks had dropped two games to Georgia and Tennessee while undefeated Missouri sat atop the division.

But Steve Spurrier’s squad spurred its way back into the race defeating Missouri on Saturday night, 27-24 in double overtime, after the Tigers’ Andrew Baggett clanked a 24-yard field goal off the left upright.

South Carolina trailed the Tigers 17-0 entering the fourth quarter but senior quarterback Connor Shaw, who was sitting out with a sprained left knee, sparked a rally to lead the Gamecocks’ rally.

The victory improved South Carolina’s SEC mark to 4-2 and the Gamecocks now trail Missouri by only a game.

“We’ve got a lot of goals that are within reach because of the Missouri victory,” Spurrier said. “Whether or not we can hit them or not, we’ll find out. We’ve got a little bit more to play for now than if we’d lost the game so we’ll see how we can do.”

The 14th-ranked Gamecocks begin a four-game homestand to close out the regular season starting this weekend in front of a sellout crowd against Mississippi State for homecoming. South Carolina has won 14-straight games at Williams-Brice Stadium and is one shy of the school record.

But this is not the first rodeo for Spurrier.

The 30-year coaching veteran with a national championship, seven conference titles and stints in the USFL and NFL understands teams are prone to downers following an emotional win or loss.

“You guard against letdowns after big losses and big wins,” Spurrier said. “You try your best as a coach to get your guys to forget what happened the week before. … Hopefully our players know that we’re not some powerful, mighty team and pretty much anybody can beat us.”

MSU enters the weekend at 4-3, with all three losses coming against top-20 opponents.

“Mississippi State is a very good team,” Spurrier said. “They’ve lost to some really good teams – Auburn, Oklahoma State and LSU. We’re going to have to play very well if we’re going to have a chance to beat them.”

Spurrier said his Gamecocks caught a break with the win over Missouri last week and wants to take advantage of the opportunity to win the East and advance to the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

“We were very fortunate to somehow get a win last week and get in the hunt here for the Eastern Division,” Spurrier said. “So this game with Mississippi State is extremely important.”

logan.lowery@journalinc.com