Making his first career start, quarterback Tyler Russell's performance - 11 of 29 for 165 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs - was a mixed bag, but the good was really good. He made tough throws on the run and under pressure, and he made smart decisions with the ball when a play wasn't there.
Russell was sacked only once but took a lot of hits, a result of having to stand in the pocket and throw deeper routes than MSU has normally been calling. The bubble screens that have worked well at times for State were almost non-existent.
The running game was solid (131 yards) but never built up a good head of steam.
Keys to victory
Evaluating the keys to victory in Saturday's GameDay section:
1. Hold that line. MSU's offensive line, which has been beset by injuries and inconsistent play, did a decent job against the Gamecocks' disruptive defensive ends. Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor combined for eight tackles and one sack.
2. Don't get burned. South Carolina has big-play weapons in receiver Alshon Jeffery and tailback Marcus Lattimore, and between them they accounted for only 92 total yards.
The Gamecocks' longest play from scrimmage was 19 yards, although Jeffery did catch the game-winning touchdown pass from 4 yards out.
3. Find an answer at QB. Russell looks like he could be the man the rest of the year at QB, although it's hard to imagine Chris Relf remaining on the sidelines.
Coach Dan Mullen said he had some plays scripted for Relf on Saturday, but it never worked out to get him in the game.
Johnthan Banks. The junior cornerback led an overall strong defensive effort, making his fifth interception of the year and causing another with a tipped pass.
MSU is 0-4 in SEC play and has a week off before heading to Kentucky. It's a must-win.