Will's Last Word: Desperation Meets Misery (Missouri)

Will Palaszczuk
September 23, 2019 - 1:39 pm

The desperation of the South Carolina football team met a team from Missouri on Saturday that appeared more composed than the visitors.

South Carolina talked all week about how they needed to play "desperate" (their words) and that according to sometimes-quarterback, sometimes-wide receiver Dakereon Joyner that desperation should be perceived as "dangerous" going into Saturday at Faurot Field.

The dangerous peril the Gamecocks have as they return home can hit a fever pitch without a win in their last game before their bye week when they host Kentucky.

Quarterback Ryan Hilinski looked visibly frustrated and less than 100 percent while hampered by an elbow injury during the week, the severity of which was downplayed by Will Muschamp postgame. Whether Hilinski is whole or not, South Carolina looked more desperate than composed. 

With a quarterback rendered ineffective for most of the game, aside from the 75-yard touchdown pass which opened the second half, South Carolina inexplicably punted on the run game, in a contest which featured an ominous weather forecast coming in. Muschamp conceded (since Hilinski could not, as team rules prohibit the media speaking to him) most of the play selections centered around run-pass options where the read dictated a throw instead of a pass. The result? An offense that managed just 16 yards on 24 carries, and only 13 completions from the starting quarterback.

Put simply, Missouri dared Hilinski to be the guy to beat them, and he and the Gamecocks around him could nary afford a whimper.

The Tigers manhandled the South Carolina offensive line in what appeared like a clear mismatch. Missouri sacked Hilinski four times, and hit him five times more as the USC signal-caller complained about chest pains from the beating he took from the Tigers D, said Will Muschamp on his teleconference Sunday.

South Carolina's offense, which seemed to acquit itself well against Alabama, clearly regressed against Missouri. The defense, however, has failed to answer the bell in any of the Gamecocks' three games against FBS competition. The linebacking corps allowed Clemson-turned-Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant to have his way with South Carolina, as the Tigers' QB outgained the Gamecocks on his lonesome through the air and on the ground. The South Carolina secondary also received much of the blame for Missouri's eight converted third downs, as the Tigers held the ball for one full quarter more than the Gamecocks on Saturday.

Despite the negatives, South Carolina found itself three yards from the end zone in a two-score game, before the game turned on dime. Hilinski, one could argue, in a moment of desperation, served up a tailor-made 99-yard interception return by Missouri's Ronnell Perkins for touchdown. What made the interception so egregious? Either Perkins or his teammate Cale Garrett could have returned the pass. It's easy to second-guess and say the Gamecocks should have ran it from the three-yard line with two downs to go, but the fact that Hilinski made such a high-degree-of-difficulty throw showcased where desperation met misery for the Gamecocks against the Tigers.

Changes must come fast for South Carolina before Saturday's game against Kentucky, and the Gamecocks can't afford to overlook a team who has their number with five consecutive head-to-head victories. Those changes could be of a wholesale variety if USC can't come out on top against the Wildcats. I'm not suggesting South Carolina will or should make a regime change on the bye week, akin to a move that would resemble the NFL, but it's clear to see that the blood currently in the water would clearly increase with USC staring a 1-4 record in the face with a trip to Georgia looming.

What does a desperate team look like?

Gamecocks fans might not want to know after this week.

(Photo Credit: Will Barry - USA Today)

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