COLUMBIA, S.C. — Rashad Fenton wasn’t about to get beat on another double-move.
For the sophomore cornerback from Miami, patience was a virtue during Missouri’s second third-quarter drive on Saturday night.
“They hit me with a double-go; I think it was two stop-and-gos on both sides. I got hit with one earlier this year,” Fenton said. “That play right there, I just read it very slowly. When the ball was there, I just made a play on it.”
With 7:03 left in the third quarter, South Carolina’s possession began on its 2-yard line. Nine plays and 98 yards later, the whirling dervish also known as Rico Dowdle crossed the Missouri goal line, giving the Gamecocks a 28-21 lead.
Fenton’s interception and the ensuing drive proved to be a critical 14-point swing in the 31-21 win.
“That was really, probably, the sealing point of the game and the momentum of the game, to make a stop and have that (drive) happen,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “I think, as much as anything, the thought process is to get a first down. You get one first down, you can flip the field and they’re going to be on their side of the 50.”
Dowdle opened the drive with back-to-back runs of 4 and 18 yards, respectively. Bentley then hit Hayden Hurst for 5 yards and Deebo Samuel for 22 more.
Cooking with gas and inside Tigers territory, David Williams picked up 2 yards on the ground and then snagged a 2-yard pass. Bentley followed with the drive’s only third-down conversion when he hit Samuel for 25 yards down the left sideline.
The next play, an incomplete pass — one of only six on the night — was followed by Dowdle’s 20-yard scoring run.
Muschamp, a defensive-minded coach, shared what was probably going through the mind of Missouri coach Barry Odom, who was making defensive calls for the Tigers.
“Defensively, your mindset is three-and-out, you get a punt and you’re near midfield. You get one first-down and you’re in field goal range, so that’s just general mindset,” Muschamp said.
He added, “We felt like we had a shot dialed up early, but checked into the run game. We were going to test them on the vertical ball. When you’re able to run it off your goal line, that’s demoralizing for the defense.”
Getting lit up by a freshman quarterback doesn’t help either.
“Jake just brings a confidence to the offense; we feel like we can score from anywhere,” Hurst said. “We just get off our goal line, make those first few plays and we just start moving the ball.”
And move it they did.
“Our goal is just, every time we’re on the field, whether we’re backed up or on the plus-2, just to try to get in the end zone,” K.C. Crosby said. “We just attacked it aggressively … we just kept moving the ball down the field.”