South Carolina-Missouri Preview
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) South Carolina visits Missouri on Saturday in an SEC game that matches two of the nation’s most experienced coaches and two of the nation’s most inexperienced quarterbacks.
Gary Pinkel and Steve Spurrier are the only active coaches who hold career victory records at two different schools. Pinkel is 116-67 at Missouri and 73-37-3 at Toledo. Spurrier is 86-47 at South Carolina and 142-40-2 at Florida.
Winning has not come easily for either in 2015. Both will rely on relatively untested freshmen quarterbacks helping to get their school’s first conference victory of the season.
Lorenzo Nunez will make his second start after leading the Gamecocks (2-2, 0-2 SEC) to a 31-14 victory against Central Florida in his debut last week. He threw for two touchdowns and was 12 of 22 for 184 yards along with 18 carries for 123 yards.
”As coaches, you’ve just got to let them play and see what happens,” Spurrier said of Nunez, his third starter in three games. ”He threw the ball very well. He threw a lot of completions, and of course ran the ball well also.”
Drew Lock will make his first start for the Tigers (3-1, 0-1) in place of junior Maty Mauk, who was suspended Tuesday for violation of team policies. In limited duty, Lock has completed 60 percent of his passes with one touchdown and an interception. He is the first freshman to start at quarterback for Missouri since Corby Jones in 1995.
”He’s very excited about it,” Pinkel said. ”He’s a very talented player. I think he has some pretty good instincts. He’ll make some mistakes, but he’ll go out and compete.”
Both teams have struggled to score thus far. South Carolina is ranked 108th nationally with 22.5 points per game, while the Tigers are 115th (20.8).
This is an early season must-win with both teams approaching difficult stretches in conference play. Missouri hosts No. 25 Florida on Oct. 10 and then plays at No. 8 Georgia. South Carolina hosts No. 9 LSU next week.
Some other things to watch for on Saturday:
BLUEGRASS BLUES: Both teams lost close games to Kentucky (3-1, 1-0) this season. Missouri’s 11-game road winning streak ended Sept. 26 in a 21-13 loss, and Kentucky ended a 22-game road losing streak Sept. 12 with a 26-22 victory at South Carolina.
BANKING ON BROTHERS: Linebacker Kentrell Brothers is questionable for Missouri. Brothers leads the nation in tackles with 52, but injured his left ankle against Kentucky. Many teammates believe Brothers will play against South Carolina, but Pinkel said it could be a game-time decision.
”Kentrell wants to play,” Pinkel said. ”That’s just the way he is. He’s just a remarkable competitor. He and the medical staff will make that decision.”
SKAI’S THE LIMIT: South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore is third in the SEC with 40 tackles. He has three interceptions, tied for best in the conference. Moore also leads the Gamecocks in tackles for loss (2) and pass breakups (3).
DEFENSIVE DISPARITY: Missouri is ranked seventh in the nation and first in the SEC in total defense, allowing 255 yards per game. South Carolina has struggled on defense, allowing 411 yards per game, 12th in the SEC.
”They’re fundamentally sound in all they do,” Spurrier said of Missouri’s defense. ”They’ve had the same style of defense for several years there now. You’re not going to get them making many mistakes at all.”