COLUMBIA — When he watched Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett clang a 24-yard field goal attempt high off the left upright in double overtime Saturday, South Carolina’s winning kicker was excited like the rest of his teammates.
Freshman Elliott Fry knew instantly he had the first game-winning field goal of his college career, a 40-yard kick after he’d missed one from that same distance earlier in the game. On the other end of the field, Fry also knew his counterpart felt pain and anguish.
In the aftermath of Baggett’s shank, the worst part of sports came to life. Baggett was the target of bitter and hateful messages from fans. He couldn’t check his Twitter without seeing the vitriol.
As a kicker — a member of a select fraternity — Fry can empathize with what Baggett endured.
“I feel terrible with what’s happened with the media and him and his fans, just being a kicker,” Fry said. “Especially when it’s not completely his fault. There’s not a kicker that goes through his career that hasn’t missed one. I feel terrible about how he’s getting treated for that.
“Obviously, it was just exciting to see the ball come off (the upright) and get the win, but at the same time I feel bad for him.”
It was a shocking miss for Baggett, who set a school record with six field goals against Florida the previous week. Fry, who missed an extra point at Georgia earlier this season, understood how Baggett missed the short field goal when he watched the replay.
“He got a lot of laces on that hold,” Fry said. “That’s the same thing that happened to me in the extra point versus Georgia, is you just fumble the hold a little. It’s really hard to (kick with laces). So, I guess the fault lies with both, not just him, but there’s a lot that goes into it too.”
It’s another game week for South Carolina, which means there’s another chance to speculate whether quarterback Connor Shaw can play Saturday.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Shaw is still battling “a virus … I don’t know what the trainers are calling it, but he’s sick.”
Spurrier said backup Dylan Thompson would be available to start Saturday against Mississippi State if Shaw is too sick to play. After Shaw’s remarkable effort on a sprained knee last week, teammates believe nothing can keep USC’s starting quarterback out of a game.
“No, that’s superman right there,” linebacker T.J. Hollomon said. “Connor, you can say he’s hurt, but if he really wants to go out there and help the team, he’s going to be out there. I don’t think anything can hold him back, as everyone in America saw. He wasn’t even supposed to play, wasn’t even supposed to be out there, but just the fighter and the dog in him wouldn’t allow him to sit on the sideline.”
Wilds expected back
Backup running back Brandon Wilds is expected to return this week after missing more than a month with a dislocated left elbow.
Wilds hasn’t played since dislocating his elbow Sept. 28 at Central Florida. The previous week, USC’s sophomore tailback had a breakout game with 36 yards on 10 carries and 65 receiving yards on five catches, including a 33-yard touchdown catch on a screen pass from Shaw.
“Brandon did practice (Monday) night,” Spurrier said. “He was running around, and I believe he is scheduled to suit up and be ready to go this week. There’s a chance he could be out there running.”
Pulling for Gators
Florida and Georgia play Saturday in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, a game that could affect USC’s chances of winning the SEC East.
The Gamecocks need Georgia to lose once more this season, since it doesn’t own the head-to-head tiebreaker and wouldn’t win a three-team tie between the Bulldogs and Missouri. Not that Spurrier needed another reason to root for his former team against his fiercest rival.
“Well, I generally root for Florida about all the time anyway, unless we need them to lose something,” Spurrier said Sunday. “I think I root for Florida about every time they play Georgia, that’s for sure.”