COLUMBIA — Rivalry wasn’t created by a hastily made trophy. Rivalry is created by great, classic games.
In that sense, South Carolina-Missouri has become one. Nothing like the grudge matches the Gamecocks annually hold with Clemson (and to an extent, Georgia), but a rivalry.
“We’ve had some tight ones,” USC coach Will Muschamp said, reflecting on his 3-0 record against Missouri, and the Gamecocks’ history with the Tigers before he arrived. “It’s been some unusual games.”
Unusual defines this rivalry. It began with Missouri's two straight bowl wins over the Gamecocks (1979 Hall of Fame, 2005 Independence) and it got weird when the Tigers joined the SEC.
2013: 'The Miracle at Mizzou'
The Gamecocks couldn’t do anything against the No. 5 team in the country, which was trying to improve to 8-0 in what would become an SEC East championship season. Down 17-0 and with quarterback Dylan Thompson ineffective, the Gamecocks were about done.
But where there’s Connor Shaw, there’s a way, and he somehow led a stunning comeback on one leg while reeling from the flu. Shaw engineered 17 straight points to send the game to overtime, hit Bruce Ellington on a fourth-down touchdown pass to create a second overtime, and turned that period over to kicker Elliott Fry.
Fry made his kick for a 27-24 advantage. Mizzou counterpart Andrew Baggett doinked his to seal one of the nuttiest wins in USC history.
2014: Kenny Chesney?
The last time USC hosted ESPN’s “College GameDay” had the Tigers visiting the No. 13 Gamecocks. Thousands of USC fans were befuddled and/or angry when the network announced its choice of celebrity guest picker — country music star Kenny Chesney.
Chesney had no connection to USC, other than producing a Steve Spurrier documentary for the SEC’s “Storied” series. Many wondered why ESPN couldn’t have picked George Rogers or Frank Martin or Congressional Medal of Honor winner Kyle Carpenter, who was a USC student at the time.
ESPN countered by saying the guest picker didn’t have to have a school connection (although they almost always do) and that Chesney was a popular and well-liked musician. Nothing more would have been said if the Gamecocks won.
USC blew a 20-7 lead with less than eight minutes to play, losing 21-20. It was the first of three games that year in which USC had at least a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost. The Gamecocks finished 7-6 in Spurrier’s last full season.
Some say nothing’s gone right since Chesney showed up.
2017: Deebo to the rescue
Trailing 10-0 early in the second quarter, there was plenty of time for a USC comeback.
The Gamecocks needed 30 seconds.
USC won 31-13.
2018: Michael and the Monsoon
“We had no plan of rain even in the forecast,” Muschamp said. “It was a beautiful day at Williams-Brice, then all of a sudden, the bottom fell out.”
Already behind the 8-ball with starting QB Jake Bentley injured and career backup Michael Scarnecchia making what would be his only collegiate start, USC was greeted mid-game by torrential rain. There was one cloud in the entire Midlands and it was directly over Williams-Brice Stadium.
Yet as soon as the first drop fell, USC played better and Missouri melted.
“No QB likes to throw the ball in the rain. People don’t know this, but if you get your hands pruned to the water, it allows you to have a better grip for the ball,” Scarnecchia said. “First thing I was doing was holding out my right hand, trying to get the water on my hand so it could prune up faster.”
The game clock on the scoreboard shorted out. USC had one punt blocked, mishandled another and ran a fake field goal that didn’t work. A lightning delay cleared the stadium with 2:41 to go, and another cleared it again just after the players had retaken the field.
And somehow, the Gamecocks won. They won after Mizzou running back Damarea Crockett’s 70-yard touchdown was called back because Jaycee Horn’s diving tackle seemed to push Crockett’s foot slightly out of bounds. Missouri had three penalties and a dropped snap on a punt instead of that TD.
They won after Missouri had first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, had to settle for a field goal attempt and then missed it. They won after the Tigers blasted a 57-yard lead-taking field goal with 78 seconds to play.
South Carolina's Kyle Markway, a St. Louis native, got wide open behind the Mizzou defense for a 27-yard gain, and Bryan Edwards’ 12-yard catch set up Parker White’s game-winning field goal. Edwards checked in on defense to swat away Lock’s final desperation pass as USC won, 37-35.
The rain was credited with perhaps making the Gamecocks play better.
“People talk about how the rain helped us. I hate that perspective because who else had to play in the rain?” Scarnecchia said. “Missouri did. I think it just came down to discipline and being ready to play the way we play in any element.”
There’s a 50 percent chance of rain in Missouri on Saturday.