COLUMBIA — Steve Spurrier summed it up the best he could.
“Sometimes it just happens like that,” he said.
Five years ago in the SEC’s other Columbia, South Carolina stunned No. 5 Missouri, 27-24, in double overtime.
Trailing 17-0 in the fourth quarter, a gimpy and flu-ridden Connor Shaw engineered one of the greatest comebacks in school history. Missouri's dream season was rudely snuffed as Andrew Baggett’s field goal attempt clanged into the upright.
Gamecocks the world over dubbed Oct. 26, 2013, as “The Miracle at Mizzou.”
Or, “Shaw. Shank. Redemption.”
In their words:
Connor Shaw, quarterback: “I had a partial tear in my LCL. Coach sat with me on Monday morning and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to let Dylan (Thompson) ride this out.’”
Steve Spurrier, coach: “He didn’t practice much during the week, then he got some kind of bug. He was sick as a dog.”
Shaw: “I was throwing up, I rode in the police escort car to the hotel. I was taking IVs before the game. Coach didn’t want me to dress.”
Nick Jones, receiver: “We were just sluggish at the start. Dylan is more of a pocket passer, so they were dropping back in coverage on him, and we couldn’t get the running game started.”
In need of a hero
USC freshman Elliott Fry missed a 40-yard field goal in the first quarter, and Missouri turned the miss into a touchdown. A drive to start the second ended when Mike Davis fumbled inside the Missouri 30-yard-line. Davis fumbled on the 2 on the Gamecocks’ next drive.
The Tigers hit a 96-yard touchdown and added a field goal in the third quarter. Spurrier had seen more than enough.
Spurrier: “Nothing went well for Dylan. I turned to Connor, said, ‘Can you play?’”
Shaw: “He threw his call sheet and I could see it before he said it. I said. ‘Yessir.’”
Jones: “He came in and said, ‘All right, let’s go.’”
Fry: “Connor being the competitor he is, he brought an edge we hadn’t seen that game. He comes in and goes unconscious.”
Bruce on the boundary
The first series resulted in a punt, Missouri punted it back, and a Shaw rush for no gain ended the third quarter.
The scoreboard switched to the fourth and USC faced fourth-and-4. Shaw threw to Bruce Ellington for 10 yards.
Shaw: “I remember telling myself we weren’t going to win this in a series. The adrenaline hit and I was in a zone, but I was super limited.”
Ellington ran a comeback route and somehow got both heels to stick in the end zone while catching the ball above his knees. It was 17-7.
Baggett was summoned for a 46-yard field goal on the ensuing Missouri drive. He missed it wide left. Fry noticed something.
Fry: “Their holder was (safety Braylon Webb) and I noticed on the kick he missed that he didn’t spin the ball. So he was kicking straight into the laces.”
Shaw picked apart Missouri’s defense, the constant blitz leaving the middle of the field wide open. A 25-yard pass to Jerell Adams moved the Gamecocks inside the 10, and Fry hit a field goal. 17-10.
Spurrier: “They punted 34 yards, it hit and went backwards. I said, ‘That might be an omen.’ I’ve been in big games, when the punt hits and bounces back against the kicking team, and sure enough, something good happens.”
The Gamecocks had a short field (63 yards) and 3:08 left in the game. Shaw mostly used his arm, getting the ball to Davis (who had 10 catches for 99 yards, as well as rushing for 51). With 45 seconds to play, Shaw rolled left and threw.
Jones snagged it over his shoulder.
Jones: “It was second nature to block everything out, zoom in on the ball. Dropping it never came to my mind.”
The PAT loomed. It would have been peak South Carolina to come all the way back and miss the tying point.
Fry: “As a true freshman, that’s what I was thinking. The game had come down to that, and there’s a sigh of relief for the team, but then it came down to me, and I was like, “… we aren’t tied yet.”
The kick was good.
A Berkeley Stag staggers the Tigers
Missouri scored first in overtime. It was USC's turn. The Gamecocks hit a 16-yarder to Ellington inside the 10, but Shaw lost yardage on a run play and then threw two incomplete passes. The Gamecocks faced fourth-and-goal from the 15.
Spurrier: “Up top, Steve (Spurrier) Jr. said, ‘Pop, they’re playing some two-man in and out, the fourth play may have a chance.’ I said, ‘Hell, let’s give it a chance.’ They doubled up or something on the wide receivers, Bruce was in the slot and they played him man to man.”
Shaw: “The corner took two steps to the post and Bruce got right behind him. I stamped down and fired away.”
Shaw faded back to the 23. Ellington left his man for an easy catch. Fry banged home the PAT and a second OT was on.
USC got the ball first. Fry converted his second field goal attempt from 40 yards and USC had its first lead.
Shaw: “When we converted that, I thought, ‘This has to be destiny.’ The second overtime when we settled for the field goal, I had confidence in our defense that we could stop them.”
Fry: “I had missed from 40 going the same way earlier in the game. I didn’t have the leg strength that I would later in my career. That was 40 into the wind at night when it was 30 degrees.”
Jones: “Never had a doubt. That’s why Elliott’s name is in the stadium now.”
Missouri got the ball and immediately ripped a 17-yard run. USC's Chaz Sutton squashed a first-and-goal run. On second down, Jadeveon Clowney broke into the backfield, forcing Tigers QB Maty Mauk to throw it away. On third down, Clowney chased Mauk left; he tucked and ran to the sideline, where four Gamecocks sealed the end zone.
Baggett trotted onto the field for a chip-shot field goal that would mean a third overtime. The kick collided with the left upright, delivering a win as shocking as it was sudden.
Jones: “We were preparing for the next period. Coach (G.A.) Mangus and Spurrier had already gathered the offense and got us prepared for the next possession. We were just on the sidelines watching.”
Fry: “I wouldn’t think in 100 years that he would miss that kick. I was fully expecting that we were going to keep playing.”
Jones: “I dropped my helmet, ran on the field, tried to jump as high as I could into the nearest defender I saw. I want to say it was Vic Hampton.”
Spurrier: “I thought, ‘I’ll be damned, we won.’”
Fry: “So many things happened in that game where you maybe get one of those plays a season, and there was a full quarter of them. Selfishly, I was upset because I wanted to go celebrate after the game and we got back at 4:30 in the morning.”
Shaw “We had struggled on the road, I had struggled on the road, it was one of those critical moments we got the 'W' and capped another 11-win season.”
It was a fitting entry in the best run in school history, led by USC’s best coach and best quarterback.