COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's defense scored the easy way and the hard way as the Tigers beat South Carolina 34-14 on Saturday.
Linebacker Cale Garrett recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and safety Ronnell Perkins returned an interception 100 yards for another score for the Tigers (3-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference). Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant completed 19 of 33 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed 17 times for 77 yards.
"Probably as dominating a performance defensively as I've been around, at least in quite some time," Missouri coach Barry Odom said.
South Carolina (1-3, 0-2 SEC) managed just 16 rushing yards and freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski committed two costly turnovers.
"It's hard to win on the road when your offense gives up 14 points," South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. "We didn't get anything going in the run game. We got whipped up front. And then defensively we couldn't get off the field in some critical third-down situations in the second half. They obviously wore us down a little bit."
The Tigers began the scoring in the first quarter with a bizarre play. Hilinski's pass was batted back to him by Missouri defensive end Chris Turner. Hilinski grabbed the ball and spiked it at his own 1-yard line. Although the officials initially ruled the second throw an incomplete — and illegal — forward pass, Garrett scooped up the ball in the end zone. After a video review showed Hilinski's spike went backward, the original call was reversed, it was ruled a fumble and the Tigers were awarded a touchdown.
The Gamecocks got back into the game in the second quarter when D.J. Wonnum intercepted a Bryant pass in the flat and rumbled 21 yards to Missouri's 1-yard line. Rico Dowdle pounded in a touchdown run to cut South Carolina's deficit to 10-7. Missouri answered with Bryant's 3-yard touchdown pass to Albert Okwuegbunam, and the Tigers led 17-7 at halftime.
After throwing for only 3 yards in the first half, Hilinski threw a perimeter screen to wide receiver Bryan Edwards on the first play of the second half and Edwards weaved 75 yards for a touchdown. Hilinski guided the Gamecocks down the field on the ensuing drive by converting two third-down passes and one fourth-down pass. But on third-and-goal from Missouri's 3-yard line, Hilinski threw it right to Missouri's Perkins in the end zone, and he returned it 100 yards to give the Tigers a 31-14 lead.
Hilinski completed 13 of 30 passes for 166 yards. Edwards finished with six catches for 113 yards.
Missouri: Safeties Joshuah Bledsoe and Tyree Gillespie played a key role in shutting down the Gamecocks. One three-play sequence after South Carolina drove into Missouri territory in the first quarter was the best example. Bledsoe tackled quarterback Dakereon Joyner for a loss on first down. Gillespie sacked Joyner on second down, and then he broke up Hilinski's pass to Edwards on third down. That forced a 50-yard field goal attempt by Parker White, and he pushed it right.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks' path to a bowl game is getting rocky. Four of their remaining eight games are against teams that entered the weekend ranked in the Top 25.
Missouri: The Tigers have an off week before playing host to Troy on Oct. 5.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks return home Saturday to face Kentucky.