Defense leads the way as South Carolina tops Mississippi State in Homecoming game

Skai Moore (No. 10) celebrates with teammates after getting the first interception of his career.

Skai Moore (No. 10) celebrates with teammates after getting the first interception of his career.

The offense was at times unimpressive, but the defense stepped up as the Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs 34-16 in Saturday afternoon’s Homecoming game.

MSU got on the board first, taking a 7-0 lead when QB Dak Prescott took the ball to the house himself midway through the first quarter. USC answered with a touchdown of their own, when Connor Shaw hit Shaq Roland with a 14-yard scoring pass. The Cocks took the lead and found the end zone again near the end of the quarter, and it was Roland this time, too, snaring a 43-yard pass from Shaw.

Elliott Fry banged home a field goal from 44 yards out (a career long) early in the second quarter, extending Carolina’s lead to 17-7, and the Bulldogs put up a field goal of their own later in the quarter to make it 17-10 at the half.

The third quarter was all South Carolina, as the Gamecocks padded their lead even more. Damiere Byrd started things off with a TD, then Jerell Adams snagged one of his own midway through the quarter, and Fry connected from 27 yards out a few minutes later, putting USC up 34-10. That was the end of their scoring for the day, but Mississippi State still had one more score in them, a fourth quarter touchdown courtesy of Prescott again. Their two-point conversion try failed and the Bulldogs were unable to muster anything else for the rest of the game.

Though he didn’t score today, Mike Davis surpassed 1,000 yards rushing, making him the eighth player in school history to reach that milestone.

The Cocks also now have 15 straight wins at home, tying a school record. That streak is the second longest in the country, behind Michigan (they have 19 home wins in a row). Shaw is 14-0 at home and has 23 total victories, one shy of Todd Ellis’ record.

Twenty of Carolina’s points in this game came from turnovers, as Prescott was picked off three times (Skai Moore, T.J. Holloman, and Chaz Elder each grabbed one) and fumbled once. South Carolina forced a total of five MSU turnovers, a season high.

The Gamecocks were abysmal in third down situations (they went 1-for-11), and tallied just 11 first downs compared to the Bulldogs’ 23. Mississippi State also outgained USC in total yardage, 385-307 and had the ball for a little more than half of the game, but unlike the Bulldogs, the Cocks had no turnovers.

Shaw finished the day 10-of-20 for 147 yards and four TDs, while Prescott went 28-of-43 for 235 yards and the three interceptions. Davis led Carolina in rushing with 15 carries for 128 yards and Roland led them in receiving with two catches for 57 yards and the two touchdowns. Prescott had 78 yards and two TDs on 15 carries and Robert Johnson had 53 yards on seven receptions to lead MSU.

South Carolina improves to 7-2 overall and 5-2 in the SEC, while Mississippi State drops to 4-4 overall and 1-3 in conference play. Next weekend, the Gamecocks will be off before hosting Florida in two weeks and the Bulldogs will travel to face off against No. 12 Texas A&M.

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