More than 800 miles away from the monsoon-engulfed mayhem unfolding in Columbia, South Carolina, Richaud Floyd sat in an MU treatment room — his clothes dry — helplessly watching his teammates on television.
Floyd, a Missouri wide receiver and kick returner, hadn’t made the trip to South Carolina in Week 6 last fall because of a broken leg. During the first half, he could tell the weather was nice, even on TV. After halftime, the broadcast returned to a rainstorm. “This looks like someone changed the camera,” Floyd thought.
Then he watched the Tigers unfurl, losing a nine-point lead, coming back from down eight and finally falling 37-35 on a last-second field goal. There was nothing Floyd could do.
“It was torture,” he said, “being in the training room right after the game.”
Not coincidentally, that was the collective feeling among the players trudging off a swamped field in South Carolina at that moment, too. There was nothing anyone could do.
“We didn’t finish the plays we needed to make to win the game,” offensive coordinator Derek Dooley said.
“Sour taste in our mouth,” DeMarkus Acy said. “We were traumatized in the rain.”
One year later, the 2018 Missouri-South Carolina classic has already achieved notoriety among MU players, coaches and fans. Redshirt senior Johnathon Johnson called it one of the three worst losses he’s been a part of in five years with the Tigers. When Missouri head coach Barry Odom was asked what he learned from the game, he said: “Bring an umbrella.”
But it was, jokes aside, another addition to a growing list of haunting losses Odom and the Tigers have suffered at the hands of South Carolina. Since MU joined the Southeastern Conference in 2012, the Gamecocks have won the annual contest five of seven times. Since Odom became Missouri’s head coach in 2016, the Tigers are 0-3.
The two programs have consistently produced some of the Tigers’ weirdest, wildest and most memorable games in recent years, but for this current Missouri team, their place in the rivalry is defined by that winless record.
“(It) feels like during the games they’ve pulled away,” said Odom this week.
Take 2016, Odom’s first season in charge, and the sequence after MU had tied the Gamecocks 21-21 in the third quarter. South Carolina scored a go-ahead touchdown, then Missouri missed a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Next, a Gamecocks field goal extended the lead to 31-21, and the Tigers followed by missing another field goal — from 31 yards this time — that robbed them a chance to be within one score. 31-21 was the final.
Or take 2017, when Missouri led 10-0 in the second quarter before Deebo Samuel returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, Drew Lock threw an interception on the next play and Samuel ran 25 yards for another touchdown on the next play. The double-digit lead vanished in exactly 15 seconds and South Carolina went on to win 31-13.
“Collectively,” Odom said, “they’ve made more plays than we have (over the years).”
However, the heartbreakers and thrillers started before Odom’s time. It’s impossible to forget the 2013 installment of this green rivalry, an unspeakable game in MU fan lore that set the precedent for future drama between the teams, as well as the notion that matchups with South Carolina have somehow spawned into a house of horrors for the Tigers.
Missouri, undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the country, led 17-0 after three quarters then unraveled in the fourth. One detrimental quarter has since become a bit of a theme in the series, with the second quarter in 2017 and the third in 2018. On this occasion, South Carolina cut it to 17-10 with a late field goal, forced an MU punt and then drove 63 yards to tie it with 42 seconds in regulation.
The Tigers led 24-17 in overtime, too, and had the Gamecocks down to their last play — a fourth-and-goal from 15 yards away, before a dramatic touchdown pass again extended the game. The final twist of the knife came in double overtime, when after the Gamecocks took the lead on a field goal MU’s Andrew Baggett infamously missed a 24-yard kick off the upright to end it.
“I don’t know if I ever went to sleep or not,” Baggett said the next week recalling his night after the miss. “One of those, ‘Was I dreaming? Am I awake?’”
The next year brought about another classic, as Missouri this time climbed back from a 20-7 deficit in the final seven minutes. Baggett got redemption with a game-winning extra point with 1:36 left. MU had been down to its last play, but Russell Hansbrough ran for his third touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the 1. The Tigers won, 21-20.
They did again the next year. And they haven’t since. Last season was as close as Missouri has gotten under Odom.
On that October afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Tigers led 17-7, then 23-14 at halftime before the rain started falling. It was 23-21 when their three head-scratching possessions began.
First there was the 70-yard Damarea Crockett touchdown that was moved back 10 because he allegedly stepped out of bounds, the ensuing minus-25 yards in penalties and bobbled long-snap on a punt attempt. Then, Lock’s abysmal throw in the rain that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Another red zone drive ended empty-handed when Lock under threw an open man in the end zone and Tucker McCann missed a 22-yard field goal.
“It’s always one or two big plays (against South Carolina),” Johnson said.
A win was still attainable as the teams traded field goals to create four fourth-quarter lead changes through a 76-minute weather delay. But a missed two-point conversion also lingered in Missouri’s mind, and after McCann’s record 57-yarder with 1:18 left gave Missouri a 35-34 lead, the defense let South Carolina walk down the field for a field goal with two seconds left. To win by two.
“We put ourselves in position to win it then gave up a play down the seam late on defense,” Odom said.
“We had the game won,” Floyd said.
But they didn’t win. “Traumatized,” “tortured” again by South Carolina. And so lived Odom’s white whale for another year.
Will it live again Saturday?