After playing No. 1 team close, South Carolina awaits Mississippi St.

Field Level Media

September 21, 2023 at 2:19 pm.

When Mississippi State lines up against South Carolina for the first time in seven years Saturday night in Columbia, S.C., each will be trying to rebound from losses, albeit different degrees of defeats.

Under new coach Zach Arnett, who took over for the late Mike Leach, the Bulldogs (2-1) were quickly an afterthought in their Southeastern Conference opener last week as they hosted then-No. 14 LSU. It ended in a 41-14 rout.

Most confounding after three games is the plight of quarterback Will Rogers, who has 11,181 passing yards and 87 touchdowns in a spectacular 38-game career in Starkville.

Through his first three games of 2021 and 2022, the Brandon, Miss., native threw for a combined 2,060 yards and 18 scores.

The senior has just 492 yards with five touchdowns and a 59.5 completion percentage in 2023.

“I know he missed some throws that he needs to be able to complete if they’re there,” Arnett said. “Obviously, he was not getting a whole lot of help in protection (against LSU). We did not hold up to their pass-rush very well.

“It’s not very fun playing quarterback when you’ve got a pocket collapsing on you. Maybe that affected him a little bit from a mental standpoint.”

The Gamecocks (1-2) have to get over the mental anguish of letting an 11-point halftime lead over No. 1 Georgia get away in a 24-14 road loss to start their SEC season.

Looking more like the defending two-time national champion in the second half, Georgia held quarterback Spencer Rattler to 6 of 24 passing for 104 yards.

Rattler, who was intercepted twice, finished at 22 of 42 for 256 yards with a touchdown pass to Antwane Wells Jr., and led the Gamecocks with 35 yards rushing on a soggy day when they managed just 53 on 16 carries.

In 2022, South Carolina started 1-2 and went on to win seven of its next 10 games.

“We know we have a good football team,” Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer said. “We’ve been here, unfortunately, 1-2. But there are no moral victories. No guys are patting themselves on the back because we played Georgia to a 10-point game.

“There’s a lot of disappointment because we gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game and didn’t get it done.”

South Carolina owns a 9-7 advantage in the series, winning seven of the past eight meetings.

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