College Sports

For USC’s lone Missouri native, Gamecocks might as well be playing Clemson this week

It sits this week in South Carolina’s team meeting room, a small silver bowl stuck to a wood base. The Gamecocks have owned for it for three years because of three straight wins over Missouri.

“We talked about it this morning to our players,” USC coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday. “The Mayor’s Cup.”

It’s the trophy handed out at the end of every Carolina-Mizzou game since the two became SEC East Division foes in 2012, a fun play on the fact that each university is located in the Columbia of its respected state.

Kyle Markway isn’t from either Columbia, but he did grow up in Missouri and has spent the last five years of his life in South Carolina. When the football kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday in Memorial Stadium, Markway will be playing his favorite game another time.

To Markway, the Mayor’s Cup might as well be the Palmetto Bowl.

“It’s fun playing Mizzou,” he said.

Markway leads all SEC tight ends with 11 receptions through three games. The South Carolina fifth-year junior in 2019 has already set career highs for catches, receiving yards (120) and touchdowns (two) in a season.

Consider it an ideal set up for Saturday, when the St. Louis native will play in front of around 70 supporters. Markway, as the only Gamecock roster member from Missouri, has easily found extra tickets from teammates.

“It’ll be a big group,” said Paul Day, Markway’s high school coach. “I know when South Carolina came in ‘17, his family organized a massive party with a ton of people. We had our own tailgate area. It was really, really fun.”

It’s a roughly two-hour drive from St. Louis to Columbia, Missouri. Markway’s throng of supporters will make it again Saturday, as it did for Carolina visits in 2015 and 2017.

The crew, despite previous affiliations elsewhere, can now make the case as the Midwest’s biggest Gamecock fans.

“We carve out our time each week to watch him,” Day said. “The whole family’s sitting there watching Alabama vs. South Carolina last week because we want to watch him play.”

“They bleed black and garnet now,” Markway said. “They hate Mizzou as much as I do.”

Markway’s uncle played at Iowa. The Hawkeyes, the closet thing to Markway’s favorite team as a child, were one of the few Power 5 programs to offer the three-star prospect. Missouri did not.

“They said I didn’t fit the offense,” Markway said of the Tigers, then coached by Gary Pinkel.

Added Day: “I don’t think they’d ever be a good fit for him based on what they did offensively. I was actually glad because it didn’t muddy the water at all. The schools that were really interested in him were schools that fit him really well.”

South Carolina, then coached by Steve Spurrier, wooed him systematically (“I just liked their offense”) and culturally (“I liked the atmosphere of the games”), leading to a May 2014 commitment.

Had Missouri pursued him harder, Markway said he “definitely would have looked into it.” Instead, he landed at a school that faces the Tigers every season.

In 2015, Markway made his first career start against Missouri. In 2017, he suffered a season-ending rib injury against Missouri. in 2018, he made the catch to set up USC’s winning field goal against Missouri.

“Something always seems to happen against Mizzou,” Markway said, “and it’s fun.”

Markway has been part of three Mayor’s Cup wins. If South Carolina grabs its fourth straight in this series, history — and recent play — suggests Markway will have have some impact on the outcome.

“Kyle’s playing good football, there’s no doubt about it,” Muschamp said. “This is an important one for him, going home. But he’s really played well for us this year.”

NEXT

Who: South Carolina at Missouri

When: 4 p.m., Saturday

Where: Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri

TV: SEC Network Alternate

Line: Missouri by 9.5

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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