Any time the Georgia Bulldogs beat a Top 10 team is cause for celebration, but what made Saturday’s 41-30 win over South Carolina even better was the way Mark Richt’s team won.
There was the aggressive game plan that featured a daring early onside kick when the Gamecocks least expected it, a couple of fourth-down conversions, a defensive take-away that ruined a South Carolina first-down play, a goal-line stand that stopped a series that began first-and-goal on Georgia’s 8-yard line, a couple of gutsy third-down touchdown passes by a scrambling Aaron Murray, and a pounding Bulldogs running attack when it was needed.
But most impressive of all was the way Georgia closed out the game. After the Dogs had held the Gamecocks and an unnecessary roughness penalty and then a false start had taken the ball back to about Georgia’s 6-inch line with 8:28 left on the clock, I’m sure a familiar, depressing scenario was running through the minds of many of the fans at Sanford Stadium: Georgia would end up having to punt, South Carolina would score again, the Dogs would give up the ball again and the UGA defense would have to hang on desperately to secure a win.
Hey, a win’s a win and we would have taken it. But what actually transpired instead was so much sweeter.
After Todd Gurley had ground out a couple of yards, few expected Georgia to go to the air, but Mike Bobo made a brilliant call for a play-action pass to young fullback Quayvon Hicks (who had another great game) to take the ball out to the 25. And then the Dogs just started pounding away at the Gamecocks and eating up clock.
Thanks to the running of Gurley, Hicks, and freshman back Brendan Douglas (spelling a banged up Keith Marshall), the Dawgs ran out the clock on a 14-play drive, 13 of them on the ground.
Run the damn ball, indeed!
Despite the 11 point winning margin at the end, it was a close game, with the two teams going eyeball-to-eyeball for a half, with the score knotted at 24-24. After a Bulldogs three-and-out to open the second half, the Gamecocks drove into Georgia territory and looked to have converted on fourth-and-5 when Josh Harvey-Clemons, returning from suspension, knocked the ball away from Carolina QB Connor Shaw and the Dogs recovered.
Georgia only got a field goal out of the ensuing drive, to go up 27-24, then the Dogs’ young defense, which had its rough moments during the game but came up big in the end, forced South Carolina to punt again and Georgia put together a big drive that included key runs by Gurley and Hicks, a couple of pass receptions by Marshall and Michael Bennett and then Gurley catching a touchdown pass after Murray rolled out (which generally produces good results for Georgia).
Carolina got back on the board after getting set up deep in Georgia territory thanks to a 79-yard run by Mike Davis on which the Bulldogs defense lost containment (defensive coordinator Todd Grantham called it the worst play of the game). But the PAT failed and Georgia led 34-30.
Then, backed up deep in its own territory by a false start and facing a third-and-13, Murray rolled out (!) and hit Justin Scott-Wesley, who turned on his track-star speed on an 85-yard scoring play.
A couple of other thoughts from the game: Can we now retire that tired old refrain about Murray not being able to win the “big” game against a Top 10 team? He was in great form against the Gamecocks, completing 17 of 23 passes (and that was with three passes dropped by receivers) for 309 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. If that’s not big-game play, I’ve never seen it.
And Gurley, who rambled for 130 mostly tough yards on 30 carries, further cemented his position as the best tailback in America.
Oh, and while Sanford Stadium crowds often are lambasted for not getting into the game enough, the fans at Saturday’s game stayed loud and proud from beginning to end.
A fine day to be a Bulldog! Feel free to share your thoughts on Georgia’s big win.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg