Athens — So much stuff happened on Saturday: a 100-yard kickoff return, a 61-yard touchdown on a reverse, a safety on a punt snap that went out of the back of the end zone. As Mark Richt said immediately afterward, probably 100 good things and 100 bad things.
I asked Joe Cox on Sunday what, of all the things that happened, he considered the biggest play of Georgia’s 41-37 victory over South Carolina.
“I’d probably say there were two,” Cox answered. “The blocked extra point, which didn’t seem huge at the time. And then Carlton [Thomas] diving on the fumble.”
The blocked extra point –- by DeAngelo Tyson –- came after a South Carolina touchdown (on Eric Norwood’s 35-yard interception return) cut the Georgia lead to 38-37 with 12:56 to play.
And the Thomas fumble recovery came a few minutes later when Cox coughed up the ball upon being hit from behind by South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore. By retrieving it, Thomas prevented a turnover – and kept the Bullogs in position for a 42-yard Blair Walsh field goal that stretched the lead to 41-37 with 6:23 to play.
Both plays proved critical as South Carolina drove inside the Georgia 10 yard line in the final minute.
If Tyson had not blocked the extra point, Georgia’s lead would have been just three points come the final South Carolina drive, and the Gamecocks could have kicked a field goal to tie at the end of regulation.
Or if Georgia had lost the fumble that Thomas recovered, the UGA lead would have been just one point, and the Gamecocks could have kicked a field goal to win it at the end.
“When Joe got hit and the ball got on the ground . . . Carlton Thomas might have saved the game right there,” Richt said Sunday. “DeAngelo Tyson might have saved the game when he blocked the extra point. Rennie Curran might have saved the game when he batted the ball in the end zone [on South Carolina's final pass of the night on fourth down from the Georgia 7] There were so many plays that you could say saved the game. Blair Walsh just drilling them from considerable distance.”
A few more things:
– This is hard to believe, but in a series that dates back to 1894, Saturday’s 37 points were the most South Carolina has ever scored against Georgia.
– The game lasted three hours and 54 minutes, the longest UGA regular-season game in seven years (or since a four-hour, one-minute game vs. South Carolina in 2002).
– Tyson’s blocked extra point was the first by Georgia since Kedric Golston blocked one in the 2003 SEC Championship Game against LSU.
– Georgia has committed six turnovers in two games, leading to 26 points by the opponents. On the other hand, Georgia has forced just one turnover in the two games, leading to three points.
– Richt’s day-after assessment: “Winning is very, very positive. It is the most positive thing that can happen in any game. You can measure everything else you want, but the victory is certainly the one thing that is most meaningful [to] create or deflate momentum, so we have definitely created some good positive momentum and want to build on it. We want to get better at some things that can get you beat and could have gotten us beat but didn’t get us beat, but we also want to build on the things that helped us win. There were some unbelievably good things that happened that we can point out and build on. So we’ve got to have a nice combination of that – correct and praise.”