COLUMBIA, S.C. — It’s starting to look like Steve Spurrier is going to be just as frustrating for Georgia at South Carolina as he was at Florida.
The Ol’ Ball Coach had his No. 6 Gamecocks clicking on all cylinders Saturday night against the No. 5 Bulldogs at Williams-Brice Stadium. In the most-hyped game in the history of this series, South Carolina jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back en route to a 35-7 victory.
The win was the Gamecocks’ third in a row over Georgia — the first time in the 118-year history of the rivalry they’ve done that — and makes Spurrier 15-5 as a coach against the Bulldogs. He was 11-1 as the Gators’ coach and 4-4 since he’s been at South Carolina. Including his stints in the NFL and USFL, it was Spurrier’s 250th career victory.
“Having it against the Georgia Bulldogs was special,” said Spurrier, who was 1-2 against Georgia as a Florida quarterback. “They are a team that used to beat my alma mater pretty well. I have been very fortunate against a coach as them, not so much as a player, but as coach, so that was special.”
The loss was kind of a double-whammy for the Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1) because Florida also scored a big 14-6 win over LSU Saturday in Gainesville. Georgia will need to the Gamecocks to drop two games and then have to beat what could be a Top 5 Florida team to return to the Georgia Dome as Eastern Division champions.
South Carolina (6-0, 3-0) plays on the road at LSU and Florida the next two weeks.
Georgia falls to 3-5 in top 10 matchups under coach Mark Richt and 3-10 when the ESPN College GameDay crew happens to be in attendance. The last time the Bulldogs won one of these marquee games was against Hawaii in Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008.
The Bulldogs will try to regroup during next week’s off week. They’ll resume play at Kentucky (1-5, 0-3) on Oct. 20.
“Tonight we weren’t very good,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “But the world didn’t end. We’ve still got a lot of things to play for and a lot of good things can still happen.”
The Bulldogs had boldly stated that their goal this year was to reach Miami and to play for the BCS championship. How, then, Richt was asked, can they be expected to rebound from such humiliating loss?
“They’ll be fine,” Richt said. “They’re supposed to dream big; I want them to dream big. They’re good men and they’re going to fight. They’ll come back together and win again.”
The Gamecocks’ offensive charge was led by Georgia native Connor Shaw. The junior quarterback from Flowery Branch who’s best known for his running ability,gashed the Bulldogs’ defense with arm as well. He finished with 162 yards on just six completions – an average of 27 yards per – and threw for two touchdowns. Shaw also had 78 yards rushing and scored an in-your-face touchdown on a 7-yard run with 6:17 remaining in the game.
“He was pretty much reading me,” said Georgia’s All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. “If I got up field he was going to take off running. . . . He’s a good player. He made plays with his feet and he was fast, faster than I thought he was.”
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore had yet another 100-yard game against Georgia. The junior from Duncan, S.C., had 109 on 24 carries and a touchdown, giving him 467 yards and 4 TDs in three games against the Bulldogs.
The Gamecocks finished with 392 yards against Georgia’s once-vaunted defense. After finishing fifth in the nation last season in total defense, the Bulldogs entered Saturday’s game 55th. They will drop again this week
“I don’t think that team is 35 points better than us, or whatever it was,” UGA senior cornerback Sanders Commings said. “We just made too many mistakes tonight; gave up some big plays, had some penalties, turnovers. You can’t win games like that.”
The most impressive part of South Carolina’s victory had nothing to do with Spurrier’s famous “ball plays.” It was defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward’s unit had Carolina on the verge of shutting out the Bulldogs for the first time since they lost to Alabama 31-0 in 1995. Georgia came in leading the SEC in scoring (48.2 ppg) and yards (536 ypg). The Bulldogs hadn’t scored fewer than 41 points in a game all season.
It was a tough night for quarterback Aaron Murray, who came in with the knock of having never beaten a ranked team on the road. Harassed all night by the Gamecocks’ rangy defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, he completed just 11-of-31 passes for 109 yards and threw an interception. The Bulldogs, who finished with just 220 total yards, scored a meaningless touchdown in the game’s final three minutes with South Carolina’s victory well in hand.
“Very talented defense all over the board,” Murray said of South Carolina’s defense. “They’re up there with the best I’ve ever played. They’re definitely one of the top ones.”
This one was over quick South Carolina shot out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter on two long drives and a punt return for a touchdown.
The game could not have started any worse for Georgia. The Bulldogs won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving the Gamecocks the ball to start the game.
South Carolina wasted no time doing something with it. Gaining 62 yards on two pass plays, the Gamecocks covered 76 yards in 2:32 and scored on a 20-yard pass from Shaw to Bruce Ellington. On both passes South Carolina receivers for behind safety Bacarri Rambo.
The Bulldogs got a 48-yard kickoff return from Malcolm Mitchell and seemed poised to answer after a 15-yard run by Todd Gurley got the Bulldogs down to the South Carolina 34. But after a failed reverse, Murray’s pass was batted up in the air at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and intercepted by a diving DeVonte Holloman.
South Carolina made the Bulldogs pay. Utilizing Lattimore in both the running and passing games, the Gamecocks again drove the field. Shaw threw his second touchdown of the night, a 19-yard strike to wide open tight end Rory Anderson. And just like that, the South Carolina led 14-0 with 6:29 still left in the first quarter.
Georgia had to punt after its ensuing possession, and that’s when the Gamecocks turned it into a nightmare night. After bobbling the catch, Ace Sanders recovered and returned the punt 70 yards for a touchdown. It was Sanders’ second punt-return TD this season and it put South Carolina ahead 21-0.
“It stinks,” Murray said of the lopsided defeat. “It definitely hurts a lot. We put a lot into this game. It definitely means a lot. But there’s still a lot of games to play. They’ve got a lot of tough games left and so do we. Right now they’re in the driver’s seat and we have to win every single game to make it to Atlanta. We’ve got to grind and work and we did that last year. But it’s not a good feeling.”
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