Sunday, September 14, 2014

No. 24 South Carolina Knocks Off No. 6 Georgia

After inclement and stormy weather in the Columbia area caused an hour and 26-minute delay to the start of the game, lightning struck as No. 24 South Carolina took down No. 6 Georgia, 38-35, on a rain-soaked evening at Williams-Brice Stadium. After Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan missed his second field goal of the night with 4:24 left on the clock, the Gamecocks were able to run out the clock as senior quarterback Dylan Thompson narrowly converted on a fourth-and-one at midfield with 1:26 left in the game.

When play finally started, the Gamecocks elected to receive and Thompson proceeded to pick up big chunks of yards through the air with a 21-yard pass to senior wide receiver Nick Jones, followed by a 20-yard strike to senior tight end Rory Anderson. Junior wide receiver Shaq Roland got into the action as a 13-yard gain on third-and-six moved the Gamecocks into the red zone. Three plays later, Thompson hit Roland along the left sideline where the wideout snuck just inside the pylon for a 10-yard score.

It only took Georgia two plays to respond though as quarterback Hutson Mason connected with Isaiah McKenzie for a 36-yard pass down the right side. On the ensuing play, Mason dumped off a short pass to Sony Michel who cut to the middle of the field and had an open lane to the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 10:02 on the clock.

Less than two minutes later, a fumble by junior running back Brandon Wilds on the Gamecocks 26-yard line was recovered by Georgia's Lorenzo Carter. The fumble led to a 36-yard field goal from Morgan to give the Bulldogs a 10-7 advantage.

After junior running back Mike Davis was pulled down for a five-yard loss on Carolina's next possession, Thompson hooked up with Roland for a 17-yard first down. Four plays later, facing a second-and-eight with the Georgia defense coming, Thompson avoided pressure and scampered for a 10-yard run. On third-and-nine from the Georgia 38-yard line, the Bulldogs' Devin Bowman appeared to end the drive with an interception, but the defensive back was flagged for pass interference on the play to extend the Gamecocks' drive. Two plays later, sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper caught a 13-yard pass just as Georgia's Toby Johnson was called for roughing the passer, moving Carolina inside the 10-yard line. On the following play, Thompson found Cooper on the left side where the receiver put a quick left-to-right move on his defender before racing into the end zone for an eight-yard score to put the Gamecocks up 14-10.

Georgia running back Todd Gurley nearly regained the lead for the Bulldogs on the next drive, but a holding call negated a 54-yard run and the Bulldogs were unable to muster anything after the penalty. Two drives later though, Morgan was able to pull the Bulldogs within one at 14-13 with a 26-yard field goal after Georgia's drive was extended earlier on an unsportsmanlike penalty on sophomore spur Jordan Diggs after senior defensive back Brison Willliams had appeared to end the drive after stopping Gurley for no gain on a third-and-five.

Thompson continued to find open receivers as he marched the Gamecocks down the field, finding Damiere Byrd for a 24-yard completion and Jones for a 20-yard pass, before connecting in the back of the end zone with Anderson for an 18-yard touchdown to give Carolina a 21-13 lead with 5:34 remaining in the first half.

With just over two minutes left, Cooper and Byrd rushed for back-to-back first downs as the Gamecocks tried to put together a scoring drive before the end the of the half. Jones came up with a big 25-yard reception along the sideline before taking a big hit to put Carolina at the 22-yard line. An eight-yard run from Davis set up sophomore kicker Elliott Fry for a 32-yard field goal to give the Gamecocks a 24-13 lead heading into the half.

Georgia struck on its opening drive in the third quarter as Gurley got loose for a 40-yard run to get to the South Carolina 25-yard line. The Georgia tailback eventually punched in a two-yard touchdown run, bringing the Bulldogs' deficit to 24-20. South Carolina continued to have its way with Georgia's defense on the following drive as Thompson went two-for-two and Davis and Wilds combined for 43 yards on the ground. On Wilds' final rush of the drive his knee was ruled down before crossing the goal line, but Thompson capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown rush to push the lead back to 11.

With 2:13 remaining in the third quarter, a personal foul on a Carolina punt put Georgia in good field position. Six plays later, Mason found Jay Rome in the end zone. The Bulldogs opted to go for two, and Mason connected with Michael Bennett to cut the deficit to three.

On the ensuing kickoff, junior tailback Shon Carson found space on the left side and picked up a career-long return of 42 yards to put Carolina on the Georgia 42-yard line. Davis picked up 19 on the first two plays of the drive before Wilds finished off the drive by breaking runs of 15 and 24 yards to extend the Gamecocks' lead to 10 at 38-28 with 13:01 to play. Nearly six minutes later, Georgia responded with a one-yard touchdown run from Quayvon Hicks on an 11-play drive.

Four plays into the Gamecocks' following drive, Thompson was intercepted across the middle by Georgia's Damian Swann. With the ball on the Carolina three-yard line, Mason was called for intentional grounding as sophomore defensive end Gerald Dixon came at him unblocked. The Gamecock defense held Georgia to a 28-yard field goal attempt, but the Georgia kicker missed his second attempt of the night.

South Carolina was able to run out the final 4:24 of the game to hold on for the three-point win in front of the fifth-largest crowd in stadium history at 84,232.

GAME CHANGER
Leading 38-35, South Carolina forced Georgia's kicker Marshall Morgan into his second-consecutive missed field goal attempt of the game with 4:24 remaining in the fourth quarter.

KEY STAT
Holding an 11-point lead at the half, South Carolina turned to the ground attack, totaling 118 yards on 20 carries during the second half after only gaining 57 yards in the first half.

NOTABLES
South Carolina picked up a 38-35 win over Georgia, marking Steve Spurrier's 201st win as the head coach of an SEC institution, tying him with Vince Dooley for second on that list.
Spurrier also tallies his 16th career win over Georgia, the most for an opposing coach against the Bulldogs, breaking a tie with Auburn's Shug Jordan.
Attendance for today's game at Williams-Brice Stadium: 84,232. It's the fifth-largest crowd in stadium history.
The start of the game was delayed for 1:26 due to lightning and rain around Williams-Brice Stadium.
Senior tailback Brandon Wilds tallied 93 yards on 14 carries, a season best.
Senior tight end Rory Anderson caught a career-best five passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia's 191 passing yards and the 408 yards of total offense are the lowest for a Gamecock opponent this season. Georgia's 18 first downs are also the least for a Gamecock foe in 2014.
Sophomore linebacker Skai Moore had a career-best 10 tackles, including six solo stops.

QUOTABLE
South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Opening Statement
"Some wins are better than others. I think this one was better than most others. I just told our guys, `if we can stop some people on third down, we're not that bad at defense, we're really not.' We weren't all that great on third down, we made a bunch early and then after that we didn't make very many. Dylan [Thompson] had an excellent game and threw the ball well; especially the first half and then we ran the ball the second half. I'll tell you one thing, when we had to stop them, some way or another we stopped them. We got that intentional grounding penalty and that was a good play for us. Their kicker, I guess he hadn't missed a field goal in two years or something, 20 in a row and then he missed two tonight. Sometimes all you can say is it was our turn to win and we were meant to win this game and Georgia was not. I'm proud of our players. Our guys played very hard, made a few stupid plays that could have come back to haunt us but we ran the ball pretty decent. Brandon Wilds had some good runs and Mike [Davis] had a few good ones. Georgia's defense was pretty good at times and other times they weren't quite as good. We were able to score touchdowns on almost all of our drives; we only kicked that one field goal at the end of the half, which is always crucial in close games. We feel very fortunate and blessed and hopefully we can use this as some momentum and start playing a lot better."

Senior Quarterback Dylan Thompson

On the fans
"We have the best fans in America, I think everybody knows that. When they missed that field goal, I think that is the loudest it has been [here] in a long time. We love our fans. We know how great they are and we are blessed to have them."

UP NEXT
South Carolina hits the road for the first time this season on Sept. 20 as the team travels to Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 1-2 on the year after defeating UMass 34-31 earlier Saturday.

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