If you purchased a ticket to the South Carolina-Georgia football game for its entertainment value, you certainly got your money's worth. Unfortunately, if you're a Gamecock fan, the last two acts of the play left you flat.
The 71-point game had just about everything you could imagine: an onside kick, a muffed punt attempt and a lot of big plays. Unfortunately again, Carolina only scored 30 of those points.
The day started really well. Mary and I enjoyed an absolutely congestion-free drive to Social Circle, Ga., where we had lunch at the famous Blue Willow Inn. A restaurant columnist and humorist author Lewis Grizzard described it as a place where he “finally found the southern cooking he had been searching for all of his life.” And it certainly met our expectations.
We even enjoyed a pleasant conversation while we walked to Sanford Stadium with a couple of young Georgia fans.
The game itself got off to an encouraging start. The Gamecocks drove smartly down the field on the opening series, but when they had to settle for a 36-yard field goal, from that point on, they were always trying to dig their way out of a deep pit.
The Dogs scored the next 10 points to make it 17-3. Brandon Wilds scored on 7-yard run to make it 17-10, and Nick Jones tied at 17 with an 18-yard TD throw from Connor Shaw, an opportunity set up when UGA punter Collin Barber dropped the snap and Carolina recovered at the Georgia 18.
An indicator as to how this afternoon would go for Carolina, however, came when the Dawgs responded with an 11-play, 70-yard drive to go up 24-17.
Even after Shaw directed a beautiful 71-yard TD drive that started with 1:38 left before halftime, a series in which he either ran or passed on all seven plays, to tie the score at 24 all, there was no feeling that the Gamecocks had gained the momentum.
In the press box at intermission there was some sentiment that maybe the team that had the ball last might come out the winner, but among the Carolina people I spoke with there was no overwhelming sense of optimism.
I certainly don't have better words to describe the outcome than those of Coach Steve Spurrier. “They kicked our tails up and down the field. We couldn't stop them and they made a lot of third-down conversions,” he said, and then added what was at the heart of the defeat. “We haven't gotten a turnover in two games by our defense. Yeah, we're struggling on defense.”
The Gamecocks knew heading into this game that they would have to try to control the running game, and make the Georgia offense one dimensional, and force quarterback Aaron Murray to throw more than he wanted to.
That didn't work out on either front. Super running back Todd Gurley punished USC's defense with 132 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown. His backup, Keith Marshall, gained 58 yards on just seven carries.
Murray was more than solid with 17 completions on 23 attempts and four touchdowns, and that's with at least three of his throws that were flat-out dropped.
For the Gamecocks on offense, I thought Mike Davis was sensational with 149 yards on 16 carries (a 9.3 yards per carry average, with one touchdown), including a beautiful 75-yard romp that set up his score.
I though Shaw, other than his drive-killing fumble, was solid. He was 16-of-25 for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Thirty points should be enough to win a lot of games. The idea is to keep the opponent from scoring more, and against the Dawgs on this occasion, the USC defense couldn't get the job done.
I never thought I would say this, but Georgia's staff had a better game plan on both sides of the ball. The surprise onside kick call by Mark Richt after the Dawgs went up 10-3 was something you would expect from the Head Ball Coach. Simply put, this game was won by the better team with a better plan
This beat down is over and done with now, the question is how the Gamecocks will respond. My hope is that they will watch the tape until their eyes are bloodshot, hit the practice field with a vengeance, determined to correct their mistakes. They will need to be prepared for a Vanderbilt team that will most certainly come to town smelling blood in the water.
It's still a great time to be a Gamecock!
GLENN SNYDER BIO
A native of Union, he graduated from Union High School in 1964 where he was a three-sport letterman for the Yellow Jackets.
When he was 13, he came to Columbia with two super Gamecock fans. They took him to the stadium and introduced him to coach Marvin Bass. When he saw the Horseshoe, he knew immediately where he was going to school, that he would live in Columbia for the rest of his life, and his dream was to be a sportswriter.
A journalism/media arts major (1964-1969), his first job after school was with the South Carolina Farm Bureau, where he was the Assistant Director of Communications. He managed Carolina Printing Co. for several years, where he met Dexter Hudson, which led to a 30-year career with Spurs & Feathers as senior writer and columnist, which ended this past June.
He and his wife, Mary, have two children, Kevin (41) and Jennifer (34).
Contact Glenn at firstname.lastname@example.org