South Carolina football and Will Muschamp got a win over a top opponent — and how.
In a stunning performance, the Gamecocks upset No. 3 Georgia, 20-17 in double overtime, on its home turf Saturday to give their head coach the signature win over his USC tenure to date.
It was a wild contest that stretched South Carolina (3-3, 2-2 SEC) to the limit — the Gamecocks had to survive an injured quarterback, two missed field goals late and an exhausting 95 offensive plays for the Bulldogs. In the end, though, they came out on top with a bend-but-don’t-break defense and healthy dose of momentum-shifting plays.
“I’m really happy for our players. I’m happy for a staff that works its (butt) off. I’m happy for our fan base, so they can enjoy the week, and and that’s really what it’s all about to me,” Muschamp said.
Those big plays started early in the first quarter, when freshman QB Ryan Hilinski tossed a perfect pass to senior receiver Bryan Edwards for a 47-yard touchdown to put USC up 7-3. That, junior kicker Parker White said, was when he started to sense the Gamecocks might shock the college football world.
And White wound up playing a huge role in that shocker. In the second quarter, he booted a career-long 49-yard field goal to tie the game at 10. Then, with less than a minute left in regulation and the score tied at 17, he missed a 57-yarder. And in the first overtime, he missed what would have been a game-winning field goal from 33 yards.
“It’s definitely a really sucky feeling, but I definitely had confidence in my teammates, the defense to play well, that we’re going to stop them, and that I was going to have a chance to go out there and win the game for us in the next overtime,” White said of his emotions after that first overtime kick.
Sure enough, he came back on in double overtime and drilled a 24-yard field goal, then watched as his Georgia counterpart, Rodrigo Blankenship, missed from 42 yards to give South Carolina the win.
White and USC’s offense was given plenty of help by the defense — sophomore cornerback Israel Mukuamu had three interceptions of UGA QB Jake Fromm on the afternoon, including a pick-six he took back 53 yards to give Carolina a 17-10 lead at halftime, as well as one in overtime to set up White’s first attempt.
”Coach (Travaris Robinson) told us all week ... (Fromm) hasn’t thrown one pick yet, but they never played a defense like us, they never played a D-line like us. I was just able to get my hands on the ball,” Mukuamu said.
Mukuamu’s pick-six was sparked by pressure on Fromm from senior defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw. Kinlaw and fellow seniors Kobe Smith and D.J. Wonnum led the defensive line against Georgia’s much-lauded offensive line and sacked Fromm three times — two more than he had been all season long before Saturday.
“I mean, that’s what we do, you know. That’s what we try to aim for,” Kinlaw said of the defensive line’s performance. “That’s our goal every week, man, just go out, stop the run and make them try to pass the ball.”
The defense certainly helped ease the blow of losing Hilinski — early in the third quarter, he was hit in the legs on a penalized play. He had to be helped off the field and did not return, icing his left knee on the bench. Muschamp said after the game that the QB’s status moving forward is still to be determined.
In Hilinski’s place, redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner came in and completed six of 12 passes for 39 yards and rushed six times for 28 yards, a performance Muschamp called “gutsy as hell.”
Still, the offense wound up punting five consecutive times in the second half, and Georgia and Fromm finally broke through with a 96-yard scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, aided by a fourth-down holding penalty, to tie the game at 17 and set up the overtime theatrics.
And when Blankenship’s kick finally went wide in double overtime, the Gamecocks stormed the field in a cathartic moment for both players and coach in a challenging season.
“I feel so good for (Muschamp),” Edwards said. “I can’t put into words. You know, I’ve been here since I was a freshman, so I’ve been here with him, and we’ve been fighting to get that big win for a while now, and we finally came out on top, so it feels good.”
Who: South Carolina vs. Florida
When: Saturday, Oct. 19, TBD
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium