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South Carolina 45 … at Georgia 42

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Posted Sep 10, 2011


Week 2 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - South Carolina at Georgia

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 2 - South Carolina at Georgia

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South Carolina 45 … at Georgia 42
CFN Analysis: COMING

(AP) ATHENS, Ga. -- Melvin Ingram had never scored a touchdown for South Carolina. Not surprising, since he plays defensive end.

On Saturday, the 276-pound senior finally made it to the end zone.

Twice.

Looking like a running back, Ingram went 68 yards for a touchdown with a fake punt, then scooped up a fumble and stepped into the end zone with just over 3 minutes remaining to clinch No. 12 South Carolina's wild 45-42 victory over Georgia, handing embattled coach Mark Richt another galling loss.

The Gamecocks (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) gained the early upper hand in the East Division by taking advantage of every Georgia mistake: Antonio Allen returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown, and Stephon Gilmore's 56-yard return with a fumble set up another score for South Carolina.

"Really, it was three defensive scores. And the punt, too. Melvin, he's a defensive player. So that's basically four defensive touchdowns," coach Steve Spurrier said. "Georgia outplayed us. Give 'em credit. They definitely outplayed us. But we won the game. Sometimes it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight."

Georgia (0-2, 0-1) got four touchdown passes from Aaron Murray but simply couldn't overcome all the major blunders.

"When we look at the film, there will probably be some things that cause us to slam the projectors against the wall. There's so many things we can't afford to do," Richt said. "But just as many times, we'll probably say, 'That was awesome. That was awesome execution.' We did a lot of great things too. I think we have all the ingredients to be a really fine team, ultimately."

The teams combined for 60 points over the final 21:09 and the lead changed hands four times (with a tie, as well) during that span.

Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for 176 yards on 27 bruising carries, put the Gamecocks ahead for good on a 3-yard run that made it 38-35 with 3½ minutes left.

Then there was one last crushing mistake by the Bulldogs.

Freshman Jadeveon Clowney burst through the line without being blocked and threw down Murray, who lost the ball before slamming the ground. Ingram batted it toward the end zone and picked it up there for an improbable two-touchdown performance by the fifth-year senior. "Whatever my team needs me to do," Ingram said.

Georgia piled up plenty of yards, with Murray throwing for 248 and Isaiah Crowell rushing for 118 in what the Bulldogs hope will be the first of many big games for the touted freshman. But Georgia is off to its first 0-2 start since 1996, coming off an opening 35-21 loss to No. 4 Boise State.

The only team to open the season with back-to-back games against ranked teams can only hope the tough beginning pays off in the end. But clearly, the pressure is building on Richt. In an uncharacteristic show of emotion, he flung his headset and playcard onto the field after Ingram scored on the fake punt. "There's a lot of games left to play," said Richt, under fire with Georgia coming off its first losing season in 14 years. "There's no question we're still in the SEC race."

Crowell had some big runs but also made a huge mistake, fumbling a handoff around midfield. The ball bounced into the South Carolina secondary, where Gilmore picked it up and went 56 yards all the way to the Georgia 5. From there, Stephen Garcia scrambled up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown run on an otherwise forgettable day for the senior in his return as starting quarterback.

Garcia, who won back the job by leading a comeback win over East Carolina, went 11 of 25 for 142 yards and two interceptions.

"It's kind of a blur right now," he said. "It's just a big win for us."

Indeed, the second half was a blur. Allen's TD stretched South Carolina's lead to 28-20. Michael Bennett hauled in a 19-yard pass for Georgia, and a two-point conversion tied it up. Jay Wooten's 49-yard field goal put South Carolina back ahead 31-28. The Bulldogs reclaimed the edge on Crowell's stiff-arming, 15-yard touchdown run.

Finally, Lattimore put the Gamecocks ahead to stay.

Murray threw for a career-high fourth score, hitting Tavarres King on a 33-yard pass with 2:15 to go. But Ingram capped off his amazing day by recovering the onside kick, and Lattimore ran for the necessary first down to bleed off the final seconds.

"Give Melvin Ingram credit," Spurrier said. "He was making some huge plays."

Two special team plays epitomized a frustrating first half for the Bulldogs.

After going up 13-7 on Murray's 26-yard touchdown pass to Rantavious Wooten, Georgia called an onside kick and appeared to pull it off perfectly, the ball bouncing high over the front line of blockers and right into the hands of Bacarri Rambo. He took it on the fly and scurried into South Carolina territory.

Not so fast. There was a yellow flag at the 30, the officials ruling that Rambo had just crossed the line a fraction too early for an offsides penalty. Georgia had to kick again and booted it deep. From its own 29, South Carolina failed to move it and lined up to punt with just over 2 minutes left in the half.

But Spurrier had a trick of his own.

The snap went straight to Ingram, who took off in front the South Carolina bench, breaking tackles and going all the way to the end zone.

The Bulldogs had only themselves to blame. Three times, Georgia drove deep into Gamecocks territory but only managed field goal attempts. Blair Walsh connected from 37 and 39 yards, then missed a 33-yarder.

South Carolina finally struck, wiping out all of Georgia's good work on offense with one throw. Garcia lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone and Alshon Jeffery, who might've gotten away with a bit of a shove on the defender, hauled in the 34-yard touchdown.

Georgia reclaimed the lead on its next possession, finally taking a drive all the way to the end zone. Murray scrambled for a 23-yard gain, then hooked up with Wooten in the back of the end zone to make it 13-7.

But this game was only getting started.
 
South Carolina (1-0) at Georgia (0-1)
Sept. 10, 4:30, ESPN/ESPN3
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Here’s The Deal … The loss to Boise State didn’t matter.

Forgetting for a moment that Georgia didn’t look the part of a champion in any way as it got outplayed, outclassed, and manhandle by Boise State, the loss in the Georgia Dome didn’t really make a difference to the 2011 season other than to get the debate rolling about whether or not a Mountain West team deserves to play for the national title.

If Georgia runs the regular season table - and it’s not as crazy a concept as it might seem with no Alabama, LSU, or Arkansas on the slate and the toughest remaining pure road game at Tennessee – and it comes up with a win in the SEC title game, it’ll almost certainly play for the national title. The SEC has that much juice right now. Of course, after last Saturday night, and with Mark Richt’s hot seat scorching, holding up the crystal football in New Orleans is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind at Georgia right now. Get by South Carolina, and all of a sudden, with Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss to follow before hosting Mississippi State, there’s a chance to come up with a nice base of wins.

South Carolina’s schedule isn’t all that bad, either.

The Gamecocks aren’t above the bizarre braincramp – and that starts with the head coach and his choice of starting quarterbacks – but if they can get out of Athens with a win over a desperate Georgia, it’s relatively smooth sailing for a month with four straight home games against Navy, Vanderbilt, Auburn, and Kentucky, before going on the road to face Mississippi State. There’s a road date at Arkansas, but the Florida game is at home, and best of all, there’s no Alabama or LSU.

East Carolina got out to a hot start last week against USC and looked like it was primed and ready to pull of one of the bigger shockers on the opening weekend, and then Stephen Garcia and the offense opened things up and ripped off 56 points in the final three quarters to win in a walk. The offense looked every bit up to the preseason hype, while the defense, once it settled down, showed why it could turn out to be the best in the Steve Spurrier era, at least in terms of pure athleticism.

Five of the last seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and this one shouldn’t be much different. Considering Florida has to go on the road to face LSU, Auburn, and South Carolina, and has to face Alabama in a few weeks, it’s not getting ahead of the game to suggest that the winner in Athens on Saturday afternoon will be a tough front-runner to catch in the East, at least for the Gamecocks. Georgia is simply looking for a really, really big win to quiet the angst.

Why South Carolina Might Win: Boise State’s defensive front destroyed the Georgia offensive line. Brandon Boykin ripped off a big 80-yard touchdown run early on, but the rest of the team gained a grand total of 57 rushing yards. The Broncos had no problems whatsoever getting into the backfield with seven tackles for loss and four sacks, and the Gamecock front four should be able to pin its ears back and pitch a tent in the Bulldog backfield.

While USC only came up with three tackles for loss and didn’t register a sack against East Carolina, the pass rush sped up the process. The line has phenomenal talent and athleticism, and it’s going to swarm all over Aaron Murray and force him to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry. Georgia can’t count on a consistent running game, and if Murray isn’t playing better than he did against Boise State, the game might not be pretty.

Georgia’s other problem is toughness on the defensive front. Kellen Moore might have been the signature star of the win, but Doug Martin, even averaging 2.4 yards per carry, set a tone with the way he was able to batter and bruise his way over the Bulldog D, while D.J. Harper ripped off a few nice runs. It’s possible USC can just outphysical the Dawgs on both sides of the ball.

Why Georgia Might Win: Aaron Murray. East Carolina’s Dominique Davis threw the ball 56 times and only came up with 260 yards, but he threw for four touchdowns and connected with Lance Lewis 13 times and Justin Hardy 11 times with the two combining for 199 yards and three scores. Murray is better than Davis.

While no Dawg made anyone forget about A.J. Green, tight end Orson Charles played like an All-American with six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown, and Murray, when he had time, threw darts as he spread the ball around to seven different targets. South Carolina has to use an extra safety to pay attention to Charles at all times, and Murray should be able to exploit the single coverage over and over and over again like Davis did.

While this has the potential to be more of a shootout than a grinding battle, it should be tight. Can the Georgia special teams be the difference? The South Carolina punting game is suspect and a concern, while Georgia’s Drew Butler is in his Ray Guy Award form averaging 47.8 yards per pop last week. Brandon Boykin didn’t come up with a big kickoff return, he’s a gamebreaker who could be the difference getting used in a variety of ways.

What To Watch Out For: Really, what’s the deal with Stephen Garcia?

The extremely talented but oft-troubled South Carolina star quarterback has had a variety of issues throughout his career, getting suspended. Spurrier shocked the world when he decided to start Connor Shaw against East Carolina, saying it wasn’t a statement move and that Shaw was simply better in practices.

It was a statement move.

Call it the moment when Spurrier made sure his senior leader’s mind was right, and Garcia handled the temporary demotion like a pro. After Shaw was awful, completing just 3-of-9 passes and missing a few wide open deep plays, Garcia came in and dominated, completing 7-of-15 throws for 110 yards and a touchdown, while running five times for 56 yards and two scores. Last year, Garcia was fine in the win over the Dawgs, completing 12-of-17 passes for 165 yards, but the win was more about the official Marcus Lattimore coming out party, running for 182 yards and two scores. He started off 2011 red hot with 112 yards and three scores on 23 carries looking even quicker and more powerful.

This year’s Marcus Lattimore is supposed to be Georgia freshman Isaiah Crowell, and while he’s a different back and doesn’t have the same power of Lattimore, he’s a tremendous talent. He ran for 60 yards on 15 carries against Boise State, and while he wasn’t able to get much room to run, he showed glimpses of the burst and potential that’s made him one of the most hyped Georgia backs since Herschel Walker. He might have to be Walker-like for the Dawgs to pull out the win.

What Will Happen: Georgia will play much, much better than it did against Boise State, but it won’t matter. The South Carolina defensive line that didn’t register a sack last week will hit Murray early and often, with Jadeveon Clowney about to make a national statement against Georgia just like Lattimore did last season. South Carolina will get bombed on, but the offense has too many weapons and is too balanced for the Dawgs to keep up.

CFN Prediction: South Carolina 34 … Georgia 27
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: South Carolina -3    O/U: 51.5

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