South Carolina at Georgia
It was a fantastic game of wild plays, great performances, and lots and lots of highlights, and while Marcus Lattimore's 176 yards and a touchdown were terrific, and Isaiah Crowell's 118-yard, one score coming out party was impressive, and Aaron Murray's four touchdown day was impressive, and Melvin Ingram's two touchdowns were breathtaking, this game could end up being about just two plays from one new superstar.
Last year, Lattimore showed that he was ready to be a superstar with 182 yards and two touchdowns in South Carolina's win, and this year, it was Jadeveon Clowney who announced that he's going to be something truly special and he just might live up to all the recruiting hype.
It's still really, really, really early, but everyone's No. 1 super-recruit came up with two sacks in key moments. The first came in the second quarter, putting Murray on the Georgia six and forcing a 3rd-and-16 situation. The Dawgs punted, South Carolina started on its own 47, and five plays later Alshon Jeffery made an NFL catch for a 7-6 Gamecock lead.
The second was the Mariano Rivera, effectively closing the game with a shot-out-of-a-cannon speed burst into the backfield. The hole was there on the inside, Clowney got off the ball in a hiccup, and even though Murray saw him coming, there wasn't anything he could do. Clowney was in the backfield so fast that Murray couldn't control the ball, Ingram picked up the fumble, took it in for a score and a 45-35 lead with just over three minutes to play.
And that appears to be South Carolina this year. Jeffery will be a top 15 pick when he's ready to come out, Lattimore looks like a franchise back, and Stephen Garcia is a veteran playmaker at quarterback with the talent to lead the way to a possible championship, but South Carolina's fortunes will come from the defensive front. After two rough defensive games, the Gamecocks need to tighten up in the secondary, but if Clowney can be this timely on a regular basis, with players like Devin Taylor and Ingram to help up front, yeah, they could be the real deal.
South Carolina D-lineman Melvin Ingram made himself a lot of money in Athens this evening.
In a typically thrilling SEC game between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs, you could highlight any number of fascinating storylines. The fate of Mark Richt. The emergence of Steve Spurrier's ‘Cocks as a possible national title contender. The big-game heroics of South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore. I'll opt to focus on Ingram, who had a dream game for a defensive lineman, flashing the kind of insane athleticism that had to leave a swath of NFL scouts wide-eyed. In case you missed it, the 275-pound one-time high school running back scored two touchdowns, one on a fake punt and another on a fumble recovery. On the former, he displayed the kind of speed usually reserved for linebackers, streaking down the sidelines just before halftime. On the former, he deftly scooped up a Jadeveon Clowney-forced fumble to give his team a 10-point cushion late in the final quarter.
Everyone is going to focus on Richt whose Bulldogs are 0-2. Or Spurrier whose Gamecocks are 2-0. Makes sense. However, no one impressed me in this classic more than Ingram. Right down to his jersey number, six, he's like nothing I've seen in a defensive lineman through the first two weeks of the season.
By Matt Zemek
This is the peril of college athletics for the men who bear the responsibility of the head coach's position: Your fate, your career trajectory, depends on 19- and 20-year-old males. You can teach and prepare and scheme with all your might, but if a young man loses hold of the ball in a few key moments, you can and will lose the kind of tipping-point game you simply had to win in order to keep your job.
Yes, it's unfair to make South Carolina's win over Georgia a story that is centrally about Mark Richt and no one else. Yes, it's certainly cruel to take the focus away from the Gamecocks in the wake of their ballsy, resilient display on the road in Athens. However, the undeniable real-world reality of this game was that it WAS Georgia's season. Rare is the time when a week-two game defines and shapes not just a season, but a coach's tenure at a school. This was the high-stakes exception that proves the rule. No other program had as much riding on a September 10 tilt as Georgia did, so the canvas of competition that was just crafted Between the Hedges has to be connected to Richt.
It's richly (and darkly) ironic, then, that on an evening when his fate as Georgia's coach was likely sealed, Richt coached well. Oh, he butchered the final 2:15 – a deep kickoff and better timeout management were needed – but for the most part, Georgia looked like a more prepared team. The Bulldogs exhibited a blended, layered offense that consistently moved the ball. On defense, Georgia coordinator Todd Grantham allowed just one sustained touchdown drive to the Gamecocks in the first three and a half quarters (only two all game long). Georgia established territorial superiority for most of this game.
There was just one problem: A handful of gigantic mistakes – moreover, mistakes committed precisely when Georgia had either attained the upper hand or still had a legitimate chance to win – buried the Bulldogs. Aaron Murray's fumble, which was recovered by South Carolina's Stepfon Gilmore and returned inside the Georgia 7 late in the third quarter, pulled the Gamecocks off the mat. Murray then locked onto one receiver and threw a pick-six that created an eight-point deficit. Painfully for Georgia fans, it was only then that Murray avoided mistakes for a period of time; the Bulldogs roared downfield for two touchdowns to grab a 35-31 lead. However, that's the very moment when Georgia's defense, so strong for most of the contest, let down its guard. Then came Murray's final, fateful fumble, the one that Carolina pounced on for a scoop-and-score and a 10-point lead.
Georgia proved it could knock South Carolina off its block, taking a six-point lead and later retaking a four-point advantage. However, whenever a moment of truth arrived, the same Murray that led many impressive drives became the Jekyll-and-Hyde author of a few split-second disasters that allowed Carolina to score two defensive touchdowns while essentially (though not technically) ringing up a third. All told, the Gamecocks scored four touchdowns without any appreciable offensive contributions. Moreover, when Richt snookered Carolina with an onside kick in the first half, an overeager member of UGA's special-teams unit was offside by half a yard. Richt and Grantham and the rest of Georgia's coaches put their players in position to make plays; that is the true measure of coaching. The players –especially Isaiah Crowell and also Michael Bennett – largely flourished, but three killer turnovers and a few other untimely errors led to a tough-luck loss.
There are players' losses and then there are coaches' losses. Georgia suffered a players' loss on a day when its coach couldn't afford any kind of loss. The Bulldogs showed ample competitive grit and outflanked South Carolina on most snaps, but a few flashes of panicky carelessness undid the Dawgs' good work. That's how life is sometimes, and interestingly enough, that's how South Carolina has lost a lot of games over the past four decades of overall futility.
Is it unfair that Mark Richt is the centerpiece of this game's aftermath? Is it unfair that Richt lost a game in which he pushed the right buttons and outschemed Steve Spurrier? Ask the victorious Gamecocks and see if they care. College football is a very cruel mistress as a matter of course, but a week-two deathmatch that doesn't go your way is a particularly vicious fate to endure. It's all so very unfair, but that is the major takeaway from this game, whether you like it or not.
By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
It wasn't the colossal failure for Georgia against South Carolina as it was last week vs. Boise State - but that won't help Georgia head coach Mark Richt now.
Georgia is now 14-14 in its last 28 games, 7-10 in its last 17 SEC games and has lost nine of its last 10 against ranked opponents. Those aren't the numbers of a coach who should remain employed at a sleeping giant like Georgia. If it wasn't clear before, it's clear now that UGA needs a to make a change, and if I'm calling the shots, I do it sooner rather than later. Georgia showed heart and desire on Saturday night - two traits that have eluded the boys in Athens for quite some time, but it's clear that the problem is much deeper than effort, it's talent too.
I never thought we'd see the day where South Carolina is better coached and more talented than UGA, but that day has come. When the Gamecocks need a big play, Steve Spurrier dials up a fake punt in which Melvin Ingram - a defensive lineman - purposefully scores a touchdown. When they need to ice the game away, they give it to Marcus Lattimore, the workhorse out of the backfield. When they need a big play late in the game, the hot shot freshman Jadeveon Clowney provides one. South Carolina is better in every aspect of the game.
After one game in SEC East play, it's clear that South Carolina is still the class of the division; and that Georgia will be searching for a new coach, because the Bulldog program is going backwards.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter: @RussMitchellCFB
Ladieeeeeees aaaaand Gentlemennnnnn, new under the Big Top, may we introduce you to the spec-TAC-ular feats and the WON-der-ous promise of the young man-child, Jadeveon Clowney.
Let's table for now how the (relatively) small state of South Carolina has provided the SEC with back-to-back Freshman of the Year (yes, we're calling it already, as we did Lattimore after the Georgia game last year).
At key moments in this, his first SEC game, on the road, Clowney was nearly unblockable. He helped give the Gamecocks their first and last leads of the game.
Some quick observations - UGA showed fire and drive right out of the gate, dominating the first third of the game - yet failed to truly capitalize in terms of points. This single fact may have ultimately been the difference in this game.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is very, very good. And once again, the South Carolina secondary was missing in action.
Whoever stole the 2009 Gamecocks secondary, the Head Ball Coach would like you to please return it to Columbia - no questions asked.
South Carolina's quarterback is - wow - pedestrian. At best. 25% of his passing and his only touchdown came on a circus grab by star wideout Alshon Jeffery. Though he did have two interceptions. Yuck. It's enough to make you want to drink.
Well, hello Mr. Crowell! Georgia's got a star frosh of its own, to no one's surprise. Crowell did a good job of getting precious yards after contact - likely a important commodity this year.
Both teams were sub-50% on third down conversions, though Carolina's performance here was particularly woeful (SC: 4-14, UGA: 5-12).
Georgia's offensive line was much improved over last week's sub-par effort against BSU; though it still made key mistakes in pass coverage, some of which cost the Dawgs dearly.
Did UGA's Blair Walsh miss a kick? I had to go back and rewind to make sure, so rare is the event. Walsh will be kicking on Sundays next year.
Richt must figure a way to get the ball into Boykin's hands more often; don't care how he does it - the kid's just too explosive not to get more touches.
Bottom Line: This was UGA's game to win. They outplayed South Carolina in most facets. The had more passing yards, led in time of possession, led in first downs (23-15) and third down completions, and dominated the first twenty minutes of the game. Yet they still couldn't win...between the hedges.
Georgia did have more turnovers than the Gamecocks, and made several special teams mistakes.
For whatever reason, you decide yourself, Georgia has not had a signature SEC win since 2007. Looking forward at the rest of their 2011 schedule, their chances to break that streak are few and far between. That might actually be their saving grace - as the Dawgs should still recover from this 0-2 start to finish with eight (maybe nine) wins, and second or third place in the Eastern Division.
And another average season in the books...Georgia's fifth in the last six years.