Instant Analysis - Sept. 12
Georgia 41 ... South Carolina 37
41 ... South Carolina
I'm not sure what that was,
but I liked it.
While the rest of the world was watching USC be just
a little bit less mediocre than Ohio State, the SEC
die-hards got to watch an all-timer of a shootout
that wasn't expected to be anything more than
defensive slugfest between two SEC East also-rans.
Had the powers-that-be known that this would've been
a wild and wacky 41-37 shootout with big runs, big
kicks, big defensive plays, big special teams plays,
and big numbers, it wouldn't have gotten the ESPN2
treatment that the U.S. Open is receiving and
would've had a bigger stage.
It's not like this was always pretty, the two teams
combined for 24 penalties, but the two teams kept
trading haymakers in an attempt to see who could
knock out the other. The real shame is that South
Carolina QB Stephen Garcia, who came up with a whale
of a performance, ended the game with a misread and
a misfire; this game should've ended on a Hail Mary,
a pick six, the Stanford-Cal band play, something
wild and crazy.
After this, the impossible job is to figure out how
good each of these teams are. Do they have good
enough offenses to have a puncher's chance against
Florida, or did the defenses take a week off after
strong week ones? Is this the game that makes Garcia
an SEC superstar? Where is the Georgia running game?
Are the Dawgs going to get it together on both sides
of the ball in time to be a true threat for the SEC
title? After games like this, it'll be worth finding
out week after week whenever these two play.
You get the feeling, like I do, that Georgia is going to be tough to figure out all season? Yeah, that's what I thought.
It's going to be maddening getting a read on this team, which has already flashed multiple personalities in the first two games. In the opener, the Dawgs lacked an offensive pulse, yet showed grit and toughness on defense, losing to Oklahoma State, 24-10. This past weekend, however, you'd hardly recognize the program, ringing up 41 points on a nasty South Carolina D and getting a tremendous boost from the special teams unit. From QB Joe Cox to kick returner Brandon Boykin, there was a different spark coming form the Bulldogs, and not a moment too soon. Maybe it was the home crowd. Maybe it was the presence of Steve Spurrier on the opposite sideline. It really doesn't matter. Georgia had to have this win over the Gamecocks because in the SEC, the difference between 1-1 and 2-0 is a whole lot more than just a single game.
1) Last year, it was Mike Davis fumbling near the Georgia goal line. This year, it's Stephen Garcia not seeing his tailback in the left flat for a first down on the game's defining play in the final minute. Gamecocks-Dawgs is usually a razor-close affair; even when Steve Spurrier gets a big-time performance from one of his signal callers, he can't snare a huge win. Who would have thought this game would produce 79 points, and that another miscue in the kicking game would loom incredibly large?
2) Joe Cox has been criticized. He's had the flu. He's lost nine pounds in recent days. He's been playing through pain. He also gamed and competed at a very high level on a night when his defense wasn't quite up to par. A young man showed more stuff than many observers thought; when a college kid rises above diminishing expectations, scholastic athletics reaches a sweet and satisfying high point. Cheers to Joe Cox for one manful, meaningful display Between the Hedges.
Everybody expected this one to be of the 3-2 variety, so imagine the surprise when a Canadian Football League game broke out. The Bulldogs seemed to have this one in hand in the fourth quarter, but they couldn't hold back South Carolina, which banged on the door late but couldn't cross the threshold. This was a huge win for Georgia, which couldn't afford to slide to 0-2, especially with this one in Athens, and especially with last week's conqueror having lost to Houston. Give both teams kudos for awakening dormant attacks, and Georgia should be happy that it was able to get an SEC win against the team that could well be its main competition for second in the East. As for the Ol' Ball Coach, consider that he has built a winning team on defense the past couple years, so he had to be cheered somewhat by the emergence of a potent attack, but he can't be happy with the late-game breakdown. Georgia gets a leg up in the SEC East, while South Carolina gets two weeks to get ready for a huge visit from Mississippi.