In one of the wildest games ever in the long history between USC and Georgia, the Bulldogs held on at the end to pull out a thrilling 41-37 victory at Samford Stadium. In a game expected to be dominated by the defense, , the teams combined for 78 points, 735 yards, 136 plays, 77 passes, 42 first downs, 410 kickoff return yards, and provided enought thrills and big plays to last the season. It was the second highest scoring game between the rivals. The combined for 86 points in a 1970 Georgia victory. Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier felt at some point his team would have to win a high scoring shootout in the SEC, but it was not to be on this night.
Steve Spurrier (1:07)
USC took the early lead on a six yard touchdown pass from Stepen Garcia to Tori Gurley. But Georgia’s Brandon Boykin took the kickoff back 100 yards to tie the game. It was the longest scoring play for Georgia in Sanford Stadium history. The play was part of a long night for special team’s coach Shane Beamer.
Shane Beamer (1:54)
The Gamecocks answwered with a Garcia to Brian Maddox 13 yard touchdown pass for a 14-7 lead. Later in the quarter Spencer Lanning booted a 21 yard field goal for a 17-7 Gamecock advantage.
Spencer Lanning (1:37)
Georgia then ran off 17 straight points. Richard Samuel scored on a one yard run, Branden Smith broke off a 61 yard dash on a reverse, and Blair Walsh hit a 50 yard field goal. Gamecock cornerback Akeem Auguste was shocked with the play of his unit.
Akeem Auguste (2:26)
The Gamecocks got back to within 24-23 on Lanning field goals of 39 and 22 yards. But the couldn’t keep the Dogs out of the end zone before halftime. Joe Cox hit Summerville’s AJ Green on a nine yard pass with nine seconds left to give Georgia a 31-23 halftime edge. Gamecock defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson knew he and his staff had some major adjusments to make.
Ellis Johnson (2:59)
The Bulldogs added to their lead early in the third quarter on a Cox to Michael Moore four yard scoring pass. But the Gamecocks would not die. Lanning nailed a 35 yard field goal, and after Georgia gave up a safety on a high punt snap thru the end zone, the Gamecocks were back to within ten points at 38-28. Garcia says the offense was not going to quit.
Stephen Garcia (1:25)
Lanning booted a record tieing fifth field goal early in the fourth quarter, this one from 34 yards out, and the lead was down to 38-31. Then, on Georgia’s next possession, the Gamecock defense made a play as Eric Norwood intercepted a Cox pass and returned 35 yards for a touchdown. But, Georgia’s DeAngelo Tyson blocked the extra point to preserve a one point lead.
Walsh later kicked a 42 yard field goal to put Georgia up 41-37. The Gamecocks would have one final shot at glory. Starting at their own 19 with 6:13 to play, the Gamecocks mounted a drive that reached the Georgia seven. On fourth and four, Garcia attempted to his tight end Weslye Saunders for the touchdown but Rennie Curran tipped the ball away to preserve the victory. It was Curran who caused the fumble by Mike Davis at the Georgia two last season that allowed the Bulldogs to win that game in Columbia.
Crucial penalites and the break down of the special teams went a long way in spelling defeat for the Gamecocks. Two touchdown passes to Gurley were called back, one because the tight end Saunders was not an eligible receiver on the play and was downfield, and the other was called back for holding. Instead of getting 14 points out of those drives, the Gamecocks got ten. And the special teams allowed that long kickoff return for a touchdown and the blocked extra point which turned out to be a game changing play.
Garcia finished the night 31-53 for 313 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 42 yards. Saunders caught eight passes for 96 yards. Darian Stewart led the defense with 11 tackles. Norwood had five tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and an interception.
The Gamecocks are 1-1 and play their home opener next Saturday night against Florida Atlantic. Georgia is 1-1 and will play at Arkansas next week.
The Bulldogs have now won seven of the last eight meetings with the Gamecocks and lead the series 46-14-2.