Georgia had finally had enough of this losing to USC. After three straight losses to the Gamecocks, the Bulldogs turned to their star running back Todd Gurley and their senior quarterback Aaron Murray to gash the once proud Gamecock defense for 536 yards (most allowed since Auburn had 589 yards in 2010 SEC title game) on the way to a 41-30 victory in Athens Saturday night.
It was the SEC opener for both teams and the only solace the Gamecocks could take from the loss is that after losing to USC the past two seasons, Georgia went on to win the SEC East. Mindful of the fact Georgia still has LSU and Florida on the schedule, the Gamecocks are hopeful the trend of the loser of this game wining the East will continue.
But that’s a thought for another day for this Gamecock squad. Right now, Steve Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward (who doubled as a ref during a sideline skirmish between defensive assistants Kirk Botkin and Deke Adams) have to figure out how to fix the defense. And in particular, Ward has to come up with a way to get Jadeveon Clowney more involved.
Clowney is scaring no one after his first two games of six combined tackles and one sack. Yes, Georgia ran a steady diet of plays away from Clowney, but certainly that was expected. Clowney spent most of the game lined up at right defensive end and Spurrier said after the game the defense has to change things up moving forward.
Georgia jumped to the early lead and USC caught up. Georgia went back in front and USC caught up again. The Gamecocks had a chance to take a third quarter lead but that was dashed by a Connor Shaw fumble at the Dogs’ 25. And they could have closed the game to four in the fourth quarter but Mike Davis was stuffed on the option pitch at the Georgia two.
There was still time (8:28) for the Gamecocks to rally if the defense could have kept Georgia pinned back to their goal line. They could not and the Bulldogs ran out the clock against an exhausted and humbled group of Gamecock defenders.
Clowney quickly said his goodbyes to the Georgia players on the field and walked off to the locker room by himself smiling and waving to Georgia fans calling out his name. Clowney was not Aaron Murray’s worst nightmare as had been depicted earlier in the season by ESPN. When Clowney and his defensive teammates close their eyes Saturday night, they will be the one with the bad dreams of Murray passing for 309 yards and 4 touchdowns, completing 17 of 23 attempts, of Gurley rushing 30 times for 132 yards and a score, and of Justin Scott-Wesley streaking 85 yards with a touchdown catch, part of a 116 yard night for him.
The Gamecocks offense did its job for the most part. Most would think 30 points and 454 yards (the most yards in a loss since 2010 at Kentucky) would be enough to win. Davis rushed for a career high 149 yards, part of a 226 yard rushing attack, and Connor Shaw completed 16 of 25 passes for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns, and rushed for 75 yards.
But when the Gamecock defense needed to come up big, they didn’t have it, and their challenge now is to find it before the season gets away.
Here’s the complete game story from USC sports information.