The rain came and went and came back again at Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C. The precipitation helped wash away the stink of the No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks’ play through their first two games. The Gamecocks played at another level and established an identity during their 38-35 victory against the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs.
It’s often said football is a game of inches, and the cliche was literal in its interpretation Saturday in Columbia.
When the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier relied on the team’s most talented unit to take over. The Gamecocks’ offense line dominated the latter portions of the game. In the fourth quarter, South Carolina ran the ball 11 times out of 13 plays. The other two plays resulted in an interception and a kneel down to seal the victory.
From left to right, the Gamecocks’ offensive line played at a very high level. Left tackle Corey Robinson and left guard A.J. Cann were creating massive holes. Center Cody Waldrop set the tone in the middle. Right guard Mike Matulis and right tackle Brandon Shell were consistent on the strong side. Their combined effort resulted in 176 rushing yards and 447 yards of total offense.
The contest was eventually settled on a fourth down at the 50-yard line. The wide bodies up front were able to get just enough push for one yard and a first down to seal the game.
While the play of the offensive line was special, the Gamecocks’ defense needs to be acknowledged. The unit improved from its previous efforts against the Texas A&M Aggies and East Carolina Pirates. Prior to Saturday’s contest, South Carolina gave up 566.5 yards on average and ranked 120th in the nation in total defense. The Bulldogs were able to move the football, but the Gamecocks saw marked improvement from their defense.
South Carolina surrendered a much more respectable 408 yards to Georgia. It’s clearly an improvement over South Carolina’s previous performances, but it’s also 51 yards less than Georgia gained against the Clemson Tigers.
The Gamecocks also had luck on their side. Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan wrapped a late field goal attempt around the outside of the goal post for South Carolina to maintain its tenuous lead.
Despite the loss, Georgia played well in stretches. Quarterback Hutson Mason didn’t make any major mistakes, and the team was able to get running back Todd Gurley rolling in the second half. Gurley finished with 131 rushing yards after a slow start.
A loss to South Carolina simply means the SEC East will be a dogfight again this season. South Carolina, though, now has the edge with the head-to-head victory. Plus, the Gamecocks will have an advantage each with their ability to dominate up front along the offensive line.