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The Post and Courier: South Carolina-Georgia
The Rivalry
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Gamecocks nearly knock off Bulldogs

Published on 09/14/08
The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — South Carolina knew it would essentially take an error-free afternoon to pull off the biggest victory in school history.

Facing second-ranked Georgia, the Gamecocks were pretty close for three quarters. But a couple of fourth-quarter gaffes, one in particular, did USC in Saturday against the Bulldogs.

Mike Davis' fumble on second-and-goal from the 2 prevented the Gamecocks from having a chance to tie the game, and the Bulldogs were able to squeeze out of Williams-Brice Stadium with a 14-7 victory in front of 83,704 fans.

"That was a tough one. Seems like we have a lot of these around here," a visibly frustrated Steve Spurrier said afterward. "I don't know how else to explain it. We had a lot of chances. We didn't make a play when we had to."

Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran caused Davis' fumble, and safety Asher Allen jumped on the ball that he said looked like a "gold-colored, diamond-encrusted beachball."

It was USC's first turnover of the game. It was the first time all season, in eight tries, that the Gamecocks hadn't converted in the red zone.

Even after the fumble, South Carolina (1-2, 0-2 SEC) still wasn't cooked against the hyped Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0).

The Gamecocks, led by quarterback Chris Smelley and receiver Moe Brown, drove to the Georgia 31 on their next possession.

But, with no confidence in Davis, Smelley threw three consecutive incompletions.

The fourth-down play was a lob to no one in particular. An irritated Spurrier later said that freshman receiver C.C. Whitlock broke off the route.

Still — amazingly — the Gamecocks weren't done.

They got the ball back on their own 10 with 1:42 remaining and no timeouts. Smelley led a drive to the Georgia 17.

But a holding call and an interception by Georgia's Reshad Jones ended the Gamecocks' hopes. Smelley overthrew the ball into coverage, trying to find tight end Jared Cook at the 5-yard line.

"We couldn't make a play to win the game," Spurrier said. "We needed about two ... We had all kinds of chances, simple as that."

South Carolina still has never beaten a team ranked higher than No. 3.

"This was a chance to go out and do something the Gamecocks had never done before," said Smelley, now 4-4 as a starter. "We were that close. It didn't quite work out."

USC is 1-30 against top-five teams. Worse, the Gamecocks' SEC losing streak — dating back to last year's Vanderbilt loss — now stands at five. Three of the losses have been at Williams-Brice.

But there's cause for hope in the South Carolina camp. The Gamecocks' defense is a big, big reason why. Georgia had 252 total yards, 37 fewer than USC.

"We knew they were going to play smashmouth football, and we were ready for them," said senior linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who returned to form with seven tackles and a sack.

The defensive line imposed its will pretty much all day, harassing Georgia's Matt Stafford into several mistakes. The Gamecocks sacked the big-armed QB four times.

And they held all-world wonderback Knowshon Moreno to 79 yards on 20 carries.

Georgia had put up an average of 50.5 points and 543.5 yards in wins against Georgia Southern and Central Michigan.

Smelley's day — 23-for-39 for a career-high 271 yards — was also encouraging. The quarterback should be relatively set entering next week's Wofford game.

The line held up for Smelley, allowing one sack, and he a found a new friend in Brown.

Brown caught seven passes for 130 yards — both career highs — and the first touchdown of his career.

"That was a pretty gutsy performance he had," said freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia, who got the first three snaps of his career Saturday. "The offensive line played great, gave him a bunch of time to throw, and the receivers made plays for him. He put the ball where it needed to go."

The Gamecocks, sputtering on offense entering the game and without senior receiver Kenny McKinley in the lineup, had to play smartly and efficiently to hang in.

South Carolina had just 81 total yards in the first half, and 62 came on the scoring drive that ended with a beautifully thrown 34-yard pass from Smelley to Brown. USC held a 7-6 lead chiefly because it had no turnovers or sacks in the first half.

Meanwhile, Georgia had scoring drives of 13 and 15 plays, eating up more than 15 minutes between them, but it got just two field goals from the odysseys.

Georgia's gantlet is only beginning, with a trip to Arizona State awaiting the team. Per the norm, a trip to Williams-Brice made the Bulldogs sweat without losing.

"My gut," Georgia coach Mark Richt said, "has churned more in this series and on this field than anywhere else since I've been at Georgia."

Reach Travis Haney at and check out the new South Carolina blog at


The Good

The Gamecocks' defensive line deserves a wealth of credit for putting a hurtin' on Georgia's offensive line and backs.

The Bad

The refs were glaringly bad, making nonsense decisions and then taking an inordinate amount of time to finally get them right.

The Wacky

Go figure that USC had a one-minute, 40-second touchdown drive in the first half and Georgia plodded for two field goals.

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