The No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs picked up a huge 41-30 win over the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday night in Athens, Ga.
The first few minutes set the stage for what would be an exciting game from start to finish.
Georgia went up early after a short touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Arthur Lynch. Seeing a great chance to build some momentum, Mark Richt opted to go for the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. It was a gamble that would pay off in spades as the Bulldogs recovered.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah thought the Georgia head coach was channeling his inner Les Miles, except if that was the case, South Carolina would have recovered instead.
Richt just went Les Miles…and it worked!— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) September 7, 2013
Georgia got a field goal on the subsequent drive. The Bulldogs followed that up with a touchdown in the second quarter to run out to a 17-3 lead. Their defense allowed Murray and the offense a short field with which to work, which made it much easier to negate what is a tough Gamecocks defense. South Carolina's struggles offensively also meant its defense was spending a lot of time on the field.
Jeremiah thought Murray was looking like a different player compared to his performance in the loss to Clemson in Week 1.
Aaron Murray is more decisive today. Looks sharp.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) September 7, 2013
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw responded in a big way, leading a 12-play, 84-yard drive, capped off with a seven-yard touchdown run from Brandon Wilds.
After a three-and-out from Georgia, Collin Barber fumbled the snap on the punt attempt, which gave South Carolina great field position on the Georgia 18-yard line. On the ensuing play, the Gamecocks scored to tie the game at 17-17.
To stem the tide, Murray led yet another scoring drive, this one ending with Todd Gurley punching it in from two yards (h/t ESPN College Football).
It was appropriate that Gurley scored the touchdown, as he carried the ball seven times on the drive for 46 yards.
Just when Georgia thought it would take some momentum into the second half, the defense would let it down again. Shaw took the Gamecocks 71 yards in 1:29, which culminated with this 30-yard touchdown pass to Nick Jones.
Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde was very complimentary of Shaw's performance in the first half.
Connor Shaw, that was a fabulous drive. Better athlete than you think, tough kid, and one heck of a TD throw.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) September 7, 2013
The second half turned into more of a chess game. Both coaches made adjustments to their respective defenses.
Yards were coming at a premium, which was a good thing for Georgia, considering how well Gurley was able to run the football. The sophomore running back wasn't breaking away for huge gains, instead methodically breaking down the South Carolina defense with his physicality.
Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis decided to create a new stat for Gurley, of which he is of course the leader.
Gurley leads the country in man yards.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) September 7, 2013
Georgia capitalized on a Shaw fumble at the start of the third quarter with a field goal to take a 27-24 lead. The quarterback scrambled to get a first down on 4th-and-5, but he let the ball dribble out in Georgia territory, leaving points on the board.
After forcing the Gamecocks to punt, Georgia came back and took a 10-point lead after an eight-yard pass from Murray to Gurley.
SportsCenter noted that Murray was really starting to get into a groove in the third quarter.
Aaron Murray is feeling it Between the Hedges. He finds Todd Gurley for a 8-yard TD pass. Georgia leads South Carolina, 34-24. #SCvsUGA— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 7, 2013
College Gameday posited that whether by land or air, Gurley will always reach his destination.
It doesn't matter whether you give it to Gurley by ground or by air. He is going to find the end zone. #SCvsUGA— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 7, 2013
After watching the South Carolina offense struggle for most of the second half, Mike Davis decided to take things into his own hands with a 75-yard run down to the 5-yard line. It was the kind of momentum that the Gamecocks needed in order to be jolted back into the game. Davis finished it off with a three-yard run. Elliott Fry missed the point-after attempt to keep South Carolina down by four, at 34-30.
Not to be outdone by Davis' huge play, Murray came right back with one of his own as he connected with Justin Scott-Wesley for an 85-yard touchdown pass.
As if things couldn't get much worse for South Carolina, on the following drive, it went for it on 4th-and-goal on the 1-yard line, only to have Davis stuffed way short.
For Forde, it was a great case of your defense coming up big in the most pivotal moment.
And just when Georgia needed it, the defense finally makes a stand. Saw enough of that option to know it was coming.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) September 7, 2013
While the game was far from over at that point, that fourth-down stop all but took the Gamecocks out of it. Georgia was able to work the clock and the next drive, eating up yards on the ground and wearing out the South Carolina defense. Between Gurley and Brendan Douglas, the Bulldogs were able keep the drive alive and make sure the Gamecocks offense couldn't get on the field.
This was an uncharacteristically bad performance from the Gamecocks defense. It was only the fourth time in three seasons that they have given up 40-plus points (h/t ESPN Stats and Info).
4th game in last 3 seasons South Carolina has allowed 40+ points. It's held 15 teams under 14 points in that same span.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 7, 2013
For Georgia, it's a huge win, especially coming off the loss to the Clemson Tigers in Week 1. The Bulldogs have cemented themselves as the team to beat in the SEC East.
Aaron Murray: A
Much was made about Aaron Murray losing all three of his previous games against South Carolina. With a record so poor, how was he going to be able to handle a stingy South Carolina defense?
The answer was quite easily.
Time and again, the senior signal-caller marshaled his team downfield. Murray was able to avoid making any costly mistakes, while staying very efficient through the air.
The numbers speak for themselves. Murray went 17-of-23 passing for 309 yards and four touchdowns.
Todd Gurley: A
What else can you really say about Todd Gurley?
He was a wrecking ball the entire game. When Georgia needed to pick up a few yards here and there, Gurley was the go-to guy. He had no fear in running right into the South Carolina defense and seemed to relish in dishing out plenty of his own punishment to opposing defenders.
Gurley didn't even need to have a helmet to attack the Gamecocks.
What his performance lacked in flash, it more than made up for in power and determination.
Connor Shaw: B+
Connor Shaw's performance will end up getting lost in the shuffle over the talk about Gurley, Murray and how bad the South Carolina defense was.
Shaw ended up passing for 228 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-25 passing. He added 75 yards on the ground.
His fumble in the third quarter was a big moment, but it didn't cost South Carolina the game. Shaw did enough, if only the defense could have done their part.
Jadeveon Clowney: C+
You're probably surprised you haven't read Jadeveon Clowney's name yet. There's good reason, as Clowney had little to no effect on the final score. Georgia did a great job of taking him out of the game with quick passes and runs away from his side of the line.
There were flashes from Clowney, and he came close to destroying Georgia's plays in the backfield. However, the Bulldogs were well-drilled on how to handle the junior defensive end and executed their plan to perfection.
South Carolina will look to get back in the win column next week when it welcomes in the Vanderbilt Commodores. It's yet another big SEC East clash for the Gamecocks.
Georgia has a bye week, which will a nice little break after the Bulldogs faced top-10 opponents in back to back weeks.