USC-Georgia: Gamecocks Spur Bulldogs Between the Hedges

Joseph AlbersonAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2007 ended a five-game skid against Georgia on Saturday with an impressive 16-12 victory in Athens.

The win was Steve Spurrier's first against Georgia as head coach of the Gamecocks.

Most impressive was the play of the Gamecock defense, which held the Georgia offense to 128 yards on the ground and no touchdowns.

The USC D was led by strong individual performances from Darian Stewart (9 tackles), Rodney Paulk (5 tackles, 1 sack), the Brinkley twins (5 tackles apiece, Casper with a sack and Jasper with an interception), and Eric Norwood (3 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 sack).

The Gamecocks were able to pressure Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, forcing an interception and only allowing Stafford to complete just 43 percent of his passes for no touchdowns.

On the day, Georgia was only able to muster three drives of 45 yards or longer. Their longest effort, 71 yards, resulted in a field goal.

Offensively, the Gamecocks were better than the score shows—but were hurt by key mistakes and squandered opportunities.

On the ground, USC was led by Cory Boyd, who rushed for 78 yards and a score on 14 carries. Mike Davis also rushed for 57 yards on nine carries, and freshman Chris Culliver contributed 21 yards on two attempts.

The Gamecocks as a team managed 169 yards rushing and Boyd's one TD.

Blake Mitchell led the USC passing attack, completing 20 of his 31 attempts (65 percent) for 174 yards and no interceptions—though he did lose a fumble. WR Kenny McKinley had an excellent game with seven receptions for 102 yards, followed by Jared Cook with two catches for 23 yards.

Ryan Succop converted three of three FGs and hit his only extra point try.

Even after the Gamecocks' ascension to #17 in the national polls, USC needs to improve greatly on offense if they want to beat LSU in two weeks in Baton Rouge.

It looked to me as tough USC ran the same offense against Georgia that they did again ULL, which may mean Spurrier is waiting for the trip to Louisiana to fully open up the playbook. If that's the case, it increases my faith in the Gamecocks' chances of competing for an SEC title.

That said, USC can't look too far ahead, as a tough South Carolina State team comes to Columbia this Saturday. Look for Spurrier to open up offensively but still hide enough to compete against LSU.

My prediction: USC easily handles SC State 42-6, with Boyd and Davis combining for 200 yards rushing and Mitchell throwing his first TD of the season to McKinley.

Early LSU prediction: USC escapes with a 23-21 win, Succop kicking the game-winner with three seconds left on the clock.

This is USC's year in the SEC.