Georgia-South Carolina: Oh, What a Night...Dawgs Dodge an 0-2 Bullet

Kimberley Nash@sambrooklynSenior Writer ISeptember 14, 2009

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Branden Smith #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs rushes a reverse for a touchdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

"Though men pride themselves on their great actions, often they are not the result of any great design, but of chance."—Francois de la Rochefoucauld

You know how some people like to say that, at times, it's better to have been lucky than good? Well, if ever that was the case, it was so on Saturday night "Between the Hedges."

Anyone who looked at the box score from that game, without checking the final score, would have thought the Gamecocks not only won, but blew the heels off the cleats of the Dawgs.

Coach Spurrier's boys came to play, and they brought with them one very poised quarterback in Stephen Garcia and an offensive game plan that many were not looking for; this game was not won by the Dawgs. It was lost by the Gamecocks.

Georgia had many moments of bliss and a handful of great plays by individual guys, but the overall performance, offensively, by the Gamecocks was better executed.

So, how did it all break down on Saturday, here are just a few of the key matchups:

Joe Cox vs. Stephen Garcia:

Make no mistake, the Joe Cox who showed up to play on Saturday was a better version of the one who played in Stillwater. Cox was more relaxed, more deliberate, and much more confident in what he wanted to do on the field.

His passes were crisp and, for the most part, on-point. He did get some help from A.J. Green and Mike Moore—both of whom made some stellar grabs that could have ended up either incomplete or intercepted, but he didn't kill us with his play as much as he did last weekend.

He ended up with a touch over 200 yards passing to go along with a couple of touchdowns.

Did he knock your socks off? No, but he didn't leave you wondering who the back-up was either.

As for Garcia, he clearly left the guy that played against N.C. State last week in Raleigh.

The guy who showed up at Sanford Stadium on Saturday came ready to make a serious statement about the quarterback he was going to be in the SEC from this point on and that statement rang loud and clear.

He made few, if any, mistakes and, likely, would have walked away from this game with a win had his wide receivers been better at doing their jobs—how many times did Tori Gurley drop a pass or adjust poorly to a ball thrown his way in a crucial situation?

Overall, neither quarterback did anything to hurt his team but Stephen Garcia left one very big impression and there is no doubt that he will only get better from this point on—as for Cox, he was better, but there is still some work left to be done.

Running backs

Richard Samuel, again, got some tough yards for the Dawgs. He only managed a total of 65 yards on 15 carries, but he got into the end zone and made his presence felt all night whenever the ball was in his hands.

That said, it is a mystery as to why coach Bobo continues to abandon the run when it is clearly successful? Is Samuel not conditioned well enough to be a 25-35 carry kind of guy? Fifteen carries is not nearly enough for a No. 1 back who intends to play in the SEC.

The only other player who logged any significant ground yards for the Dawgs was Branden Smith, the versatile true freshman who has seen time all over the field to this point—sometimes to the chagrin of Dawg fans.

Smith had a couple key miscues in the Okie State game last week and did so again on Saturday night, as he fumbled the ball deep in the Dawgs own territory and gave the Gamecocks some easy points. Credit the defense for holding South Carolina to only a field goal following that turnover.

On the other hand, he also broke free for a 61-yard score on a nice gadget play designed for him.

He showed some of that world-class speed that we've all been hearing about and gave us a true look at why Bobo and company still want him in the game whenever possible.

South Carolina's leading rusher on the night was, well, Stephen Garcia (10 carries for 42 yards). That doesn't seem like a ton, but one of those runs was on a crucial third-and-1 in the fourth quarter.

Had the Dawgs stopped him on that down, the goal line save by Rennie, likely, would not have been necessary.

Garcia ran with purpose and only when necessary. Again, he played well on Saturday night, and there can be little disappointment with his performance by South Carolina fans.

Special teams

Georgia won the game based on the special teams play. Period.

The 100-yard return by Brandon Boykin in the first quarter put us on the board and the blocked kick by DeAngelo Tyson put us in position to win the game—if that kick by Spencer Lanning isn't blocked, the Gamecocks are going for the tie, not the win, in the fourth quarter.

There were a couple big mistakes, the bad snap which led to the safety and the coverage lapse after a 70-yard kickoff by Blair Walsh, in the third, which led to a 57-yard return by Chris Culliver and three more points on the board for South Carolina.

Yet, overall, special teams was the savior of the night for Georgia. A definite improvement over last week.


It's a mystery as to what happened to the defense that showed up in the first half of the game in Stillwater; guess coach Martinez didn't see fit to bring that crew back home with him as Georgia looked atrocious at almost every turn.

The penalties, the blown coverage plays, the lack of anything resembling a pass rush, the mental lapses, etc., etc., etc., nothing about this game is worth remembering except the goal line tap by Rennie that saved the Dawgs from their second loss in as many weeks.

What in the world is going on with this crew? It was nerve-wracking to watch the Dawgs give up third- and fourth-down conversions—South Carolina got comfortable challenging on fourth downs because we didn't seem to have a clue how to stop them—they converted 75 percent of their fourth downs and, nearly 40 percent of their third downs.

Coach Martinez needs to find some defensive consistency among his personnel because had time of possession ruled like it normally does, Georgia would have lost this game in a landslide as South Carolina had nearly a 10-minute advantage over Georgia.

Logan Gray

This is only being mentioned for one reason: Gray was the key to that drastic reversal of fortune that began near the end of the third quarter.

He was brought in as a decoy on second down, near the end of the third-quarter, on what would become a handoff to Richard Samuel.

The play went for a loss but, more importantly, it seemed to be a curious move at that point in the game—Joe Cox was in a rhythm and had led the Dawgs to a score in their previous possession.

By the end of this series, however, Georgia had lost 23 yards and the resulting punt went for a safety.

Call it coincidence or just a series of unfortunate events but the insertion of Gray at that point was pointless and added nothing to the flow of the game.

It is clear that coach Bobo has yet to decide how or where to place Logan.

Final thoughts

A win is a win. The way that "W" happens is not as consequential as it happening. So, no doubt, Dawg fans will take this gift and hope that we are able to correct the holes before our first SEC road game in Fayetteville this Saturday.

Credit South Carolina for coming in and making it a game from snap one. The Gamecocks look like they are heading in the right direction with Garcia as their quarterback, and there is a ton of young talent on that team that has yet to materialize.

Next year's game in Columbia is likely to be very interesting.

As for the Dawgs, they showed a great deal of resilience early on in the game and it was nice to see them come back from 10 points down—early on it looked like Carolina was going to blow them out but they held it together and managed to find their stride at the right time.

It was a great game, one of the best of the weekend—then again, I may be a bit biased too. However, both teams put on quite a show and it was a fun show to watch.

It's a win that could have easily been a loss but luckily for us, this time at least, we ended up on the right side of lucky.


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