Aaron Murray has a history of struggling in big games, South Carolina quarterback Conner Shaw has never beaten a top 25 team on the road.
Shaw still hasn’t won on the road ……… Murray had a great game!
Murray moved into the No. 2 spot on the school’s total offense list now with 10,907 yards. It is the ninth time Murray has had at least four touchdown passes in a game, he completed 17-of-23 for 309 yards and 4 touchdowns. Coach Mark Richt liked what he saw today, “Murray created some big plays by scrambling, moving around and standing in the pocket like a champion.”
South Carolina won the toss and ‘Darth Visor’ elected to take the ball, 10 plays later, the young Georgia defense stiffened and held Carolina to a field goal.
Georgia came flying back down the field on the legs of Todd Gurley and the hands of Michael Bennett. Gurley’s apparent touchdown was overturned on review and Murray hit Arthur Lynch on a play action pass for a 3 yard score on second down to complete a 6 play, 65 yard drive, Patrick Beless kicked the PAT.
Mark Richt’s gambling alter ego took over and surprised Carolina along with the entire DawgNation as Blake Sailors recovered an on-side kick at the 46. Justin Scott-Wesley made a huge play on 4th and 13 to keep the drive alive. Beless hit the first field goal of his career from the 22 and suddenly the Dawgs were up 10-3. Richt said, “Coach Kirk Olivadotti saw that and brought it to me last Sunday. He really coached it up this week. It’s one thing to have the scheme but another to execute it. Collin Barber hit it with pace, we had some blockers and it worked out. We stole a possession and got points out of it. Against a team that’s hot, that’s important.”
Carolina’s second possession resulted in a quick 3 and out thanks to pressure on Shaw from Georgia’s defensive front.
Quarter number one belonged to the Dawgs, they had the lead and the ball as time expired.
Jadeveon Clowney got his first sack of the season on Gates but a face mask penalty kept the Georgia drive alive allowing Murray to hit Keith Marshall on a 6 yard swing pass to put the Dawgs up 17-3 following Beless’ PAT.
Carolina answered on a 12 play, 84 yard drive to close the gap to a touchdown and their defense held the Dawgs to a 3 and out. Collin Barber fumbled the snap on his first punt attempt of the day giving the Gamecocks great field position at the 18 yard line, Shaw needed only one play to tie the score at 17.
Todd Gurley took control of the next possession, rushing 6 times for 46 yards and scoring on a 2 yard dive, Beless kicked the PAT giving the Dawgs a short lived 24-17 lead.
Shaw burned the young secondary hitting Nick Jones on a 30 yard touchdown to tie the game again with 13 seconds remaining in the half.
Murray took a knee and the only thing proved thus far is that Todd Gurley is the best player on the field. Gurley gained 92 yards on 17 carries while Keith Marshall added 48 on just 6 rushes to keep the Dawgs alive. Murray was 10 of 13 for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. Following the game Richt was asked about Gurley, “He’s a big, physical man. He is a special player. There are not many things he can’t do.”
Carolina’s coaches nearly fought on the sideline as their defense forced a 3 and out on Georgia’s first possession. The Dawg defense could not put any pressure on Shaw but did force a fumble after he appeared to have picked up a first down deep in Georgia territory.
Murray hit Keith Marshall on a quick flair that turned into a 48 yard play setting up Beless for a 37 yard field goal to put the Dawgs up 27-24.
The Dawg defense forced a 3 and out thanks to a little help from the setting sun and Swann returned the punt 2 yards to the 18.
Chris Conley made an acrobatic sideline catch to keep the drive alive on 3rd and long, Hicks and Marshall continued the Dawgs march to the bridge. Gurley showed he could do more than just run as he caught the first touchdown pass of his career on an 8 yard toss after Murray was forced out of the pocket. Beless’ kick gave the Dawgs a 10 point lead.
Carolina’s Mike Davis closed the quarter with a 75 yard run to set up a first and goal at the 5, three plays later, he muscled his way into the end zone, the PAT was wide left giving the Dawgs a crucial 4 point lead.
Justin Scott-Wesley blew Spurrier’s visor off as he turned on the jets streaking by the Carolina bench for an 85 yard touchdown after Murray was force to roll to his left. Scott-Wesley finished the day with 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on 3 receptions.
Shaw led the Gamecocks down the field but the ghost of Erk inspired a Dawg tired defense to hunker down on 4th and goal from six inches away and the visor hit the turf again when Davis was stopped by Herrera at the one. The Dawgs young defense grew up in the second half, holding Carolina to 6 points. Nose guard Garrison Smith said, “We’ve got a lot of heart and we have that tenacity that good teams have. We’re not going to give up. I’m proud and happy of all the guys that were flying to the ball the entire game, especially at the goal line. We know it takes one person to get a leg, one person to get an arm, next thing you know everyone is in on it. This is a great game that I’ll always remember.”
Georgia took over with 8:28 remaining and Carolina never got the ball back.
True freshman Brendan Douglas made his debut with just over 5 minutes remaining and promptly ran over a couple of defenders as he gave Gurley a chance to catch his breath while chewing up the clock, he finished as the 3rd leading rusher with 31 yards on 5 carries.
The sun finally dipped below the oaks with the Dawgs hugging the hedges and celebrating a 41-30 victory that will impact who plays in Atlanta the first Saturday in December. A relieved Mark Richt said, “The team that loses this game is waiting for the other’s bus to break down. We’ve been chasing them the last thee years. South Carolina has a very good team, and this year, we get a chance to sit in the driver’s seat. … We haven’t been 1-0 in the league in awhile because South Carolina’s been getting us. Today, we got them, and I’m so thankful.”
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier wouldn’t comment on the incident between his staff members during the game but had this to say about the loss, “It was pretty obvious that Georgia was the stronger of the two teams out there today. They kicked our tails up and down the field, we couldn’t stop them and they made a bunch of third down conversions. It was a good tail kicking and I have to give Georgia credit. They ran it right down our throat. Vince Dooley probably has a smile on his face with the way that they played tonight. We will turn around and regroup and try not to do a lot of talking so that we can develop into a pretty good team as we go throughout the rest of the season. I thought we could slow them down, and when we did, we gave up a big play. It was a tough day for all of us today. Maybe we should have thrown the ball a little bit more to Nick Jones, but we didn’t have the ball too much. We just couldn’t get them off the field, it was as simple as that. Those three-and-out days, I hope that they come back around to us again. We have to be a little more creative on defense, but we will see what we can do.”
Georgia’s Walk-On Players Impact Game
Walk on players usually struggle to get on the field at all but four played crucial roles in the Dawgs victory; Connor Norman at safety played well; Rhett McGowan had 2 receptions for 23 yards, one a critical first down; Patrick Beless was perfect on the day, 2 field goals and 5 PATs; Blake Sailors recovered the on-side kick.
Big Wins Over Ranked Opponent Between The Hedges
Today’s 41-30 win over No. 6 South Carolina is the highest ranked team the Bulldogs have beaten in Athens since 1991 when Clemson came in No. 6 and unranked Georgia posted a 27-12 victory. Since then Georgia was 1-6 against top 10 teams at home, the victory coming over #10 Tennessee in 2002. Last year in Jacksonville, Georgia beat third-ranked Florida 17-9.
First Time Starters
Junior defensive end Ray Drew, wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons started the first games of their careers against South Carolina.
Senior left tackle Kenarious Gates went down in the 3rd quarter (right ankle) and did not return.
Penalties & Turnovers
The Bulldogs were flagged 5 times for 16 yards and did not commit a turnover.
Linebacker Amarlo Herrera led the Dawgs with 12 tackles, he was also credited with 1/2 of a sack, 1 tackle for a loss and a forced fumble. Defensive end Sterling Bailey had 10 tackles and a sack.
Murray and Beard photos are copyrighted property of Sonny Kennedy Photography,