Observations from the Cheap Seats: Georgia at South Carolina


Normally I would have these astute observations about Georgia at South Carolina up late Saturday night or Sunday morning, but given the overall sports weekend, I slept through Sunday. It just wasn’t even worth leaving the house. So here it is on Monday, and if you look outside, Mother Nature must be a Dawg, Braves, or Saints fan like me.


Overall Impressions of the Game

Just beneath the cockroach legs of Williams-Brice stadium, I witnessed one of the greatest letdowns from a UGA team poised for greatness. Everyone saw South Carolina play flat and lose to a supposed rebuilding Texas A&M team, and saved by East Carolina’s two interceptions last week for a win. Everything was pointing in the Dawgs’ favor, and like the secondary, it blew.

Like I’ve always said about life in general: there is no such thing as mistakes if you learn from them and don’t do it again. Lesson learned tonight? Don’t change what works!

From the stands, it looked like several handoffs were delayed, and a couple of passes were thrown behind the receiver, two to Chris Conley specifically. Conley caught one of these for a first down, and the other was too far behind him at the goal line, and then Marshall Morgan missed the first field goal of the game.

Several of the late handoffs to Todd Gurley were saved by Gurley’s instincts and ability to escape tackles. Hutson Mason still finished with impressive numbers given these miscues, going 16-for-22 for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

I haven’t given up on Jeremy Pruitt after just one loss, but I was disappointed at the lack of adjustments on defense in defending the pass, and then all of a sudden we couldn’t stop the run either. Scoring 35 points would have been enough for a W most years in Columbia, and even a tie in the dumpster fire game in 2012.

Dylan Thompson’s first quarter numbers made him look like Joe Namath, as a kid behind me said. He was 10-11, 113 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Ouch.

Good news? We don’t have to worry about being media darlings, and just go back to playing football. What can I say? I’m a Silver Linings Disney Dawg.

Two key plays defined the game

  1. 1st and 4 after a key interception in the fourth quarter, and Georgia gets called for intentional grounding after a botched pass play. On the 4 yard line after a key defensive stand, and we can’t put the ball in Gurley’s hands? Or Chubb? Or Quayvon Hicks, who had just scored on the previous drive and also had a HUGE first down in that same drive? Don’t change what works!
  2. Late in the first half, dropped pass by Blake Tibbs on 3rd and 8 from the 23 yard line, followed by Morgan’s first missed field goal. He had made an SEC-record 20 consecutive field goals before this miss.

Special (Teams) Mentions

Halfway through the second half, there were zero kick returns on four touchbacks by Marshall Morgan. Morgan was 2-4 on field goals, and Collin Barber had only two punts (as did South Carolina). Morgan set the SEC record for consecutive field goals at 20 earlier in the game.

Also, I noticed that South Carolina didn’t kick to Gurley often, which was the second smartest thing that Spurrier did. The first was, of course, continuing to pass up the middle since the Dawgs couldn’t defend it. The one time that the ball was kicked to Gurley, he got tangled up with Brendan Douglas, and we were lucky to keep the ball.

Positives for the Game

Gurley is STILL a beast. And Jeb “Blazing Saddles” Blazevich had one heckuva catch for a first down.

No turnovers for the Bulldogs. South Carolina had two turnovers, one of which resulted in a field goal. You could look at it like +3 points, or  -10 if you consider the lost scoring opportunities.

The opening drive was breathtaking: 2 plays, 2 freshmen (from the same high school, no less), touchdown.

South Carolina’s opening drive wasn’t as sexy, with consistent passing up the middle, taking advantage of a lack of pass rush, and an inexperienced secondary. Consistency was the hat was the story of the game for them

Two things I liked: going for the two-point conversion, and Richt’s challenge of the spot at the end of the game. He didn’t need the timeout if he lost the challenge because South Carolina could run the clock out, and if he won the challenge, he gets the ball and the timeout back.

Costly penalties for both teams

UGA had four penalties for 34 in the first quarter. The tide turned in the Dawgs’ favor when the Cocks were called for a personal foul on the head butting after Gurley was stopped on third down. Granted, it probably should have been offsetting penalties, but UGA instead got a first down, and only came away with a field goal, while South Carolina was scoring touchdowns.

You can’t expect to exchange field goals for touchdowns and get a lead. Penalties called for both teams were questionable, and drew plenty of boos from both sides.

The trip, tailgate and atmosphere

This was my fifth trip to Columbia (wins in 2004, 2006, losses in 2010 and 2012), but my first time on one of Bob Rushton’s charter bus trips. I love away games because you see so many of the same folks every week, or maybe just for that game every other year. You bond over being the minority in a frenzied crowd.

Pre-game festivities at Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina fans were very welcoming.

I caught the bus from the parking lot of the Greensboro Home Depot at 8am, which meant leaving my apartment in Atlanta at 6:30, which meant waking up at 5:30. Suffice it to say, I didn’t sleep much Friday night. I never can before big games. Maybe it was flashbacks to hearing SandStorm on repeat two years ago?

The game overall was quieter than two years ago. The 90-minute rain delay probably didn’t help the fans’ enthusiasm, whether Bulldog or Gamecock. Although the announced attendance was 84,232 (fifth-largest in stadium history), I had plenty of room to stretch out in Section 503, so maybe everyone was packed into the lower level.

I will say that even more disappointing than the Dawgs’ secondary’s play, lack of pass rush and offensive play-calling, was the behavior of the South Carolina student section. For the second time at a college football game, I saw trash thrown on the field. The first time? In 2006, right there in Columbia. Understandable given that we shut them out that year, 18-0. But since then, they have won 11 games in 3 seasons now under Spurrier, and have even won the SEC East.

A benefit of the charter bus was not having to find parking or a ticket, and not having to deal with the tailgating atmosphere of the fairgrounds. As we were walking back to the bus after the game, one proud Cock stood behind our bus and reminded me why I loathe trips to Columbia so much (even after wins in 2004 and 2006).

My fist was rolled up, ready to punch him, and I wanted to tell him, “Act like you’ve won before. You’re not in the ACC anymore.” Then I reminded myself that I was 5’1” and weighed at least 100 pounds less, and got on the bus and “got my a$ back to Georgia” as he so eloquently put it.

If you recall, in the preseason I picked South Carolina to win by 2. So I was wrong. I can admit it. I have reached the final stage of grief, and I am ready to move on. The sun is finally coming out.