Bulldogs pluck Gamecocks from SEC East driver’s seat

A back and forth affair “Between the Hedges” went to the No. 11/12 Georgia Bulldogs as the No. 6/7 South Carolina Gamecocks fell 41-30 in front of sellout crowd of 92,746 fans at Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

South Carolina sophomore tailback Mike Davis rushed 16 times for career-high 149 yards and a touchdown and senior quarterback Connor Shaw was 16-for-25 in the air for 228 yards and two touchdowns in the loss for the Gamecocks.

It was a day for the offense as the Gamecocks and Bulldogs combined for 990 total yards. South Carolina rushed for 226 with 228 in the air while Georgia rushed for 227 and passed for 309 in the contest.

Davis had an impressive 198 all-purpose yard performance that saw him with also four receptions for 49 yards. Junior wide receiver Nick Jones also had a career day for the Gamecocks as he caught six passes for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns, all career-highs as well.

Georgia was led by senior quarterback Aaron Murray’s 17-for-23 day in the air for 309 yards and four touchdowns. Georgia sophomore tailback Todd Gurley carried 30 times for 32 yards and a touchdown with Justin Scott-Wesley the leading receiver with three catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.

South Carolina took the opening drive 57 yards to set up for a 36-yard field goal by Elliot Fry to take an early 3-0 lead. The Gamecocks mixed the pass with the run including a pair of third down conversions that featured a 14-yard pass completion by Shaw to Nick Jones and a 21-yard rush by Mike Davis.

Georgia answered the Gamecocks on its opening drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Murray to tight end Arthur Lynch. The Bulldogs drove deep into South Carolina territory on a 32-yard pass completion from Murray to Michael Bennett and a 19-yard rush by Gurley. With 2nd & goal on the 3, Murray play faked and found Lynch in the end zone to give the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead.

The Bulldogs showed some trickery following the touchdown as they went with an onside kick that was recovered by cornerback Blake Sailors to give Georgia another possession on their own 48-yard line. The Bulldogs made its way into Carolina territory for a second consecutive possession and went into the red zone after a 4th & 13 completion from Murray to Scott-Wesley. Inside the Gamecocks’ 10-yard line, Carolina held tough and UGA settled for a Patrick Beless 22-yard field goal to extend the advantage to 10-3.

After South Carolina went 3-and-out on its next possession, the Bulldogs went seven plays and 69 yards to increase the lead to 17-3 on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Keith Marshall. After Jadeveon Clowney netted his first sack of the season, the Bulldogs made up for the 10-yard loss with a 16-yard rush by Marshall followed by a 15-yard face mask penalty on the Gamecock defense.

South Carolina responded with a 12 play 84-yard drive to answer the Bulldogs and cut the deficit to seven points. Sophomore tailback Mike Davis was key for the Gamecocks as he picked up 42 all-purpose yards including a 23-yard rush to begin the drive and a 3-yard carry on 4th & 2 at the UGA 11 to keep the drive going. The Gamecocks would punch it in the end zone on a 7-yard carry by Brandon Wilds.

The Gamecock defense forced a 3-and-out for the Bulldogs on the next possession. South Carolina then caught a break as punter Collin Barber mishandled the snap allowing the Gamecocks to recover on the UGA 18-yard line.

South Carolina rode the momentum of the punt mishap and responded quickly to tie it up at 17 as Shaw found Jones in the corner of the end zone on the first play for an 18-yard touchdown.

The pendulum swung to Georgia as the Bulldogs went 11 plays in 70 yards in the ensuing drive to reclaim a 24-17 lead. Gurley again was a focal point for Georgia with 7 carries for 46 yards including a 2-yard touchdown run with 1:42 remaining in the half.

South Carolina answered one more time to tie the game at 24 going into halftime. With three timeouts and 1:38 remaining on the Carolina 29-yard line, Shaw manufactured an 11-play 70-yard drive capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass to Nick Jones.

Deadlocked at 24 in the second half, the Bulldogs capitalized on Carolina’s first turnover of the season to go ahead 27-24 on Beless’ second field goal of the game. The Gamecocks were driving and appeared to convert a fourth down but quarterback Connor Shaw fumbled right before his knee hit the ground allowing the Bulldogs to take over on the Georgia 25-yard line. The Bulldogs followed the stop up with a 6-play 55-yard drive before settling for a 37-yard field goal by Beless to go ahead 27-24 on the Gamecocks.

Georgia extended the lead to 34-24 near the end of the quarter on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Gurley. The Bulldogs went 13 plays for 82 yards with Murray finding Gurley on third down just eluding the sack attempt by Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles.

South Carolina dug deep and responded again as Davis tallied a 75-yard run from scrimmage to end the third quarter and move the Gamecocks into scoring position at the Georgia 5-yard line. The run for Davis was his second straight game with a 75-yard run from scrimmage. Three plays later, Davis scored on a three-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt sailed left as Georgia stayed ahead 34-30 with 13:55 remaining in the game.

With Georgia 3rd & 13 on their own 15-yard line, Murray eluded another Gamecock sack attempt and found Scott-Wesley behind the Gamecock defensive backfield for a completion. Scott-Wesley took it down the sideline and into the end zone to give Georgia a 41-30 lead with 13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

South Carolina made its way back down the field one more time. Shaw and Shaq Roland were dynamic together as the Gamecock quarterback completed passes for 16, 13 and 19 yards as Carolina moved into scoring position. South Carolina was 1st & goal from the UGA 8-yard line. After a 1-yard loss, the Gamecocks moved near the end zone as Shaw rushed for six yards followed by a 2-yard carry by Davis just short of the end zone. On fourth and goal, Georgia held as Davis could not get into the end zone resulting in a first down for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs remained in possession the final 8:28 of the game with 13 plays to secure the victory including a 4th & 2 conversion with 2:42 in the game.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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