South Carolina has been here before. They gave Georgia all they could handle, holding Heisman candidate Knowshon Moreno to less than 80 yards and the potent Dawgs offense to 14 points, only to see the game-tying touchdown fumbled in the end zone and recovered by UGA. USC lost to Georgia in 2002 on a similar fumble at the goal line. The final score was 14-7. Read inside for the game story.
In front of 83,704 fans, the tenth largest crowd to witness a South Carolina game, and in front of a national television audience, the Gamecocks played the #2 Georgia Bulldogs toe-to-toe for much of the game. For the second week in a row, USC used a strong defensive effort to stay competitive in an SEC matchup, only to see a couple key mistakes doom the Gamecocks to a 0-2 start in the conference and a 1-2 mark overall.
The game was not decided until Chris Smelley’s pass was intercepted at the Georgia 3 by Reshad Jones with 13 seconds left. The Gamecocks had to start their final drive on their own 10 after a 77 yard punt by Georgia’s Brian Mims. Trailing 14-7 with the game on the line, the hometown heroes drove 87 yards in a determined attempt to tie the game before Jones ended the threat.
Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt was gracious in his praise for his Gamecock opponents, saying, “I can say with all honesty, my gut has churned more in this series, and on this field, than any other times since I have been at Georgia. We found a way to win, and I am so thankful.”
Knowshon Moreno scored the game-winning touchdown for Georgia with 8:54 to go in the third quarter on a four yard lunge into the end zone. The Bulldogs scored two first half field goals, and Moreno’s score was the first touchdown the Bulldogs had scored against South Carolina in eight quarters, dating back to the 2006 game. Moreno was limited to 79 yards on 20 carries by the tenacious Carolina D. He also had two catches for 13 yards.
The key play of the game was when USC running back Mike Davis fumbled the ball in the Georgia end zone with 8:03 left in the game. Carolina had driven the ball 66 yards down the field and down the Dawgs throats before the fumble.
Andrew Pinnock had a similar fumble in the Gamecock's loss to Georgia in 2002.
USC Head Coach Steve Spurrier hates to lose and it shows in his post-game demeanor after every loss, but he told his players he was proud of their effort today. “We need to win close games. Our last two games, we lost by seven (each time).” He again singled out the defense for praise, stating that “The Defense played well the whole game.”
Chris Smelley also had a career day in a losing effort, with a career high of 271 total yards completed. He completed 23 out of 39 passes. Without All-SEC Kenny McKinley, Smelley was in need of a go-to guy, and found one in junior wide receiver Moe Brown. Brown had a breakout game, with seven receptions for 130 yards and one touchdown. Brown had seen game after game in his first two plus seasons where he dropped a ball or a pass was just out of his reach.
But Brown put his troubles behind him on the first Carolina drive of the second quarter. Smelley completed a 19 yard pass to Brown at the Georgia 40 yard line. Then, after a six yard run by Mike Davis, Smelley again hit Brown streaking down the left side of the field for a 34 yard touchdown. It was Brown’s first career touchdown as a Gamecock.
Spurrier was happy for Brown, saying “Moe Brown made some nice catches and made the only touchdown of the game.”
The first quarter was a defensive gem for both teams, with South Carolina limiting Georgia to 29 yards of total offense and the Dawgs limiting the Gamecocks to 19 yards. Both teams scored in the second quarter, USC on Brown’s touchdown catch, and Georgia on two field goals by Blair Walsh, but the first half was still mostly a showcase for both teams’ defenses.
The third quarter belonged to the Bulldogs, as Matthew Stafford pulled a new trick put of his bag of tricks several times this game, successfully rushing for big yards. He rushed for 30 yards to the Gamecock 4, and then Moreno stretched into the end zone for his touchdown.
Georgia then successfully went for two on a pass to Durham to put the Dawgs up by a touchdown, 14-7. Reminiscent of when Auburn had the ball for the entire third quarter in their 2006 win over the Gamecocks, Georgia burned a lot of clock in the third quarter when they had the ball. The Auburn game was close until that third quarter clock domination, and it was a key factor in Georgia’s win today as well. For the game, the Bulldogs had the ball for 35:13 to South Carolina’s 24:47, and much of South Carolina’s time was earned during their fourth quarter comeback attempts.
South Carolina will again be home next week to play an in-state opponent, the Wofford Terriers. Game time is 7 pm.