No, it wasn’t the key to the game, or the moment when the game turned, but in terms of message sending, Andrew Thomas’ injury was huge. A preseason All-SEC candidate at left tackle goes out on the first series of the second half, is replaced by a true freshman and the o-line blocking gets better. The recruiting, the depth of talent and the coaching it takes for all of that to come together is something that very, very few teams in the country can boast of.
South Carolina, unfortunately for the ‘Cocks, isn’t one of those teams. But they, along with the rest of the SEC East, got a demonstration of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a divisional team that is.
And with that, it’s on to the bullet points.
- You want my key moment of the game? After Carolina scored on a trick play, Fromm throws a terrible interception that’s returned to the Georgia 35, and with all the momentum in the world in front of Sandstorm-loving fans screaming their collective heads off, Georgia’s defense forces a turnover on downs on a series in which SC didn’t gain a yard. Georgia to that point wasn’t playing that well — at least not consistently well — took the Gamecocks’ best shot and… nothing.
- What a game from D’Andre Walker!
- All of the coaching attention Kirby’s lavished on Richard LeCounte is starting to pay dividends. Not only did LeCounte lead the team in tackles, his display of in-game smarts by pulling up on what could have easily been a penalized downfield tackle during SC’s last possession of the first half is an indication of a young player whose figuring out how to best use his skill set. (And that was an interception.)
- Campbell had the kind of game you’d expect from a talented, true freshman
quarterbackcornerback: some good moments, some not-so good ones (he was the victim of Deebo’s TD pass and got baited on the play). He stuck with it, though, and got some valuable experience on the day.
- Who was that number 18 kid, anyway? Thought he had a decent game.
- The run defense was stout and that started with the defensive line’s play. Crazy number of times the line batted down passes, too.
- I thought McClendon did a decent job exploiting my biggest concern in the wake of Roquan Smith’s departure, pass coverage by the ILBs, at least in the first half. Though the inside backers stepped things up after halftime, in what I hope is a promising sign for the future.
- In the bigger picture, that didn’t matter much because Georgia’s run defense made South Carolina’s offense one-dimensional. Nor did the ‘Cocks take many downfield shots. The Dawgs were able to leave their safeties back and the safeties were able to clean up everything in front of them.
- Heads up play, Juwan Taylor.
- J.R. Reed is one of those players who doesn’t necessarily dazzle you, but whom you realize after the day is done turned in a really solid football game.
- I don’t know what Mel Tucker came up with in the locker room at halftime, but whatever it was, it worked to perfection — literally, as in three straight three-and-outs to start the second half when the Dawgs buried Carolina for good.
- I think we can stop worrying about the offensive line.
- On the other hand, what’s up with the tight ends’ pass protection? Woerner, in particular, got abused several times and was a significant factor in the interception and a sack.
- Downfield blocking by the wideouts has gone to another level this season. I assume Hankton deserves some credit for that, but you can tell there’s a lot of pride and desire on the players’ part, too. I loved it when Ridley got on someone’s case for cutting the wrong way on the man he was blocking.
- Anybody still worried about who would be the go-to receiver after Wims? Mecole had a monster day.
- No Chubb, no Michel, yet when the dust settled, Georgia gained another 271 yards on a South Carolina defense. The running game was stronger than it was at home last year. And that was with Zeus injured and Cook suspended for a half.
- Fromm was inconsistent throwing in the first half and then came the one-minute drill in the last series to set up the field goal that put Georgia up by ten again. Fromm went 3-3 and ran for another seven yards. He carried that over to the third quarter. He did have a pick, but on the day only had three incomplete passes. I can live with that.
- Chaney didn’t panic after the offense sputtered in the first half. He knew what he had and what his offensive game plan would eventually do to the Gamecocks. And it did.
- How obscene is it to watch what Georgia trots out on offense when it calls off the first-team dogs? This obscene: Demetris Robertson didn’t get a single touch in the game. Ridiculous depth.
- Blankenship accomplished Job One, which was to deny Deebo Samuel the chance to do any damage with kickoff returns. The field goal to end the first half (shades of the Rose Bowl!) had another ten yards on it, easy. Camarda did well enough. I’ve still got concerns about the blocking for Georgia’s punt returns, but that’s kind of carping, I admit.
- And here’s a nod to the S&C staff. There was no question which team was better conditioned to deal with the heat, at least not to anyone who watched Georgia players routinely shed blocks and carry Carolina defenders several yards after contact.
- Why were they still playing the crowing cock on the PA late in the game?
- If you’ve done your job, studied the game tapes, prepared the troops and know yours is the better team, from there it’s a matter of getting your team to execute the game plan cleanly, not screw up and grind the other team down. Kirby did his job.
It’s tempting to call this game the answer to the 35-7 embarrassment in Columbia a talented Georgia squad suffered through in 2012, except that wouldn’t be fair to this year’s team. After all, the 2012 Dawgs bounced back to play in the SECCG, while Spurrier’s group was about to begin its steady decline that led to his retirement. This season’s loser doesn’t look it’s bouncing back this season. The winner looks like it’s just getting started.