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September 7, 2013
Georgia defeated South Carolina 41-30, and here are five key plays that led the Bulldogs' victory.
A Wing and a Prayer
Defense was minimal Saturday, making every missed opportunity that much more important. With the teams trading scores, every missed chance for a stop (or score) was huge. South Carolina had the first big missed opportunity. On Georgia's third offensive play of the game, Aaron Murray dropped back to pass. Jadeveon Clowney blew by his blocker and into the backfield, getting a hand on Murray's non-throwing shoulder and twisting his body. Murray stepped up in the pocket just enough to avoid the sack and flung a jump ball deep. For the first of countless times during the game, the USC secondary failed to locate the ball in the air and Georgia got a big reception. Murray had no business completing the pass, but he did, and from that point on his sometimes shaky confidence was just fine.
Surprise onside kick
Georgia went on to score a touchdown on its first drive and then went for the big gamble. Up 7-3, Mark Richt called for the surprise onside kick. The Gamecocks were caught completely off guard and the Bulldogs easily recovered. They only scored a field goal on the drive (after another breakdown in the secondary by Carolina) to go up 10-3, but the play firmly swung momentum and established that the game would be played at Georgia's pace.
Lost in the Sun
Sanford Stadium is one of the few major football stadiums in the United States that is oriented East-West instead of North-South. Why does that bit of trivia matter? Because in the late afternoon the setting sun is directly in the face of receivers. Bruce Ellington was not the first and will not be the last receiver to have to stare into the sun, but it got him in the third quarter. On a third-and-nine, Shaw found Ellington open on a deep out. As Ellington made his cut and reached out for the ball, he suddenly threw his hands up as the ball bounced at his feet. He lost it in the sun's glare and the Gamecocks had to punt. It was a missed opportunity for a first down and more, and cost the Gamecocks a possession in a game without many non-scoring possessions.
South Carolina scored a touchdown to make the score 34-30, and then the defense looked stout forcing Georgia into a third-and-13. Unfortunately, that meant the USC secondary had to make a stop. A miscommunication between Ahmad Christian and T.J. Gurley left Justin Scott-Wesley running wide open down the left sideline. Murray hit him in stride and he raced into the endzone for an 85-yard touchdown.
Trailing 41-30 in the fourth quarter, Shaw and Davis quickly got the Gamecocks into scoring position. The offense bogged down in the redzone, and they were faced with a fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line. Rather than line up under center and go with a quarterback sneak or power run, Steve Spurrier decided to go back to the sprint option. The play had been extremely successful early in the game, but the Georgia defense got better and better at stopping it as the game went on. The last time South Carolina ran the play, it took a great effort from Davis to gain positive yardage. On this play, the Gamecocks went to the well once too often, and the Bulldogs immediately sniffed out the play and stuffed Davis.
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