No Gurley near the goal line was wrong call

With 5:24 left in the fourth quarter, and the Gamecocks clinging to a 38-35 lead over sixth-ranked Georgia, Thompson gift wrapped an interception for Georgia cornerback Damian Swann. The veteran defensive back scooted toward the end zone and an illegal block on the Gamecocks gave Georgia the ball at South Carolina’s 4-yard line after Swann was eventually tackled.

No one could possibly judge Thompson’s immediate assumption about the outcome of the game. With Georgia holding the nation’s best player — running back Todd Gurley – in its backfield, you just knew that the Dawgs would pull ahead.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley

Jeff Blake/USA TODAY SportsTodd Gurley never got a chance to give Georgia the lead when the Bulldogs had a first down inside South Carolina’s 5-yard line late in the game.

But when offensive coordinator Mike Bobo could have just handed the ball to his freight train running back 12 feet away from the goal line, he decided to give quarterback Hutson Mason the opportunity to shine. What ensued was a bizarre set of events that included a perplexing intentional grounding play — on first down, no less — and a missed chip-shot field-goal attempt by the very reliable Marshall Morgan.

Minutes later, the Gamecocks were celebrating and rushing through their own set of hedges in the end zone to mob their fantastic student section.

“We were meant to win this game, and Georgia was not,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who improved to 16-6 all-time against Georgia.

That might be true, and though there were a lot of questionable calls and no-calls that helped the Gamecocks along the way (has anyone found the phantom hold that took away the early 54-yard Gurley touchdown?), not giving Gurley, who had 128 rushing yards to that point, the ball inside the 5 was a mistake of epic proportions. Everyone in the stadium expected No. 3 to get the ball, and he should have. Even if South Carolina had all 11 defenders stacked in the box, the first — and only — call you have to start the drive is to hand it to the best and toughest running back in the entire country.

Instead, Georgia gambled with the pass and Mason’s penalty moved the Dawgs back 10 yards. Georgia eventually had to settle for a field-goal attempt that was missed.

“If I had to do it again we would’ve hammered it,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said after the game.

georgia-banner

Bobo wasn’t made available to the media after the game.

At least Richt knows it wasn’t the right call, but there is nothing that can be done about it now. You learn and move on, but this one will sting. There will be a lot of finger-pointing by fans, as the Bulldogs dive into the teeth of conference season. And this play could come back to haunt the Bulldogs if they don’t make it to Atlanta for the SEC title game in December.

Forget all the craziness that certainly didn’t help Georgia on Saturday, that first-down call will leave a sick feeling in Athens for months if the Bulldogs continue to look up in the SEC East standings.

We don’t know if Gurley, who had already made a handful of dazzling/gritty plays before that drive even began, would have punched the ball in on first down, but he was without a doubt the best option in that situation.

ESPN

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Game of inches! Never in SEC history has a yard marker gotten more attention and more scrutiny. Judge for yourself if the Gamecocks got the first down to defeat Georgia.

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Steve Spurrier knows his 24th-ranked South Carolina football team is in for a fight with Georgia Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium, but he isn’t throwing in the towel just yet as a 6-point home underdog.

On his weekly Carolina Calls radio show with former Gamecock quarterback Todd Ellis on Thursday night, the HBC was complimentary of Mark Richt’s team and had his usual share of candid moments.

Here’s a few of Spurrier’s answers to Todd’s questions and remarks to local callers:

What kind of impact does starting field position make on the outcome of games? todd-gurley-runs-gt-jgetz-ajc-274x300

Spurrier: “The last two games, it hasn’t mattered because the other team has only punted once or twice. I was kidding around, I told Shon Carson who dropped that kickoff (against East Carolina) that we’d have farther to go to eat up clock on that last drive. You never know. You never know how important field position is unless it’s a punting game. If nobody punts, field position is not that big a deal. If we kick it right down the middle to Todd Gurley, we’re pretty stupid.”

A win gives you No. 16 career over Georgia, the most for any coach. What does that mean?

Spurrier: “I tried to tell the media boys this week that during my years at Florida when we won 11 out of 12, we were favored 11 out of 12. We had a lot better players, a lot better team back in the 90s. Georgia wasn’t that strong from (1997) to about 2000. We just had a lot better teams than they did. We’ve done (okay) here with 4 out of 9. We’ve had a lot of good close games with them. Our guys are going to be ready to play. We know Georgia’s going to be ready to play. As we know in sports, anything can happen and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

What has changed with (defensive coordinator) Lorenzo Ward’s approach, if anything, this week?

Spurrier: “(Mark) Richt’s been there since 2001 and they’ve been basically doing the same offense over the years. Georgia does it well. Aaron Murray of course was their all-time leading passer. We’ve got to stop the pass as well as the run, we know that. We’re going to try our best to slow down their running backs.”

If the Gamecocks stop the run, will the defensive front seven get pressure?

Spurrier: “That’s exactly what our plan is every week. Every defensive team wants to stop the run, bring pressure and stop the pass. Our plan hasn’t worked too well lately, but we’re not giving up on it. Our players can play a lot better better than they’ve played.”

On Georgia senior quarterback Hutson Mason:

Spurrier: “I don’t know a lot about him, but I think he hit about 66 percent the last game they played. It’s always interesting in America, you’re as good as your last game. Georgia’s No. 1 in the nation in some of these sports writers’ minds after the way they clobbered Clemson two weeks ago. We were pretty terrible two weeks ago, but now we’re sort of semi … we’re 1-1. Hopefully we’re headed in the right direction.”

get your Miniature stadium replica--Sanford Stadium

get your Miniature stadium replica–Sanford Stadium

On Dylan Thompson’s up-and-down start through the first two games:

Spurrier: “He threw a couple high ones that he wished he’d thrown a little lower. Overall, he’s played pretty well and thrown a lot of good ones in there. Sometimes, we’re going to have to punt. I believe he’s going to play even better as we go through (the season). He’s obviously our best quarterback and we believe he’s going to have a really good game this week.”

How important is a hot start in the first quarter with the home crowd?

Spurrier: “We’ve played well here at home, except for the opener. Who knows why … we just flat got clobbered. Georgia will be fired up. They’ve got a new defensive coach and they’re team’s playing harder than they have in the pass. If we’re going to match up with them, we’ve got to bring our best effort this week.”

How much does weather factor into the game plan on Saturday?

Spurrier: “All my years of coaching, we’ve never, ever soaked the football and practiced with them and that kind of stuff. We’ve tried to keep the balls as dry as possible and to be extra careful when you’re holding onto to it. There’s a 40 percent chance of rain in the second half or something like that. That’s where we are right now.”

On Georgia, South Carolina having similar team strengths, notably at linebacker:

Spurrier: “The first two games it hasn’t appeared that way. We’ve got to hope our guys can do much better. All of our linebackers need to play better. This year, those guys aren’t quite playing as well, but we believe they’re capable.”

On redshirt freshman RB David Williams and whether he’ll get more carries:

“David’s doing well. David’s currently like the third running back behind Mike (Davis) and Brandon (Wilds). Both those guys might want to go pro after this year, so David could be the guy next year and he understands all that. When you go to a football program that’s been successful, sometimes you have to wait your turn. David’s done a good job with that.”

from Dr. Saturday

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Todd Gurley and Mike Davis are the obvious marquee players when Georgia faces South Carolina on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). But the quarterbacks will have the biggest roles in determining the winner.

Let us suspend reality for a moment and pretend that Georgia-South Carolina games follow some level of predictability and that the better team wins (and goes on to finish ahead of the loser in the division standings).

Forget that South Carolina (No. 20 in the final F/+ rankings) beat Georgia (No. 14) in Athens in 2011. Forget that the Gamecocks (No. 13) beat by four touchdowns a Georgia team (No. 6) that almost made the BCS Championship in 2012. Forget that a Georgia team that eventually finished 8-5 (No. 22) handed an 11-win South Carolina squad (No. 10) an 11-point beating last season.

 Kentucky v Georgia

The Georgia-South Carolina rivalry is one of college football’s most unique, and not only because of the extreme unpredictability of recent results. It’s one of the rare early-season conference rivalries — since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992, this game has been only once played after mid-September (2012, when it was played on a still-early October 6).

It pits neighbors against neighbors, both from a border-state perspective and when considering how many Gamecocks are native Georgians (27 members of the current roster, by my count). That means players from one team know some players from the other pretty well.

It features one of the most distinct, perfect-strangers-esque coaching matchups in the country in Steve Spurrier vs. Mark Richt. And it involves a particular strain of Spurrier animosity, supposedly stemming from him losing two of three to the Bulldogs as Florida’s starting quarterback in the 1960s (in 1966, his senior season, his No. 7 Gators lost, 27-10). That feeling swung the other way as Spurrier went 11-1 against UGA from 1990-2001, with nine wins coming by double digits and six coming by at least 30 points. His record hasn’t been quite as good at South Carolina, which makes sense considering S.C. was a bit of an inferior program when he took over.

However, for us to properly preview the weekend’s biggest game, we have to treat it like a semi-normal entity. It takes some work, but we’re in this together. We can do it.

More on this in depth story

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