No matter what happened early on in the season; it didn’t matter that Todd Gurley was on fire once again. Georgia constantly play way below their usual level when on the road against South Carolina, and the 2014 edition of the SEC East rivalry was no different, as the Gamecocks came away with the 38-35 win, kicking their division and SEC aspirations back into high gear.
This was about proving a point for South Carolina, who looked bad in their home loss on the opening week against Texas A&M and didn’t look too impressive a week later when beating East Carolina, also at home. On the third game of their home stand they might have been far from perfect, especially on defense, but beating the sixth ranked team in the nation according to the AP Poll makes it easy to forget about all the criticism and complaints from earlier.
Dylan Thompson had to usually play behind Connor Shaw throughout his career at South Carolina, and is slowly been able to shake off his backup rust and cobwebs, with a strong performance that included 271 passing yards, three touchdown passes and one interception. The Gamecocks also gained 176 yards on the ground, showing once again that the attempt to rebuild and improve the Georgia defense by Jeremy Pruitt is going to take a lot longer than Mark Richt had hoped for.
But it wasn’t just the defense that didn’t pull its own weight. Georgia were just 5-of-13 on third down conversions. Statistically, when it comes to conversions and turnovers they were the superior team, but they got stopped at the right time and couldn’t get stops of their own. Two field goal misses by Marshall Morgan, including a 28-yarder with 4:24 left in the game and South Carolina leading by three points, might have been bigger than anything.
Dylan Thompson managed to convert a fourth-down situation with 1:30 left in the game to seal the win. South Carolina couldn’t slow down Todd Gurley for most of the game as the running back gained 131 yards and scored one touchdown, but couldn’t be stopped either, especially during the second quarter in which they made their big break, outscoring George 13-3. The defense gets most of the credit for that.
For finally being able to slow down a team on third down after doing terribly in the previous two weeks (allowed 62% conversions), including starting at 0-5, which set the tone for the rest of the game and created enough of a cushion to fall back on. Georgia did storm back into the game and scored a touchdown to make it a 3-point contest with 7:10 left in the game, but the best they could do after was a missed field goal.
Things are still far from completely fine for South Carolina, but their defense finally showed some stability and didn’t break down against a very good offense. They scored touchdowns on very long drives, managed the clock very well and simply made the plays that needed to be made at the right time. The SEC East is wide open once again, but despite the loss it wouldn’t be surprising to see Georgia finishing on top.