September 10, 2011

Mistakes doom Dawgs

Yes, the effort was there and for the first time in recent memory, Georgia fought all four quarter to the very end of the game.

Trouble is, when the other team scores 28 points due directly to three second-half turnovers and a key mental gaffe in the first, it matters little.

That's a lesson the Bulldogs unfortunately learned Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium as 12th-ranked South Carolina capitalized on four key errors to secure a 45-42 win before a sold-out Sanford Stadium crowd of 92,746.

"Our job is to get the job done and we didn't do that today," linebacker Christian Robinson said. "It's not the coaches, it's us. We played our hearts out, but we just didn't do what we needed to win."

No doubt the Bulldogs (0-2, 0-1) are kicking themselves after this one.

The Gamecocks scored a pair of defensive touchdowns - first on a 25-yard interception return by linebacker Antonio Allen and late in the game on a 5-yard fumble recovery by defensive end Melvin Ingram - who in the first half rumbled 68 yards to score on a fake punt.

Another Bulldog fumble - this one by freshman running back Isaiah Crowell - resulted in a 56-yard scoop and run by cornerback Stephen Gilmore to set up an 8-yard run by quarterback Stephen Garcia.

"Too many, just too many giveaways - a Pick-6, fumble for six, another fumble for what turned out to be six - of course they did a good job on that fumble fake," head coach Mark Richt said. "They had the nerve to call it and almost took it to the house."

To the Bulldogs' credit, at least they tried to fight through the adversity.

Trailing 38-35, the Bulldogs had possession deep in their own territory when Murray went back to pass but had the ball stripped by freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who beat left tackle Cordy Glenn on the play.

The redshirt sophomore tried to spin away and get rid of the pass, but his arm was hit and the ball tumbled to the turf, right into the arms of Ingram who rolled in from 5-yards out.

Murray tried to bring the Bulldogs back, and breathed some life back into this team when he drove Georgia 62 yards on just four plays, hitting Tavarres King on a 33-yard touchdown throw enabling Georgia to cut the lead to three points with 2:15 left.

The Bulldogs had all three of their timeouts, but instead of kicking deep, Richt had Brandon Bogotay attempt and onside kick, which failed giving South Carolina the football at the Bulldog 40.

Running back Marcus Lattimore did the rest, picking up seven yards on his first attempt as the Gamecocks went on to pick up two first downs and were able to run out the clock.

"We were having a debate, myself and Coach (Todd) Grantham about what we were going to do and right as we were speaking, Christian Robinson wasn't going to be able to line up and take a snap at that moment and we had enough immaturity in there at that point, that's what pushed me over to saying let's go ahead and go for the onside," Richt said. "Plus, Bogotay, he really does a nice job of popping the ball up and give us a reasonable shot. We still had a chance to get a three and out with three time outs and still get the ball back. Strategically, I feel good about that one. I'm sick we didn't win it, but I'm still optimistic about the potential of this football team."

Georgia certainly had its chances.

The Bulldogs held a 20-13 lead and were driving when Crowell fumbled into the arms of Gilmore to set up Garcia's eight-yard score to put the Gamecocks up by one.

Georgia's troubles weren't over.

On the next series, an errant pass by Murray went right to Allen, who sailed into the end zone from 25 yards out enabling South Carolina to pad its lead at 28-20 late in the third.

But back came the Bulldogs.

A nifty nine-play, 88-yard drive by Georgia culminated with a 19-yard pass from Murray to Michael Bennett and two-points pass to King allowed Georgia to tie the game at 28.

There was still plenty of action to come.

Following a 49-yard field goal by Jay Wooten, Brandon Boykin returned the ensuing kick 30 yards, setting up a 15-yard run by Crowell, who rushed 16 times for 118 yards.

Earlier, Crowell took a screen pass 17 yards for Georgia's third score of the afternoon with 6:09 to play in the third quarter.

All total, Crowell accounted for 158 of Georgia's 436 total yards while Murray completed 19 of 29 passes for 248 yards

South Carolina's Lattimore led all rushers with 27 carries for 176 yards with one touchdown with Garcia completing 11 of 25 passes for 142 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

"Give Georgia credit, they outplayed us but we were fortunate to win," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "That's how football is sometimes. We had some big plays and had a few defensive scores, which helped us out a lot."

Georgia jumped out to an early lead on field goals of 37 and 39 yards by Blair Walsh, the second which was set up by an interception by safety Bacarri Rambo at the Gamecock 42.

It looked as if the Bulldogs would extend the margin on their next possession.

A 25-yard catch-and-run from Murray to fullback Bruce Figgins gave Georgia a first-down at the South Carolina 38, before runs of seven yards by Crowell and five by Boykin pushed the football to 16 before bogging down to bring Walsh on the field for the third time.

This time, the field goal attempt was just 33 yards, but the kick was pushed wide left to keep the score at 6-0.

Georgia would rue not putting the extra points on the board.

Two possessions later, runs of 6, 9 and 3 yards by Lattimore pushed the football to the 34. From there, it was Garcia, who found Alshon Jeffery in single coverage with Branden Smith and hit the wide receiver in the right corner of the end zone for the game's first touchdown.

The Bulldogs would answer right back, driving 64 yards on seven plays, capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Rantavious Wooten to put Georgia back in front 13-7.

With momentum back on the Bulldogs' side, Richt gave the Ok for his team to attempt an onside kick, which appeared to be executed perfectly when Rambo picked up the bounce and surged up-field for what looked like a first down.

There was just one problem.

Rambo was also off-sides on the play, nullifying the play and forcing the Bulldogs to kick the ball.

Apparently Spurrier was taking notes.

On the Gamecocks' next possession, the Bulldogs appeared to have South Carolina stymied at its own 29. Not so fast. On a fourth-and-7, the Gamecocks faked the punt with a direct snap back to Ingram who took and rumbled 68 yards to the end zone, giving South Carolina a 14-13 lead which it would take into the half.

"We've definitely been through some really tough games, games that take a lot of guts, energy and games where you need the majority of things to go right to get the victories," Richt said. "We lost and we understand that. But we're going to be a good football team. The future is still very bright. We've just got to do things to get results on the scoreboard."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]