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September 10, 2011

Five key plays



South Carolina defeated Georgia, 45-42, Saturday night in Athens, and here are five key plays from the contest.

Special teams are tricky

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. It's definitely better to be both. After scoring to retake the lead at 13-7, Georgia opted to try an onside kick. The call nearly worked to perfection, as the Gamecocks were caught off guard and Bacarri Rambo easily recovered the kick. However, there was a flag on the play: Rambo was offsides. He was only inches over the line, but the Bulldogs had to re-kick, and the second time they chose to kick deep.

The Gamecocks went three-and-out, setting the stage for some special teams trickery of their own. Melvin Ingram, one of the three upmen in punt protection, took the direct snap and ran left. He found a crease, hurdling a teammate to get into the open field. Once he got past the line of scrimmage and into the open field, Ingram turned on the jets. Ingram outraced everyone, and broke a tackle attempt by Georgia cornerback/returner Brandon Boykin, as he sprinted down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown.

Due to the two mistakes on special teams, Georgia went from having momentum and the ball with a chance to take a two touchdown lead to trailing at half time.

Two plays, two turnovers

Late in the third quarter, Georgia was again up six and driving to take control. The Bulldogs were in Gamecock territory when Aaron Murray and Isaiah Crowell could not complete a handoff. Crowell kicked the ball forward, where Stephon Gilmore scooped it up. Gilmore returned the ball 54 yards down to the Georgia 5, weaving in and out of defenders. Two plays later, Stephen Garcia scored on a quarterback draw to put the Gamecocks back in front.

On Georgia's next official play from scrimmage (a holding call negated the first snap), Murray threw over the middle. Antonio Allen stepped in front of the receiver for the interception and ran up the sideline for a touchdown. On a day when South Carolina struggled offensively, the Gamecocks desperately needed these turnovers to stay in the game.

Murray recovers

Following the two turnovers, Georgia trailed by more than a point for the first time all game. However, Murray refused to let Georgia go down quietly. He responded to his interception by completing all eight of his passes on a nine-play, 88-yard drive. Murray capped off the drive with a 19-yard scoring strike to Michael Bennett, and converted the two-point conversion with a toss to Tavarres King. The drive tied the game at 28 and set the stage for a wild finish.

Clowney delivers his first game-changer

After the teams traded scores, Georgia got the ball back down 38-35 with 3:21 left in the game. On the Bulldogs' first snap, Murray dropped back to pass. Jadeveon Clowney darted inside the left tackle and got to Murray almost immediately. Murray fumbled trying to avoid the sack, and Ingram scooped up the loose football and ran it in for a game-clinching touchdown. It was Clowney's second sack of the game and Ingram's second score.

Ingram recovers the onside kick

Murray bounced back again, and brought the Bulldogs within three on a 33-yard touchdown pass to King. Despite having all three timeouts, Georgia opted to try for the onside kick with 2:15 remaining in the game. Brandon Bogotay's kick was a good one, bouncing high in the air and so the Bulldogs had a chance to get under it. However, Ingram made sure they never had a shot at the ball. He jumped and snatched the ball out of the air, showing soft hands that would make many receivers jealous. Ingram's recovery allowed Marcus Lattimore to run out the clock and secure the win.

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