Gamecocks in uncharted territory with win over Georgia

By Isabelle Khurshudyan

Gamecocks in uncharted territory with win over Georgia

When time ran out on South Carolina’s 35-7 win over then-No. 5 Georgia, the Gamecocks’ bench went in a new direction.

Instead of running toward midfield, USC players went straight for the student section, doing a half “Lambeau Leap” across the end zone hedges into the fans’ waiting arms.

“We planned that before the game,” said tailback Marcus Lattimore. “I know the students can’t rush the field, but they’re probably not going to say anything to us if we go over there.”

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington started doing a Victor Cruz-like salsa as the band played Bruce Channel’s, “Hey Baby.” USC coach Steve Spurrier raised his hand in a toast when the South Carolina alma mater rang through Williams-Brice, seating a stadium-record 85,199 fans at one point.

The win marked his 250th win overall (USFL, NFL and college wins), but perhaps more significantly for Spurrier, it marked a once-lowly program taking a different direction — undefeated, ranked No. 3 in both major polls, its highest since 1984, and beating the Bulldogs for a third straight year.

“They sort of used to own us, but they can’t say they own us anymore,” Spurrier said.

“We definitely sent a message out to the whole country,” Lattimore said. “This is not the old South Carolina. We can play with you. We can play with anybody.”

Leading up to the game, Spurrier said he thought about how there was potential for it to be the best win he’s had as a coach at USC. Wide receiver Ace Sanders said the team talked about how beating Georgia, a team that had scored 51 points the week before, would be a challenge.

The talk about Georgia began in the Kentucky visiting locker room. After South Carolina had a 10-point after the first half at Kentucky last week, quarterback Connor Shaw said the Gamecocks discussed how they couldn’t have a slow start against a team of UGA’s caliber.

On the opening drive, USC got the start it was looking for, as Shaw hit wide receiver Damiere Byrd for a 42-yard pass on the second play from scrimmage. Three plays later, the Gamecocks were on the board with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Shaw to Ellington.

“We found a groove,” Shaw said. “I think it’s important in a game like this to come out early and find your comfort level. We just rolled with it.”

The Gamecocks got the ball minutes later after Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray’s first pass was tipped by defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and into the hands of spur DeVonte Holloman, diving towards the ground to scoop it.

The defense held the Bulldogs to just 224 yards of offense.

“I’m glad I’m not playing against our defensive line,” Shaw said.

USC took 11 plays to score in militaristic fashion, with Lattimore running on every first down and Shaw passing on every second down. Shaw connected with tight end Rory Anderson on a 14-yard touchdown pass to give South Carolina a 14-0 lead. He was 6-of-10 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

After USC’s defense forced a three-and-out, Sanders had a 70-yard punt return for touchdown that gave the Gamecocks a three-touchdown lead with over five minutes left in the first quarter.

“I didn’t field it cleanly — I actually dropped it,” Sanders said. “I just had to scramble to pick it up because I saw the lane open up, so I did my best to pick it up and just hit it as fast as I can.”

Lattimore and Shaw each added a rushing touchdown in the second half, while the defense blanked UGA until its final drive, making the Gamecocks one of two undefeated teams in the division, joining Florida, which knocked off No. 4 LSU.

The Gamecocks will play at LSU next week before facing a likely undefeated Gators team in Gainesville on Oct. 20.

Spurrier said he expects everyone to tell the team how great it is after a 28-point margin of victory over Georgia. It will inevitably increase if the Gamecocks continue to win through its grueling stretch of road games at LSU and Florida before returning home to play Tennessee.

After the game, it wasn’t about what was to come or what could happen, but what had already been accomplished — a 10-game winning streak that started last season, a first in program history and worthy of a special celebration.

“I knew it was going to be a special one if we won,” Spurrier said. “If we didn’t win, it wouldn’t be very special. When you get to the door of the school trying to win 10 in a row, if you don’t do it, when is it ever going to be done if you don’t do it now?

We had to try and do it tonight.”

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