COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s football program and fan base woke up Saturday morning with all eyes looking at the Gamecocks.
Could the Gamecocks slow down Georgia’s offense? Could they overcome a history of futility on the big stage? And, simply put, were the undefeated Gamecocks for real?
The answer to all of those questions was an emphatic yes.
In the biggest game in Williams-Brice Stadium in three decades, No. 6 South Carolina delivered a strong and powerful message with a 35-7 victory over No. 5 Georgia.
“Obviously this was a special one, there’s no question about it, beating Georgia for our 10th in a row and beating three years in a row a school that used to own you,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “They can’t say they own us anymore, that’s for sure.”
South Carolina continues to make history under Spurrier. Saturday night’s win produced the following:
• 10th consecutive win, longest in school history
• Third consecutive win over Georgia for the first time
• Biggest margin of victory (28) against Georgia, previously 17
• 12th consecutive win against Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rivals
“I knew it was going to be a special one if we won,” Spurrier said. “School record of 10 in a row. If you don’t do it now, when do you do it? We had to try to do it tonight.”
South Carolina’s previous forays into the national spotlight have seldom ended well. The 1984 Gamecocks beat Florida State to improve to 9-0 and rose to No. 2 in the nation, but suffered a stunning defeat at Navy the following week.
In 1988, the Gamecocks started 6-0 but a steroid scandal sent the team off the tracks.
Even the 2010 team, which upset No. 1 Alabama at Williams-Brice, lost the following week at unheralded Kentucky.
“I think we’ve received just about all the hype we could for this game, and we handled it perfectly,” said Connor Shaw, who was 6 of 10 for 162 yards and two touchdowns. “We had a lot of emotion coming into this game. Intensity was up during our practices, and our senior leaders got us ready as well as our coaches.”
South Carolina couldn’t have scripted a better start. The Gamecocks took the opening kick and drew blood on its second play when Shaw hit Damiere Byrd for a 42-yard gain. Three plays later, Shaw found Bruce Ellington wide open in the end zone to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead.
DeVonte Holloman intercepted a tipped Aaron Murray pass on Georgia’s first possession, and Shaw drove the Gamecocks downfield with ease again. He connected with Rory Anderson for another touchdown pass to put South Carolina up 14-0.
After another defensive stop, Ace Sanders fielded a punt at his 30, broke some tackles at midfield and sprinted the rest of the way into the end zone to put the Gamecocks up 21-0.
“I actually dropped it,” Sanders said of the punt. “Luckily they held their blocks long enough for me to hit the seam.”
Georgia’s most promising drive of the second half ended at the South Carolina 2 when the Gamecocks held the Bulldogs on four cracks from inside the 5.
Marcus Lattimore scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter to put South Carolina up 28-0. That score was set up by a 62-yard completion from Shaw to D.L. Moore.
Lattimore finished the game with 24 carries for 109 yards.
South Carolina capped its scoring when Shaw ran into the end zone untouched from 7 yards out.
That capped an 89-yard drive that lasted 14 plays and consumed nine minutes and 28 seconds.
Georgia, which entered the game having scored at least 41 points in each game, got on the board with 1:55 to play.
“It stings,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “We’ve got to get back, watch the film, make corrections and get better. It’s still a long season to go.”
South Carolina never gave Georgia’s talented running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall a chance. The two were held to a combined 76 yards.
“Our defense again was sensational,” Spurrier said. “We felt like we could slow them down. We haven’t given up a whole lot of touchdowns this year.
Dating to the start of the 2010 season, Georgia is now 2-8 against ranked opponents.
“We’ve got to remember this loss, remember how it feels,” said Georgia defensive back Sanders Commings, a former Westside star. “It’s heartbreaking.”