When Isaiah Crowell ran into the end zone from 15 yards out to give Georgia a 35-31 lead with 6:28 left to play in the game, the hearts of many Gamecock fans probably dropped. They had good reason to. South Carolina had failed to move the ball with any consistency all day and all three of their offensive touchdowns had been helped by the defense or special teams.
A 59-yard punt from Joey Scribner-Howard and a three and out forced by the Carolina defense flipped the field over and gave the offense the ball at their own 47 yard line. Five plays later, Stephen Garcia scrambled to his right and found Alshon Jeffery streaking to the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
South Carolina's longest drive of the game prior to Crowell's touchdown was a 71-yard scoring drive. Of course the touchdown on that drive was a 68-yard run by Melvin Ingram.
It's third touchdown drive covered all of five yards as Garcia scored from eight yards out on the second play that had been set up by a Stephon Gilmore fumble recovery.
South Carolina's three scoring drives through the first three quarters took all of 11 combined plays.
The fourth quarter would prove to be a whole different ball game for the offense.
"I was pretty pleased with what our football team was able to do in the fourth quarter offensively," offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said following Wednesday's practice.
After Georgia scored and had a successful two-point conversion to tie the game at 28-28 early in the quarter, the Gamecocks had a sustained drive of 10 plays for 49 yards that ended with a Jay Wooten field goal to give Carolina a 31-28 lead before Crowell's touchdown.
That's when past Gamecock teams would have folded and said ‘we gave it our best shot and just came up short.'
Not this team.
"To be down and have to put together a drive to take over the lead and do it the way we did it confidently and no panic I was very pleased to see that," Elliott said.
South Carolina took over on their own 21 knowing what they had to do with only one timeout remaining. They had to get into the end zone. Facing third and four from their 27, Garcia threw an incomplete pass to Ace Sanders. However, Georgia's Jordan Love hit Sanders a bit too early resulting in a pass interference and a new set of downs. On the next play it was Garcia scrambling again and throwing a nice touch pass over the head of the defender to Sanders, who got his feet down before running out of bounds for a 30-yard gain. The very next play Marcus Lattimore got lose around the left end and sprinted 36 yards to the Bulldog two-yard line. Two plays later Lattimore found the end zone to give the Gamecocks the lead for good with 3:28 left in the game.
"We're nowhere close to being a great football team, but there's some signs when you say ‘man, you're down in the fourth quarter and you have to go 80 yards to win it?'" Elliott said. "They did it and I don't even think they hesitated. Everybody in their eyes knew they were going to score. There wasn't a doubt in their mind. And we hadn't moved the ball at all hardly. But they knew at that moment that they were going to take the football down and score."
Is this the "New Carolina" that Gamecock fans have been waiting for? Only time will tell.
Elliott: Carolina offense knew it would score
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