Landmark Victory!

The previously maligned South Carolina defense did exactly what their head coach asked them to do – they held the vaunted Georgia running attack to under 150 yards. They also held the Bulldogs out of the end zone, leading to a 16-12 victory over Georgia, the highest ranked SEC opponent that Carolina has ever defeated on the road. Read inside for all the details.

Last season SC lost five close SEC games. In 2005, a close loss to Georgia on this same Sanford Stadium field ended up costing USC a trip to Atlanta as the SEC East champions.

Quarterback Blake Mitchell said, "It showed we can win the big game." Spurrier said, "It's the first one like that for us around here."

There was no question that the clash between Georgia and South Carolina this year would be a critical one for both teams' SEC Championship aspirations. SC Coach Steve Spurrier talked openly this summer that he thought his team was ready to contend with Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee for the SEC title. His team took the first step, beating the 12th ranked Bulldogs 16-12 on their home field. "It was an ugly win for us. This is the first one we have won against Georgia since I have been here. It wasn't a shocker, we thought we would win this game, we are two evenly matched teams. We are 1-0 in the SEC." Spurrier said.

The key to the game was whether the Gamecock defense could stop the vaunted Bulldog rushing attack. After giving up 252 yards rushing in last week's lackluster win over Louisiana-Lafayette, questions arose about the SC run defense. They answered them tonight in a big way, as the Gamecocks held Georgia to seven yards net rushing in the first quarter, and only 63 yards in the first half. Coach Steve Spurrier stated before the game that if his team could hold Georgia to under 150 yards rushing, he felt they could win the game. He was right. The Bulldogs rushed for a net 128 yards, and SC won.

Asked if the win was a step forward for his team in light of their championship goals, the coach said, "It's a step for the defense. The defense played better than the offense."

Georgia head coach Mark Richt said, "It was just a lack of ability to make plays when they were there. South Carolina did enough to win, you have to give them credit." His quarterback, sophomore Matthew Stafford also gave credit to the SC defense. "South Carolina just shut us down. They are a great team and we competed hard. It was tough. We just couldn't get into a rhythm. They did a good job of scheming for us. They made plays and we didn't."

Players from Georgia on the SC team played crucial roles in the game. In the dying seconds of the game, Georgia was driving for a potential game-winning touchdown, and Thomson, GA native Jasper Brinkley intercepted a tipped ball to seal the win. Senior quarterback Blake Mitchell, a Lagrange, GA native, led his team to a victory over the Bulldogs after five consecutive losses. Spurrier said, "We have a lot of Georgia guys on our team, and we gave out a lot of game balls to those players."

SC defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix talked about the impact the win could have on recruiting players for the Gamecocks out of the state of Georgia: "We try to tell these kids in recruiting that Georgia has a lot of good players already, and we're looking for some. They can come to Georgia and possibly wait two or three years before they get on the field, or they can come to our place. I hope they know we have good coaches and good players and we can compete as well."

Kennesaw, GA native Eric Norwood had a number of key plays in the game, including a potential game-saving sack of Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. Nix said, "Fortunately for us he was able to keep rushing the passer and got a big sack in a crucial situation.

The Gamecocks scored first on what turned out to be the only touchdown of the game for either team, as they drove 62 yards on a balanced offensive drive. The Georgia faithful were in full roar when Mitchell hit tight end Jared Cook, who bulled his way to the Bulldog 10, inches short of another first down. Mitchell gained another three shots at the end zone with a quarterback sneak to the nine, but they only needed one, as senior Cory Boyd broke free at the line of scrimmage and ran into the end zone, to put the garnet clad visitors up 7-0. The rest of the scoring came on the sure leg of kicker Ryan Succop, who booted field goals of 41, 35 and 34 yards.

Mitchell: "We thought we'd be able to move the ball. We didn't put it in the end zone as many times as we should have, but Ryan, when we were in field goal range, he made them. The defense held them. We didn't play as well as we could have." As reporters waited outside the locker room door, a noisy celebration could be heard inside. The quarterback said, "(In the) locker room everybody was so happy for one another." Mitchell finished the game completing 20 of 31 passes for 174 yards.

Ever the perfectionist, Spurrier was critical of his team's effort in places, despite the win. "I'm proud of our guys, they hung in there, we didn't play very well offensively at times. We're 1-0 in the SEC, that's all. Some of our guys didn't play well enough to win a championship. Blake has the ball slip out of his hands because the center's butt was too wet, we had two personal foul penalties, we drop a third and five down there, we had a lot of chances for some points, so it was frustrating for me as an offensive coach. As the head coach, we're all very happy with the win. Despite all that, we won the game."

Prior to tonight's win, SC has played well at times under Spurrier, only to lose close ones due to what he deemed "the little things." SC committed their share of "the little things" in this game as well, but were able to overcome them with a solid defensive effort and an offensive that scored enough to keep Carolina ahead all the way to the end. SC committed six penalties in the first half, often giving Georgia new life after they had been shut down by the Gamecock defense. But the defense remained stalwart, and limited the Bulldog offense time and time again throughout the game.

A surprise contributor for the Gamecocks tonight was safety Emmanuel Cook, who underwent surgery for appendicitis the week before the season opener. Cook had four stitches to close the incision after having his appendix removed. He insisted he was all healed up when discussing the procedure after the game: "I feel 100%." His excitement over the win was evident as he talked about the win, saying, "I was real impressed; the defense did great." When asked about the strong defense put forth on his behalf by Spurrier on a weapons charge for which the university has exonerated him, he said, "It blessed me. He's a good coach. He's a great man."

Cory Boyd rushed for 76 yards, and Mike Davis netted 56 yards. Freshman Chris Culliver only rushed twice, but he netted 21 yards on those two attempts. Kenny McKinley caught seven passes for 102 yards. Tight end Jared Cook also caught two passes for 23 yards.

The Gamecocks return home for a historic matchup with SC State at seven pm next Saturday. It will be the first time ever the two schools less than an hour apart have ever played in football.

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