5:30 PM ET, September 10, 2005
Sanford Stadium, ATHENS, GA
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Georgia didn't have a chance to run up the score on Steve Spurrier.
The Bulldogs were too busy making sure they beat their old nemesis.
Thomas Brown rushed for 144 yards, South Carolina failed to convert a two-point conversion with less than seven minutes to go and No. 9 Georgia held on Saturday for a 17-15 victory over Spurrier's Gamecocks, finally settling a decade-old score between the hedges.
While at Florida, the Ol' Ball Coach beat the Bulldogs 11 times in 12 years -- most notably a 52-17 rout at Sanford Stadium in 1995, enraging Georgia fans who felt Spurrier ran up the score with a late touchdown pass.
Returning to the Bulldogs' hallowed home in his first season as South Carolina's coach, Spurrier came without the dynamic offense that symbolized his Florida heyday. But the Gamecocks gave Georgia all it could handle.
"People were saying we were going to hang 50 on them," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "We're not that good."
A missed extra point proved to be crucial, and South Carolina also had a touchdown wiped out by a penalty.
"The effort was there. It was the little things here and there that made us a loser," Spurrier said. "We are not going to get discouraged. I knew coming into the season that there was a good chance we were not going to win them all."
Clinging to a 10-9 lead, Georgia (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) finally wore down the Gamecocks with its running game, which piled up 238 yards while quarterback D.J. Shockley was struggling through the air.
Shockley ran for 14 yards, Danny Ware broke off a 16-yard gain and Brown did the rest, carrying five times for 32 yards. The sophomore blasted over for a 5-yard touchdown with 11:24 remaining that made it 17-9.
But the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1) weren't done.
On third-and-18, Blake Mitchell spotted a safety blitz and connected with Syvelle Newton over the middle for a 34-yard pass. Going down the middle again, Mitchell threw a 24-yard pass to Sidney Rice. Finally, Mitchell found Rice on a 4-yard touchdown play with 6:52 remaining.
The missed extra point forced the Gamecocks to go for two. Mitchell overthrew Rice, preserving Georgia's narrow lead.
The Bulldogs were able to burn more than 5½ minutes, largely due to Shockley's 27-yard pass to Bryan McClendon on third-and-22 from the Georgia 8.
"That was the biggest play of the game," Richt said. "We desperately needed a first down to get out of that bad field position."
South Carolina finally got the ball back with just over a minute to go but went four-and-out deep in Georgia's territory.
Booed every time he was shown on the scoreboard, Spurrier trotted to midfield for a quick handshake with Richt and then turned for the locker room to jeers from the crowd.
Spurrier never hid his animosity for Georgia, which goes back to his days as Heisman-winning quarterback at Florida. He reveled in the Gators becoming the first visiting team ever to score 50 points at Sanford Stadium.
After leaving Florida for two forgettable seasons in the NFL, Georgia got its chance when Spurrier took over a rebuilding job at South Carolina.
"It was kind of a different era," Georgia linebacker Tony Taylor said, "but all the coaches kept it in the back of our minds -- how he did us, what he thinks of us. I know the whole Bulldog nation feels good that we beat Spurrier between the hedges."
Mitchell and Shockley came in as the nation's top-rated quarterbacks, but this was a defensive struggle all the way.
Shockley, who tied a Georgia record with five touchdown passes the previous week, threw two interceptions in the first half -- one that was returned for a South Carolina touchdown, the other picked off by the Gamecocks in the end zone. For the game, he was 8-for-17 for 112 yards.
"You've got to be cool and collected all the way," Shockley said. "You're not going to throw five touchdowns every game. But this was a big game, and I knew my teammates needed me the whole game."
Mitchell completed 22-of-34 for 236 yards but was also intercepted twice. He also bemoaned the two-point conversion that went awry.
"I had him," the quarterback said. "I just threw it a little too far."
Mitchell didn't get much help from the running game. South Carolina managed just 43 yards on the ground.
Shockley scored Georgia's first touchdown on a spectacular 15-yard run, flipping head over heels as he soared into the end zone. Otherwise, it was a mostly forgettable day for the senior who played so well in his first college start, a 48-13 rout of Boise State.
Johnathan Joseph returned an interception 42 yards for South Carolina's first TD, grabbing a ball that was tipped by teammate Ko Simpson. But Josh Brown's extra point ricocheted off the upright, leaving Georgia with a 7-6 lead.
South Carolina also missed a 46-yard field goal.
Mitchell connected with Rice on a 19-yard touchdown late in the second quarter, but the Gamecocks were called for an illegal shift. Spurrier stood along the sideline, hand on hip and shaking his head.
The Gamecocks settled for Brown's 27-yard field goal and a 9-7 halftime lead. It didn't last.
"I've learned to appreciate every victory," Richt said. "I'm not going to apologize for it. We've just got to get better."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... South Carolina's hook-and-ladder attempt on 4th-and-19 ended up four yards short. The Dawgs took over and used two plays to run out the clock.
Gameball goes to... Thomas Brown. Georgia's running back rumbled for 144 yards and a touchdown against the stubborn Gamecock defense.
Stat of the game... 4.9: Brown and the Bulldogs wore down the Gamecocks, averaging nearly 5 yards per rushing attempt.
The Fan Pick
94.8% of College Pick'em players picked Georgia to win the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-12||3-10|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-1|
|TD||13:40||D.J. SHOCKLEY 15 YD RUN (BRANDON COUTU KICK)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 91 yards.
|TD||10:47||JOHNATHAN JOSEPH 42 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (MISSED KICK)||6||7|
|FG||1:14||JOSH BROWN 27 YD FG|
Drive info: 12 plays, 70 yards.
|FG||8:56||BRANDON COUTU 32 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 16 yards.
|TD||11:24||THOMAS BROWN 5 YD RUN (BRANDON COUTU KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 71 yards.
|TD||6:52||SIDNEY RICE 4 YD PASS FROM BLAKE MITCHELL (FAILED 2PT PASS)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 65 yards.