4:30 PM ET, September 7, 2013
Sanford Stadium, Athens, GA
Aaron Murray, No. 11 Georgia top No. 6 S. Carolina in SEC East clash
ATHENS, Ga. -- So much for Aaron Murray's reputation as a quarterback who can't win the big game.
The senior took care of that with one of the best performances of his career.
More Georgia-South Carolina Coverage
Georgia's win might have made it the favorite in the SEC East, but things don't always go as planned in this division, writes Edward Aschoff. Blog
Murray threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns, Georgia's beleaguered defense finally came up with a stop, and the 11th-ranked Bulldogs defeated No. 6 South Carolina 41-30 on Saturday for an early edge in the Southeastern Conference East.
Coming off a 38-35 loss at Clemson, Georgia could not afford another defeat if it wanted to remain a serious contender for a national title.
Murray capped his stellar day for the Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0 SEC) by slipping away from South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney and connecting with Justin Scott-Wesley on an 85-yard touchdown pass with 13 minutes remaining.
"It was a lot of fun," said Murray, who came in with a 1-6 record against Top 10 opponents. "It's definitely up there."
The defense made sure it stood up, stuffing Mike Davis on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1. Murray and the offense took it from there, running off the remaining 8:28.
"That was by far my favorite part of the game," coach Mark Richt said of the final possession.
Davis led the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1) with 149 yards rushing. Connor Shaw passed for 228 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 75 yards, but also lost a crucial fumble in the third quarter in Georgia territory.
That said, this loss was on the Clowney and the defense. They simply couldn't stop Murray.
"Aaron played a pretty good game," said Clowney, who had a lackluster opening game and was largely shut down again, held to three tackles and one sack. "He threw it quick and ran it away from me the whole game."
Georgia snapped a three-year losing streak against the Gamecocks, seizing control of the SEC East though South Carolina still has a chance to get back in the race, thanks to a more favorable schedule. In fact, the Bulldogs won the division the last two years despite losing to their neighboring rival.
Todd Gurley had another huge day for the Bulldogs on the ground, rushing for 136 yards on 30 bruising carries and scoring two touchdowns. His first came on a 2-yard run in a wild first half, which ended with the teams tied at 24. Then, in the final seconds of the third quarter, he hauled in an 8-yard TD pass from Murray to give Georgia a 34-24 lead, running the wrong route but getting open when Murray motioned him where to go.
Davis ended the third with a 75-yard run down the sideline, and scored on a 3-yard run early in the fourth to make it 34-30. South Carolina missed the extra point.
With Georgia facing third-and-13 from its own 15, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo sent in a play the team had not worked on all week.
"That wasn't in the playbook," Murray said. "I was like, 'I hope everyone knows what this play is.'"
Murray scrambled away from Clowney with a bit of an assist from backup left tackle Mark Beard, who took over after Kenarious Gates went out with an ankle injury. Beard was beaten inside but gave Clowney enough of a shove to allow Murray to sprint away. It was easy from there. Scott-Wesley was all alone behind the secondary, hauled in the pass and was gone, the Gamecocks having no chance of chasing down a state high school track champion.
"I think today I showed I'm a wide receiver first," Scott-Wesley said with a smile.
The Gamecocks weren't done. Davis nearly powered into the end zone before he was stopped a couple of inches short. South Carolina had to go for it on fourth down, and coach Steve Spurrier called a quick pitch to Davis out of the shotgun.
Amarlo Herrara led a swarm of tacklers that stopped Davis short of the end zone and pushed him back.
"I didn't even know it was fourth down," Herrara said. "I just heard everybody cheering and figured it was good."
The teams combined for 990 yards -- Georgia had 536 -- in a game that sparked such passion, a couple of South Carolina coaches got into it with each other on the sideline early in the third quarter. They had to be pulled apart by another assistant.
"It was pretty obvious that Georgia was the stronger of the two teams out there," Spurrier said. "They kicked our tails up and down the field."
After South Carolina grabbed a 3-0 lead, the Gamecocks ran only three offensive plays in nearly 13 minutes.
Murray threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Arthur Lynch, and Georgia caught the Gamecocks napping on the ensuing kickoff. Collin Barber dribbled an onside kick that was recovered easily by Blake Sailors. The Bulldogs drove from there for Patrick Beless' 22-yard field goal.
South Carolina went three-and-out, and Murray extended Georgia's lead to 17-3 with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Keith Marshall swinging out of the backfield.
The Gamecocks rallied. Brandon Wilds' scored on a 7-yard run, and South Carolina tied it on the first of Shaw two touchdown passes to Nick Jones, an 18-yarder set up by Barber's fumbled snap on an attempted punt.
The teams traded touchdowns in the final 1:42 of the half, Gurley powering in from the 2 and South Carolina evening the score again on Shaw's 30-yard TD pass to Jones with just 13 seconds remaining.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Up 41-30, Georgia mounted a clock-eating final drive in the fourth quarter, feeding the ball to freshman Brendan Douglas.
Gameball goes to... Aaron Murray was nearly flawless Saturday, completing 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 15-plus. Last season Georgia had just four plays of at least 15 yards against South Carolina. It had six in the first half this year.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-11||6-14|
|4th Down Conversions||1-3||2-3|
|FG||09:28||Elliott Fry 36 Yd||3||0|
|TD||07:28||Arthur Lynch 3 Yd Pass From Aaron Murray (Patrick Beless Kick)||3||7|
|FG||02:51||Patrick Beless 22 Yd||3||10|
|TD||12:22||Keith Marshall 6 Yd Pass From Aaron Murray (Patrick Beless Kick)||3||17|
|TD||07:07||Brandon Wilds 7 Yd Run (Elliott Fry Kick)||10||17|
|TD||05:07||Nick Jones 18 Yd Pass From Connor Shaw (Elliott Fry Kick)||17||17|
|TD||01:42||Todd Gurley 2 Yd Run (Patrick Beless Kick)||17||24|
|TD||00:13||Nick Jones 30 Yd Pass From Connor Shaw (Elliott Fry Kick)||24||24|
|FG||08:03||Patrick Beless 37 Yd||24||27|
|TD||00:18||Todd Gurley 8 Yd Pass From Aaron Murray (Patrick Beless Kick)||24||34|
|TD||13:55||Mike Davis 3 Yd Run (Pat Failed)||30||34|
|TD||13:00||Justin Scott-Wesley 85 Yd Pass From Aaron Murray (Patrick Beless Kick)||30||41|
Todd Gurley had 10 rushes for 68 yards outside of the tackles Saturday, 2 more yards than he had inside on 10 fewer carries. Last week, only one of Gurley's 12 carries went outside the tackles.[+]
Todd Gurley Rushing Inside/Outside Tackles
Aaron Murray completed 6-of-7 third down pass attempts Saturday, including 2 touchdowns. Murray averaged 19.9 yards per attempt on third down, 11 yards more than his career average entering the game.[+]
Aaron Murray 3rd Down Passing
Jadeveon Clowney played 78% of the South Carolina's defensive snaps against Georgia, including all 17 defensive snaps in the first quarter. Clowney recorded 1 of South Carolina's sacks of Aaron Murray, but the team gave up 3 times as many yards with Clowney on the field.[+]
Georgia led its game with South Carolina 17-3 early in the 2nd quarter... Georgia hasn't lost a game at HOME in which it led by 14+ since Nov. 2009 vs Kentucky (led 27-13 in 3rd qtr)
ESPN Stats & Information