COLUMBIA, SC – The one hour and 26-minute delay of the Georgia-South Carolina game here Saturday, due to lightning in the area, only delayed the inevitable.
And that was the Bulldogs’ continued misery at Williams-Brice Stadium on their last three visits here. Unable to stop Dylan Thompson’s passing (21-of-30 for 271 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception), Georgia fell behind the Gamecocks 24-13 at halftime and could never make the big plays down the stretch to catch South Carolina, falling to the home team by a bitter 38-35 tally.
But, truly, the 6th-ranked Bulldogs still had their chances to win it late. A Damian Swann interception run to the SC 6-yard line and then a subsequent penalty on the Cocks gave Georgia a first and goal at the South Carolina 4, with just over five minutes to play. But instead of giving the ball to America’s best tailback, Todd Gurley, two or three times, the Bulldogs only went backwards. Hutson Mason rolled right on first down to attempt to throw to fullback Quayvon Hicks but under pressure, threw the ball at Hicks’ feet and was tagged with a 10-yards intentional ground penalty. Gurley then did rush for three yards to the SC 11 but that was followed by another Mason incompletion and a rare 28-yard field goal miss by Georgia’s Marshall Morgan, a kick that if successful would have tied the game at 38-38 with now 4:24 to play. Morgan had earlier booted two field goals with his first kick, a 36-yarder, giving him a new SEC record of 19 straight three-pointers. In addition to his late-game miss, Morgan also misfired on a 44-yard attempt in the second quarter that snapped his record streak.
South Carolina then proceeded to run out the final four-plus minutes on the clock to enable its head coach, Steve Spurrier, to continue his life-long coaching mastery of the University of Georgia.
Now for our weekly player and coach of the game: Although Gurley finished the night with 131 yards on 20 carries and one score – despite having a 54-yard touchdown run in the first quarter erased due to a holding call on guard Brandon Kublanow – this week’s honor goes to senior quarterback Hutson Mason.
Although Mason couldn’t deliver a winning touchdown pass on the Bulldogs’ final possession, partly due to the pressure brought on him by the Carolina defense, he generally acquitted himself well on the evening … completing 16-of-22 attempts for 191 yards including a 33-yard TD pass to freshman Sony Michel and a l5-yard scoring strike to tight end Jay Rome. Mason also hit Michael Bennett with a two-point PAT pass early in the fourth quarter to pull the Bulldogs within three at 31-28.
“At the end of the day, they had three more points than us so they got the job done and we didn’t,” Mason said. “I thought our O-line played good and gave me good protection. When we got down there on the 4-yard line we were just going to run a little fake toss to Todd and were going to try and hit Quayvon in the flat. They covered it pretty good. I had a guy in my face and I wouldn’t have been able to get the ball off accurately, with a wet ball, so I threw it at Quayvon’s feet,” he said. “Someone will have to educate me on the intentional grounding rule. It was right there, I don’t understand why it was intentional ground.
“I thought we threw the ball pretty well,” said Mason. “We got better from Clemson but, like I say, there’s still some things where me and my receivers are not on the same page. There’s nothing we can do except chalk this one up and move on, watch the film and try to learn from it. We’ve got some guys coming back – I don’t know when Malcolm (Mitchell) is coming back but I know he’s right around the corner so he’ll help. But tonight, we just didn’t execute enough.”
“Overall, I thought he (Mason) did well,” said head coach Mark Richt, whose 1-1 Bulldogs (0-1 SEC) will host Troy next Saturday before returning to conference action in two weeks against Tennessee. “No picks, two TD passes and a high percentage overall. He did a good job on a crummy night.”
Now, for that Coach of the Week award. Certainly you can’t give it to anyone on the defensive staff, not with the Bulldogs being jolted for 38 points and 447 yards of offense by the Gamecocks.
I guess, offensively, coordinator Mike Bobo would be the top candidate as his unit continued to move the ball and score over the final two quarters to enable the Bulldogs to have a chance to pull the game out in the closing minutes. However, again, with Gurley not getting the football when Georgia was perched late on the Carolina 4, with a chance to win this thing, this became an agonizing defeat that seemingly denies any of the Bulldogs’ staff from receiving a coach of the week award. And I’m sure each coach on the team would say as much … that nobody needs to be honored when you drop a game where a victory would have kept the Bulldogs growling mightily in the race for the four-team national playoff at season’s end.