Gamecocks, Gators set the table for SEC East

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It’s hard to know with Steve Spurrier. The way he hems and haws, touching his hair and fidgeting like a man with an overactive prostate, it’s tough to tell if his ramblings are serious or if he’s just killing time and filling air.

This time when he said, “We’ve got a pretty good team: Maybe not a great team but a good team,” Spurrier was obviously pulling some legs.

The Gamecocks are not just good, the team that beat Georgia for the third straight year — this one a 35-7 romp on Saturday — looked like one of the best teams in Spurrier’s illustrious coaching career.

That has excited Gamecocks fans already looking ahead to the Oct. 20 road game against Florida, a matchup between the two remaining undefeated teams in the East, and perhaps the only two teams in the conference that could make a run at Alabama for the league championship.  

The No. 10-ranked Gators defeated No. 4 LSU 14-6, which was only an upset to those who hadn’t seen the Tigers struggle in their last two outings against a very bad Auburn team and FCS member Towson. 

It was an embarrassing night for both LSU and Georgia, with neither team
looking like they belonged in the top-10. From the opening kickoff,
both were slower and softer in demeanor than their opponents.

The Tigers couldn’t find the end zone in Gainesville. Tigers quarterback Zach
Mettenberger continued to struggle, completing only 11 passes and
throwing one interception on an afternoon when Florida shut down the

”We wanted to hurt them,” Florida defensive end Dominique Easley said. ”We wanted them to feel the pain that we felt last year. We had
hurt in our heart, so we wanted them to feel that same thing.”

”That was typical 1980 SEC right there today,” Florida coach Will Muschamp added. ”It
was a physical, physical match. … That’s the difference between
playing in this league and these other leagues you watch on TV. I know
you guys like all these points being scored, but the quarterback won’t
make it through the season in our league.”

The Gamecocks and Gators arrived at this point in two very different ways. Florida beat LSU by pounding out rushing yards, outgaining the Tigers 172 yards to 42 on the ground, which allowed Will Muschamp to dictate the tempo, and run out the clock once he had the lead.
Spurrier and company just plain beat the ‘Dawgs in every way.

Certainly, this was the biggest home victory in Spurrier’s tenure at South Carolina, and the record-setting crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium knew it. In 120 years of football, the Gamecocks had never beaten Georgia three times in a row.

It looked as though the whole state turned out to witness history.  

“I’m sure our stadium was the loudest in the country tonight,” Spurrier said. “I know The Swamp (in Gainesville) can get loud, but this was a really special night for our fans, first time we’ve had two top-10 teams in here, so that was really special and it was very loud.”
Even the police were caught off guard as people abandoned their cars on the sides of the road to get into the stadium before kickoff.
Good thing, as the game was virtually over before everybody found their seats.

South Carolina quarterback Conner Shaw set the tone early, marching his team 76 yards for a touchdown in the first five plays. Six minutes later Shaw did it again, hitting tight end Rory Anderson with a bullet in the end zone for another score.

One minute and 11 seconds after that, the game got out of hand when South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders fielded a kick from Georgia punter Adam Yates and ran for 70 yards and yet another Gamecock touchdown.  

The Gamecocks tacked on 14 more in the second half, and Georgia scored a touchdown with 1:55 left in the game, but it might as well have been 70-0.    

And as Tennessee did the week before, South Carolina found a soft middle in the Georgia defense and chewed it up, gaining 230 yards on the ground and 162 in the air. Most of the ground yardage came off traps the broke holes in the center of the line.

Marcus Lattimore, who has made a career out of running through Georgia defenders, rumbled for 109 while Shaw tacked on another 78 yards rushing to go with all his yards through the air.  

On the other side of the ball, Gamecocks linebacker Shaq Williams and brilliant defensive end Jadeveon Clowney disrupted everything Georgia tried to do.

Clowney sacked quarterback Aaron Murray and spent more time in the Georgia backfield than some of the Dawgs’ running backs.

He is the best defensive player in the country and assuming he stays healthy, Clowney could be the first defensive player, and perhaps the first player overall, taken in the NFL Draft after his junior year.  

“Times have changed from the old days,” said Spurrier said of the days when Georgia recruited most of the best athletes out of South Carolina. “We’re recruiting better and getting better players now, and it makes a difference.”  

Georgia gained a total of 115 yards on the ground but had only 40 at the end of the third quarter. And while Murray managed to squeeze out 109 through the air, most of those came once the game was out of reach.

Despite the ‘Dawgs’ quarterback’s impressive career numbers, Murray is now 2-8 against ranked teams, and seemingly incapable of mounting a comeback against a good defensive team.    

With just over 10 minutes remaining, the home crowd in Columbia, which had barely thinned despite the lopsided score, started chanting “overrated,” not just toward Murray but the entire Georgia program.   

No objective observer could disagree.  

“The whole team played super,” Spurrier said. “If we can continue to play like this, boy, we could have a really big year.”

The Gamecocks travel to Baton Rouge next week before heading to The Swamp, which will no doubt be rocking when Spurrier again makes his return.

Win them both, and the Gamecocks could make even more history.

Unfortunately for South Carolina fans, Will Muschamp and the Gators are thinking exactly the same thing.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report