The No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks rolled over SEC East rival Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday night, blowing out the fifth-ranked Dawgs, 35-7, in one of the most anticipated games ever played in Columbia. On paper, both teams were evenly matched with the odds makers making the game a virtual pick 'em. But it was pandemonium at Williams-Brice Stadium as the two teams kicked off, and South Carolina instantly responded with a huge first quarter that would decide the game.
The Gamecocks took a 21-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game, and they'd never look back. Carolina was dominant in all three phases, and it showed right away. Connor Shaw and the offense quickly put Georgia's defense on their heels, scoring two easy touchdowns on their first two possessions. On the second play, Shaw hit Damiere Byrd for a huge 42-yard pickup and he'd cap off the drive just three plays later with a 20-yard touchdown strike to Andre Ellington.
Steve Spurrier mixed up the run and pass on their next drive, interchanging Shaw with running back Marcus Lattimore. The Georgia defense was keying on the running back, and Shaw caught them off-guard on play action to hit Rory Anderson dragging across the field for his second touchdown pass in a six-minute span. Georgia had no answers and provided no resistance.
The USC special teams would get in on the act before the quarter was over, with the explosive Ace Sanders returning a punt 70 yards to the house. Sanders is one of the most feared returners in college football, and he put on a little shake and then burst outside to go down the left sideline untouched. The quick 21-0 lead crushed the spirit of Mark Richt's team.
With the crowd in full roar, South Carolina turned to its defense to keep the Dawgs from entertaining any hope of a comeback. The Gamecock defense completely bottled up the talented Georgia duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who had rolled over two SEC East opponents in recent weeks. Georgia averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. It wasn't any better through the air, however, with pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney harassing UGA quarterback Aaron Murray all night. Murray finished just 11 of 31 passing for 109 yards.
With the three-touchdown lead, Spurrier made a conscious effort to feed his dynamic back Lattimore. Carolina went no huddle, trying to wear down the Georgia defense and finish the blowout by pounding the ball on the ground. Lattimore punched it in from one yard out in the third quarter to remove all doubt. Shaw, who was steady all evening both on the ground and through the air, added the final Carolina touchdown of the evening on a zone-read run from seven yards out.
Box Score Hero: South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was hot early, allowing his team to salt it away on the ground. Shaw was 6 of 10 through the air for the two early touchdowns, and he added a third score on the ground to cap the blowout win. He rushed 14 times for 78 yards.
Rankings Ramifications: South Carolina's impressive win could result in Steve Spurrier's club leapfrogging undefeated teams ahead of them, such as FSU. At the very least, they will move up two spots, passing Georgia and LSU. Georgia will tumble out of the top 10 after the blowout loss.
But Did They Cover? The Gamecocks were a slight one-point favorite in most places, and they easily covered the spread.
For More On This Game: For more on Cocks football, visit South Carolina blog Garnet And Black Attack, plus SEC blog Team Speed Kills. For more on UGA football, visit Georgia blog Dawg Sports and SB Nation Atlanta.
Next Week's Schedule: South Carolina's tough three-week SEC march continues in Baton Rouge with a game against LSU. Georgia will have a bye week to lick their wounds before facing Kentucky.