Given the defense's struggles in the first two games, we knew Carolina's offense would need to play an excellent game for the Gamecocks to beat UGA. Even with a better-than-anticipated defensive performance, the Gamecocks still needed every point, indeed every inch the offense could muster in the high-scoring contest.
Fortunately, Carolina's offense was up to the task. Last night we saw why many expected Carolina to have one of the best offenses in the country. Every thing clicked in the game. The offensive line deserves a great deal of the credit; they gave Dylan Thompson plenty of time to throw, and when Carolina looked to the ground game as the rain began to come down in the second half, the line opened some huge holes for our tailbacks, allowing both Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds to put up big second-half rushing numbers. As usual, A.J. Cann and Corey Robinson were particularly impressive, but another player who really stood out as a contributor was new starting center Alan Knott, who proved why the coaches have confidence in him. I was also impressed by the blocking done by Cody Gibson when he came in as part of the jumbo package.
The other key to the great offensive performance was the stellar play of Dylan Thompson, particularly in the first half. The late interception where he wasn't cognizant of the safety could have cost the team dearly, but otherwise, Dylan played a masterful game, absolutely picking apart the UGA secondary. He didn't have the same early-game jitters he had against Texas A&M and ECU, and he consistently showed good mechanics and put the ball where it needed to be. A couple of throws to Nick Jones and the touchdown toss to Rory Anderson were elite throws.
Anderson, by the way, played a great game, with the coaches finally utilizing the tight ends in the way we've been hoping for.
As for the defense, it got mixed results against an extremely talented Georgia offense, but it did enough to give the offense a chance to win the game. The biggest problem I saw for the defense was that it gave up some third-and-long conversions in the second half that were costly, oftentimes due to poor secondary play. Secondary play got a bit better when Chris Moody was taken out but still wasn't great.
However, the defense forced some key field goal attempts, two of which UGA thankfully missed. Despite the secondary's continued struggles, the linebackers and defensive tackles had a good game, particularly Skai Moore and J.T. Surratt. They weren't able to shut down Georgia's star tailback Todd Gurley, but they also didn't let Gurley and his fellow UGA tailbacks take over the game like those backs did against Clemson two weeks ago.
This is a game the defense can build on. They're going to be challenged again in a couple of weeks when Missouri comes to town, as the Tigers have a potent passing offense led by red-hot quarterback Maty Mauk. Carolina's defense should now be feeling more confident, though, and if the secondary can continue to settle in next week during what should be an easy win over a terrible Vandy team, the defense will have a good chance of taking another step forward against the Tigers.