First the numbers, then our five thoughts on what they say about the Gamecocks' outstanding 38-35 win over Georgia.
|Advanced Box Score|
|Yds. per Play||6.80||6.55||Georgia|
|Rushing||36 plays||39 plays|
|Rush Success Rate||44.4%||46.2%||Carolina|
|Passing||24 plays||30 plays|
|Pass Success Rate||50.0%||56.7%||Carolina|
|1Q Success Rate||66.7%||52.2%||Georgia|
|2Q Success Rate||29.4%||47.6%||Carolina|
|3Q Success Rate||47.4%||58.3%||Carolina|
|4Q Success Rate||53.3%||46.2%||Georgia|
|Starting Field Position||Own 42||Own 24||Georgia|
|*Standard downs - all 1st downs, 2nd and less than 8, 3rd/4th and less than 5|
|*Passing downs - all other downs|
|*Success is 50% of yards on 1st, 70% of yards on 2nd, and 100% on 3rd or 4th|
|*Scoring trips - drives with one first down inside the opposing team's 40-yard line|
1. Better score when you can
The biggest difference between these two teams comes at the very bottom of this box score. Carolina put up 6.3 points per trip inside the Georgia 40, which means when they put themselves in position to score touchdowns, they scored them. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, finished eight of their 10 drives within scoring range, and they put up four touchdowns, two field goals, and two missed field goals. Carolina finished drives, and Georgia didn't, and that's why they won the ballgame.
2. Because that's the only way you're going to overcome a -2 turnover differential
The other big difference in the game came from turnovers, and the Gamecock defense's ability to withstand two poor situations where the offense needed them to bail it out. Once in the first half and once in the second half, the Gamecocks gave the ball to the Bulldogs in scoring territory. Each time (though once with the help of Mike Bobo, Hutson Mason, and an intentional grounding penalty), the Gamecock defense made the Bulldogs line up for field goals. Huge wins, each.
That said, the Bulldogs had a little turnover luck last night, as three balls hit the turf (two Georgia fumbles to go along with the fumble by Brandon Wilds), and the Dawgs recovered all three of them. If even one of those goes Carolina's way, maybe the game doesn't come down to the last minute, as Georgia finished both of the drives where they recovered their own fumbles with a touchdown.
3. Special teams were special
It's not often you type that during a game where the average starting field position is 18 yards in favor of the other team, but two of the ten Georgia drives started well within Carolina's territory through no fault of the special teams, as they were drives that began through Carolina turnovers. Take those out and, while the Dawgs still have the advantage (they would have had an average starting position of their own 31 yard-line), it's more than made up for by the fact that while Georgia missed two field goals, Carolina went 1-1 on its only effort thanks to Elliott Fry, whose kick ultimately served as the deciding points between the two teams.
Carolina also ended up with decent field position once thanks to a nice Shon Carson return. Overall, while special teams weren't special, they didn't do anything damaging. Georgia's special teams, while pretty good in the kickoff and punting aspects, simply didn't get it done on two field goal attempts, and those two misses represented the difference last night.
4. Surviving the first quarter
Those first quarter stats make it look like Georgia should've been up 17-7 after the first period, but the Carolina defense made two big stops - once on 3rd and 3 to hold the Bulldogs to a field goal and once on 3rd and 2 to stop a Georgia drive before it even got started, where they stopped Nick Chubb for a two-yard loss around midfield. The Bulldogs came out firing, but the defense got two important stops early, which allowed the Gamecocks to stay in the game and allowed the defense to find its footing against a very good Georgia defense.
5. Not getting killed by the run
Throughout the game, Georgia reeled off some big runs - Gurley's 17-yard scamper on 3rd and 16, his 40-yard jaunt in the 3rd quarter, Chubb's 23-yard run to end the third quarter, and so on. Georgia certainly got theirs on the ground.
But when they weren't getting big plays (averaging 6.4 yards a rush is pretty damn good), they weren't getting much, posting a success rate of just 44% on rushing plays. That means the defense was doing enough to prevent them from regularly reeling off the 5- and 6-yard runs that just kill you if you if they're available every single play, and ultimately pushed more of the game onto Hutson Mason's shoulders. Mason didn't play terribly - 7.4 yards per play with a 50% success rate is pretty decent - but when you're only running 40% of your plays as pass plays, you should find more efficiency and explosiveness from them.
There were a ton of heroes on the Gamecock side of the ball last night, and a whole bunch of plays that could've flipped the result either way. But Carolina made just enough plays to come out on top, and that's all the standings care about.
Now the Gamecocks have survived the roughest stretch of their schedule with all their hopes intact, they have a chance to cement their place at the top of the East with three more intra-division games coming up before the bye week on October 11. Next up is a putrid Vanderbilt team, which should hopefully allow Carolina to run a relatively vanilla offense, get some experience for some other guys (particularly Connor Mitch), and let the defense feel good about itself after its first three outings came against three of the 25 best offenses in the nation.