Gamecocks were confident from the get-go they could defeat Georgia
The unthinkable happened at Sanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon as third-ranked Georgia was shockingly upset by South Carolina, 20-17. For the Gamecocks, which entered with a losing 2-3 mark, it was the first victory in nine tries since 2013 over an AP Top Five team. Considering the Bulldogs were 21-point favorites at kickoff, their defeat is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—upsets in school history.
Georgia was ultimately defeated in double overtime. After both teams came away with no points in the initial overtime period, South Carolina placekicker Parker White, who had missed a 33-yard field goal in the first overtime, gave the Gamecocks a 20-17 lead with a 24-yard field goal. Georgia responded by gaining no yards in three plays before its usually-automatic placekicker, Rodrigo Blankenship, surprisingly missed a field goal from 42 yards out to end the game.
“That was a great college football game, and you hate for anyone to lose in that situation, especially the way it happened. Rodrigo Blankenship has been and is an unbelievable representative of the University of Georgia, and kicker, and my heart goes out to him in losing in that fashion,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp graciously began his press conference. “[Blankenship] is an outstanding young man, and he’s about all the right things in college athletics.”
Blankenship’s missed field goal in overtime was his second consecutive unsuccessful try after having made his first 12 attempts this season, including a 50-yarder to give Georgia an early 3-0 lead. South Carolina later jumped ahead 7-3 on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Hilinski to Bryan Edwards. According to Edwards, although his touchdown reception late in the opening quarter gave the Gamecocks “momentum” and “confidence,” it was much earlier than that when he thought a victory over Georgia “could probably happen.”
“I felt like it could happen from the opening drive,” said Edwards, who made six catches for 78 yards. “We had a great game plan coming into the game. We did a really great job of executing this week—and it worked out for the best.”
A lot more went wrong for the Bulldogs than simply a couple of missed field goals. They entered the game having allowed just one sack in five games this season, yet yielded three sacks today. Georgia, which forced no Gamecock turnovers, turned the ball over four times, after having committed only four turnovers all season. Quarterback Jake Fromm completed 28 of 51 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times, resulting in an efficiency rating of only 98.2—his second-lowest rating in 35 career games at Georgia.
“Well, he’s a fantastic player. His performance was very uncharacteristic,” Muschamp said of Fromm. “But we were able to get some pressure.” The head coach then indicated that it was his defense’s constant pressure on the quarterback which was the primary reason for Georgia’s turnovers.
Sophomore cornerback Israel Mukuamu, who made all three of South Carolina’s interceptions, returning the first for a 53-yard touchdown just prior to halftime, added that the pressure applied to Fromm was the main reason for his trio of picks. Mukuamu also indicated he had the impression South Carolina could upset Georgia even before the game started—simply because the Gamecocks have that sense before every game, no matter the opponent.
“The thing is, we always get that sense [of winning] every week,” Mukuamu said. “We knew what we were capable of, we just came out here and played our hardest—and came out the winner.”
Although the South Carolina players and its staff were confident from the get-go that they could pull the major upset, according to their head coach, they were about the only ones who believed in the Gamecocks.
“It’s huge to be a part of a great win like this—a big win for us on the road. There was probably no one in that stadium other than the parents of the [players] and the people sitting in that [South Carolina] locker room who believed it was going to happen,” said Muschamp, before adding, “and [athletic director] Ray Tanner, he believed we’d win. President Caslen (University of South Carolina President Robert Caslen), he believed we’d win too. He told me before the game. Add that to your article!”