Georgia head coach Mark Richt took to social media all week leading up to the South Carolina game, prompting Georgia fans to get as loud as possible for the Gamecocks.
The message was heard loud and clear.
“The crowd was amazing. Dawg walk was awesome, dawg walk people, thank you. Then we get our pre-game warm-up and the student section is packed, and they’re loud and rowdy,” Richt said. “They kind of led the way for everybody in my opinion for everybody in the stands. By the time we came out by the Bulldog statue, our fans were there, they were really into it. They got loud when they needed to. After that touchdown by Justin Scott-Wesley, I thought the crowd blew the roof off. I’m was really pleased with the fans and appreciate everybody.”
The Bulldogs experienced the effect of a loud stadium first hand last Saturday in their 38-35 loss to Clemson. Georgia players and coaches credited Clemson’s atmosphere for constant miscommunication — resulting in nine penalties for 84 yards.
While the Gamecocks showed a bit more discipline — earning five penalties for 40 yards — the effects of Georgia’s rowdiness was obvious.
“A lot of their plays they had to check and some of the lineman didn’t get the call so I really enjoyed the crowd,” redshirt sophomore Sterling Bailey said.
In fact, the Georgia student section was so loud at times that Bulldog players had motion for the crowd to quiet down during their offensive possessions.
Senior defensive end Garrison Smith loved what he saw out of the crowd Saturday night, and wants his fans to get even more creative for the next game.
“We feed off that energy from the crowd. That’s why it’s so important for the crowd to get loud and keep that energy going,” he said. “We feed off of them. That’s why we be harping the whole week that we need to 12th man, we need the crowd to get the energy. We need everybody to get up and yell, sneak a whistle in your bag and blow it or something. We need everybody. That’s what coach Richt trying to get everyone to do, so we get that energy and we feed off of it and make plays.”
A little bit of everything
Georgia's offense is a pick-your-poison type of attack, and this was quite evident on Saturday.
Five different running backs carried the football in Georgia's win over the Gamecocks, and eight different players finished with at least one reception. Senior quarterback Aaron Murray would also complete each of his four touchdown throws to a different receiver.
“Brendan Douglas powering some good runs at the end. Keith Marshall as a receiver and runner did his thing," Richt said. "Justin Scott-Wesley stepped in there, made a huge play for us. Got a chance to see his big-time speed, two-time 100-meter champion in the state of Georgia.”
Scott-Wesley, whose aforementioned speed was on full display during his 85-yard touchdown catch, would lead the team in receiving with three snags for 116 yards. But the trick to his success, he claims, is the wealth of talent surrounding him on game days.
“We got playmakers, man," Scott-Wesley said. "We're just so diverse. At any point in time, anybody can make a big play. It really helps us keep the defense off-balance.”
As for the running backs, Douglas' late-game cameo came as a pleasant surprise to Georgia fans, as his five carries for 31 yards were a big factor on the team's lengthy, game-ending drive.
But the freshman tailback's success was far from shocking for sophomore running back Todd Gurley.
“If you would’ve seen him in camp, you’d already know what he’s capable of. He’s a beast. Stepped up big time for us on that last drive," Gurley said.
The return of Josh Harvey-Clemons
Georgia’s win over South Carolina had many firsts.
The first time the Bulldogs have beaten the Gamecocks since 2009, Todd Gurley’s first touchdown reception, and sophomore safety Josh Harvey-Clemons first game of the season (and first time talking to the media).
Harvey-Clemons was involved in a marijuana-related violation last May, and as a result was forced to miss the Clemson game last week—one of the hardest things he’s ever experienced.
“It was tough. It hurt me bad because I was not there,” Harvey-Clemons said. “Especially the fact that we lost, I felt like I let my teammates down and it was a big learning experience for me, and I feel like now that it’s behind me, we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Harvey-Clemons, standing at 6-foot-5, 212 pounds, moved around on the Georgia defense, playing predominantly “star” linebacker, but also some safety. In his first game back the Valdosta native racked in five tackles and a fumble recovery.
There was some rust on the cleats of the sophomore, but he believes its only temporary.
“I feel like I didn’t play as good as I could have but I got a lot of work to do to get my assignments down and I’m just glad to be out there with my teammates,” Harvey-Clemons said.
Teams that are special
Fans saw their share of good and bad plays from Georgia's special teams unit on Saturday.
The good? One would naturally point the team's successful first-quarter onside kick, which resulted in an extra three points for the Bulldogs. The decision to do so – a rarity under the notably conservative Richt – was a calculated one fueled by a weakness in South Carolina's special teams alignment.
“[Linebackers] coach [Kirk] Olivadotti saw it. He came to me Sunday night and just showed it to me. He just felt like they were too wide on the front line and just too far apart from each other. There was a gap that was too big," Richt said. “That helped us a lot.”
The player to put those aforementioned three points on the board was walk-on placekicker Patrick Beless, who again filled in for suspended starter Marshall Morgan. He went 2-for-2 on field goal attempts (a long of 37 yards) and connected on all five of his point-after tries.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity and grateful that the coaching staff has had faith in me to kick these past few games," Beless said. "The blocking was excellent, snaps were excellent, holds were great."
The bad for Georgia, of course, would be the punt snap fumbled away by Collin Barber inside the team's own 20. The turnover led to seven quick points for South Carolina and perhaps revived memories of the team's critical botched field goal snap against Clemson last week.
But even with the mistakes, Richt emphasized that he has been mostly pleased with UGA's special teams play.
“There were a couple snaps that were just a tad high on the extra point and field goal. We’ve got to straighten that out, we can’t have any issue," he said. “We had a high snap and we had a dropped snap on punt. Other than that, I think our special teams have really played well. Even our punt team last week, we had 47-yard average with our punter. We had a net punt of 42 and then ended up causing the turnover. We had a fake for a first time that gave us a score. We had another onside kick here that we got. We’ve done well.”