3:35 PM ET, September 13, 2008
Williams-Brice Stadium, COLUMBIA, SC
Jones' pick in final seconds helps Georgia hold off South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The yards were tough to come by and the points even tougher for Georgia -- as usual when the Bulldogs play South Carolina.
• Reshad Jones intercepted Chris Smelley with 13 seconds left deep in Bulldogs' territory and Georgia won its 10th straight and avenged last year's home loss to South Carolina.
• For the fifth year in a row, the winner scored fewer than 20 points. Six of eight meetings under Mark Richt have been decided by seven points or fewer.
• Steve Spurrier is now 1-3 vs. Georgia at South Carolina and his teams have totaled 38 points in those four games (11-1 vs. Georgia while at Florida and averaged 36.3 PPG). He's 0-2 in the SEC for the second time in four years (He never started 0-2 at Florida).
-- ESPN research
But these Dawgs play big-time defense, too, and that's what kept them undefeated on Saturday.
Knowshon Moreno's sliding 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the No. 2 Bulldogs ahead and the defense kept turning the Gamecocks back for a 14-7 victory.
Georgia (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) forced two turnovers by South Carolina (1-2, 0-2) in the fourth quarter.
"That shows us we can play when it's on the line," defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "When adversity strikes, who's going to step up and be the leader, be the man. Our team stepped up today."
The first time came with about eight minutes left and South Carolina on Georgia 2. Tailback Mike Davis tried to leap the pile when linebacker Rennie Curran jarred the ball loose and into the arms of cornerback Asher Allen.
"I tell you, it looked real big," Allen said, smiling.
South Carolina got a final chance and drove to the Georgia 17. That's when Reshad Jones sealed things, intercepting Chris Smelley's pass with 13 seconds left at the 3.
"We just wanted to keep fighting, keep grinding until the clock said zero-zero," Jones said. "We did it the best we could do and we came out with the victory."
The Bulldogs held South Carolina to 18 yards on 16 rushes. They also made sure the Gamecocks didn't ruin a second straight shot at a championship season.
Georgia had all offseason to remember how last September's 16-12 loss to South Carolina (1-2, 0-2) likely kept them from playing for the SEC and national titles.
Instead, Georgia had to settle for the title of team no one wanted to face at the end of 2007.
"They kind of ruined our dreams last year, stopping us from the SEC championship and the national," Irvin said. "This year, we don't have to worry."
For much of this one, it looked like the Gamecocks might do it again as the Bulldogs trailed 7-6 midway through the third quarter.
Georgia had already muffed a scoring chance near the goal line, settling for Blair Walsh's 23-yard field goal after having a third-and-goal at the South Carolina 1.
Moreno, who finished with 79 yards on 20 carries, didn't squander the Bulldogs' next opportunity.
He ran left, then took a hard cut up the middle with his feet sliding out from under him. Moreno steadied himself with his right hand, then slipped through for his seventh touchdown of the year.
Moreno said he's worked on improving his balance this season. "I definitely came close to slipping," he said. "But since I've been working on those drills, it really showed in the game."
Stafford converted the 2-point try on a pass to Kris Durham and Georgia led 14-7.
Moreno had trouble finding the room he had in big wins over Georgia Southern and Central Michigan. With the Gamecocks focused on the sophomore back, Stafford had key runs of 17 and 30 yards, the second that finished on the South Carolina 4 and came right before Moreno's scoring run.
Stafford hobbled off the field after getting sacked on the Bulldogs' next-to-last drive. But he came back out the next series and didn't expect it to affect preparation for Arizona State next week.
"I'm a little beat up, but I'm good to go," he said.
Moreno's TD was the first Georgia's scored in the past eight quarters against the Gamecocks.
For South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, it was his sixth straight SEC loss, by far the longest of his stellar career.
Spurrier was proud of the effort shown by the Gamecocks. "I told them it could have definitely been worse," he said.
Only the most ardent Gamecock fans coming in could've expected South Carolina to hang with the mighty 'Dawgs.
Georgia, armed with the memories of last year's game and the dynamic Moreno, figured to romp to victory. But right from the start, South Carolina showed the Bulldogs things would not be easy.
Georgia's first two series dissolved into punts. It had two scoring drives that took a combined 28 plays and ate up more than a quarter of the first half, but both ended with field goals.
South Carolina's lone touchdown came on Smelley's 34-yard pass to Moe Brown.
"My gut has churned more in this series, and on this field, than anywhere else at Georgia," Richt said.
Good thing Richt's defense was there to ease his worries.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Georgia's Reshad Jones picked off Chris Smelley's pass at the Dawgs' three-yard line with less than a minute remaining.
Gameball goes to... Knowshon Moreno, whose four-yard TD run gave Georgia the lead and figures to be one of the most important Dawgs' TDs of 2008.
Stat of the game... 13: Jones' INT came with 13 seconds left deep in Georgia territory, ending the Gamecocks' comeback attempt.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-13||5-12|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-1|
|FG||10:22||Blair Walsh 42 Yd||3||0|
|TD||08:42||Moe Brown 34 Yd Pass From Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop Kick)||3||7|
|FG||00:00||Blair Walsh 23 Yd||6||7|
|TD||05:12||Knowshon Moreno 4 Yd Run (Matthew Stafford Pass To Kris Durham For Two-Point Conversion)||14||7|