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Post Georgia vs. South Carolina: Pruitt in the spotlight

Friday September 18, 2015

Georgia’s a double-digit home favorite against a team coming off a home loss to Kentucky and starting a backup former walk-on at quarterback. So naturally, we’re all biting our nails.

Is “redemption” too strong of a word? Jeremy Pruitt is 0-2 as a coach against Steve Spurrier, and his secondaries have been put on the spot in both of those losses. He blamed himself for putting the defense in poor position on “10-15 plays” in last season’s loss. Can he get the better of Spurrier this time? It is at least an opportunity for Pruitt to show his growth against one of the better playcallers.

Expect Spurrier to use everything at his disposal, especially given their quarterback situation. We’ll see some wildcat, and they can and will pass from that look. It won’t be just Wilds and Williams running the ball – seven players had at least one rush in the UNC game, and they’ll involve quarterbacks and receivers. As we know from Lambert’s touchdown in the Vanderbilt game, even a pocket passer can make a big play on the read option if everyone keys on the tailback. The Gamecocks do that too.

A matchup to watch will be SC left tackle Brandon Shell against Georgia’s pass rush. It might or might not be Jordan Jenkins going against Shell – it all depends on Georgia’s defensive alignment on a given play. South Carolina’s new starting quarterback, in his first true road game, can’t be allowed to get comfortable. It will be nice to have Lorenzo Carter back – hope he sticks around for a while.

We saw Spurrier fake a punt inside his own 20 in the opener. The rugby-style punter will have to be watched until he gets the kick off. South Carolina’s fake punt in 2011 was devastating. Special teams, in the form of two missed field goals, played a role in Georgia’s 2014 loss in Columbia.

This is usually an obvious point, but jumping out to a lead seems more urgent in this game. Bernie’s post shows why that might be the case. Do you get a feeling when a team misses its chance to take control of a game? In South Carolina’s opener against UNC, the Tar Heels could have built a big lead early. They got a touchdown but dropped a sure pick-six and had the first of two endzone interceptions. With the early scoring window closed, South Carolina got the big play they needed to win.

A similar thing happened in Columbia last year: after the lightning-quick score on their first possession, Georgia managed just six more first half points on several good scoring opportunities. Lorenzo Carter recovered a fumble on the South Carolina 26 following Georgia’s first score, and the Dawgs had to settle for a field goal. The Dawgs had another drive end with a field goal and yet another end on a missed field goal. They also had a long Gurley touchdown run called back for holding, and that drive ended with a punt. Five chances to put points on the board in the first half led to just 13 points. South Carolina turned that missed field goal into a scoring drive to close the first half, and Georgia was in the position of playing catch-up for the rest of the game.

If Georgia does build a lead, they’ll likely face the same kind of desperate comeback we saw from South Carolina against Kentucky last week. I’m glad we got a little gut check from Vanderbilt last week. Georgia had just enough margin to play with, but the defense still had several occasions to make a late stand. At the same time, I hope the offense (and those calling the plays) don’t pack it in just because there’s some second half breathing room.

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