South Carolina was down to its third-string quarterback after losing starter Ryan Hilinski to an injury in the third quarter, but the Gamecocks survived and pulled off one of the most stunning upsets of the season, taking down No. 3 Georgia (5-1, 2-1 SEC) in double overtime, 20-17. After South Carolina kicker Parker White missed a potential game-winning field goal from 33 yards out in the first overtime period, it was Georgia's Rodrigo Blankenship who ended the game with a miss on a 42-yard attempt.
The upset victory for the Gamecocks (3-3, 2-2 SEC) ties for the second-best in program history, trailing only their win against No. 1 Alabama in 2010 and matching a 1981 win at No. 3 North Carolina. It's South Carolina's first victory over a top-five team since defeating No. 5 Missouri in double overtime in 2013, and it's the program's first win over a ranked opponent since 2016.
The Gamecocks arrived in Athens, Georgia, as three-touchdown underdogs, but their defense was best unit on the field for the first three quarters of the game. South Carolina played with a physical edge and brought the fight early, stuffing Georgia's efforts to establish the run to set up the pass.
The visitors won first and second down, and Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm couldn't bail his offense out in the passing game. Fromm was involved in all four of Georgia's turnovers, losing a fumble on a quarterback-center exchange in the second half and throwing three interceptions, including a pick-six that gave South Carolina a 17-10 lead and another pick on the first possession of overtime.
In the third quarter, Hilinski went down after taking a low hit from Georgia defender Adam Anderson. A replay showed that Anderson tripped over the leg of a South Carolina lineman and fell into Hilinski to roll up his leg. The result was a roughing the passer penalty on Anderson, and Hilinski, who was 15-for-20 passing for 116 yards and a touchdown to that point, was knocked out of the game. Hilinski had a bag of ice wrapped around his left knee after an extended stay in the injury tent on South Carolina's sideline. He proceeded to root on his teammates from a training table and motioned to his parents that he was OK, but he did not return to the game.
"It was Jake [Bentley] early in the season, we lose Ryan, Dekereon [Joyner] was halfway practicing because of his hamstring," South Carolina coach Will Muschamp told ESPN after the game. "It says a lot about the culture of our program, the leadership in our program, the players in our program and the future of our program."
Joyner replaced Hilinski and completed just 6-of-12 passes for 39 yards, but he was able to add an element to the ground game with his legs. Georgia's defense was able to come up with key third-down stops, and South Carolina played it pretty safe by choosing to punt and attempt a field goal during fourth and short situations. With their backs against the wall still down the halftime score of 17-10, the Bulldogs answered with a 13-play, 96-yard drive in the fourth quarter that finished with a touchdown pass from Fromm to Demetris Robertson.
But then Fromm's aforementioned interception in overtime allowed South Carolina to move the ball enough so that Parker White could knock down the game-winning field goal. White missed a 33-yard attempt, sending the game to a second overtime period. The Gamecocks offense leaned on its rushing attack and got down to third-and-goal inside the 5-yard line, but a tackle for loss by Tyler Clark forced White back out onto the field for a short field goal that ended up being the game-winner.
Here's three things to know about the Gamecocks' shocking win.
1. Fromm needs to ensure his bad day is uncharacteristic: From the four turnovers to season-lows in completion percentage (49.0) and yards per attempt (5.8), this was without a doubt one of the worst performances of Fromm's three-year career. The blame for offensive woes does not fall solely on Fromm's shoulders, after all, as he was under duress for most of the afternoon, but Georgia outgained South Carolina 468-297 and lost the game. That's a game decided by miscues, and most of those mistakes were on Fromm.
One bad day from an otherwise steady and reliable signal-caller might have cost Georgia a shot at the College Football Playoff, but it's not the end of the season just yet. Fromm is going to be challenged to raise his level of play and become not just the foreman of Georgia's offense but the difference maker. We consider Fromm among the best quarterbacks in the game, and on Saturday at home, his offense came up short in an upset loss to a division rival as a three-touchdown favorite. Now that Georgia's back is against the wall for not only a playoff spot but the SEC East title, it's time for Fromm to deliver on that elite status designation.
2. The SEC East is wide open: Prior to the season, Georgia was a extremely popular if not unanimous pick to the win the SEC East. Florida changed that with its 6-0 start and top-10 win against Auburn, but now there are as many as four teams in the hunt for the division crown. South Carolina already has two conference losses, but its in the mix with this head-to-head win against Georgia if it were to run the table in league play. That requires keeping this upset state of mind in the forefront because the Gators visit them next week. One of the Gamecocks' two losses is to Missouri, who prior to Saturday's game against Ole Miss was just 1-0 with most of its conference schedule left. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri are all right there in the thick of a race that will be decided over the next month.
3. This is a massive win for Muschamp: The Gamecocks coach, now 25-20 overall and 14-14 in SEC play, had to know this season would bring some adversity for his program. South Carolina has one of the toughest schedules in the country, and it got started with an unexpected loss to North Carolina in the opener that also saw Jake Bentley go down for the year with an injury. But to reach this moment of the season with a third-string quarterback and hold on for a win against Georgia had to be rewarding for Coach Boom.
Muschamp is not only a Georgia alumnus but has struggled against the Bulldogs as an SEC head coach at Florida and South Carolina (now 2-6 all-time). To have this pressure-packed season include top-five win against the Bulldogs can go a long way for the evaluation process at the end of the 2019 season. Anyone who doubts whether Muschamp has things going in the right direction in Columbia, South Carolina, can watch this game and see a team that was better prepared and uniquely motivated to close the talent gap on the field and take down top dogs in the division.