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South Carolina Wins with Persistency

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The Gamecocks' dramatic 20-17 double-overtime triumph in Athens was all about togetherness and toughness.

At 2-3, South Carolina was playing on the road against 3rd-ranked Georgia and, before halftime, was without standout freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinksi, who stepped in after Jake Bentley's season ended following a Lisfranc fracture earlier in the year, forced out of the game due to injury. The visitors, having not beaten the Bulldogs since 2014, were, even after a strong start in Sanford Stadium, in a difficult spot. It was there the Gamecocks found a way and, in the process, found themselves.

From entering this season with arguably the nation's toughest schedule to Bentley's week one injury to a challenging 1-3 start, South Carolina entered Saturday's game at Georgia with very little consistency, even fewer believers and, from the outside-looking-in, not much of a chance in Athens. A mere glance at the box score might have even confirmed those assumptions; the Gamecocks were nearly doubled-up in total first downs, scored just one offensive touchdown and were called for eleven penalties. Thing is, football games aren't played on paper. South Carolina proved to be the more resilient team. 

The Gamecocks' dramatic 20-17 double-overtime triumph in Athens was all about togetherness and toughness.

Game MVP, and now series legend, Israel Mukuamu had a game for the record books, intercepting Jake Fromm three times and changing the dynamic of the afternoon with a 53-yard pick-six right before halftime. Mukuamu became the first South Carolina player with three interceptions in one game since 1988. His efforts, getting in the endzone and then stopping Georgia drives in the fourth quarter and in overtime, were made for the media guide. Already, Mukuamu has a place in program lore.

The individual contributions formed a collective power. Reserve quarterback Dakereon Joyner came in and performed admirably after Hilinski's hot start. Veterans Rico Dowdle and Bryan Edwards, who caught a statement 46-yard touchdown pass from Hilinski, made plays and linebacker Ernest Jones continued his rise. On special teams, D.J. Wonnum blocked a kick, punter Joseph Charlton downed five punts inside the home 20-yard line and kicker Parker White ultimately came through.  

South Carolina's victory is a signature win for Will Muschamp, a boost of energy and optimism, and validation of his message, that could help springboard South Carolina the rest of the way. Three of the Gamecocks' upcoming four games will be at home, including a meeting with nationally-ranked Florida up next. Saturday's win, in the middle of perhaps the toughest slate in the country, was a big step towards bowl eligibility. It's a moment that changes the mantra around the program.

In a hard-fought game, South Carolina wasn't perfect, but was persistent. The Gamecocks move forward with momentum.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports