Kickoff returns, field goals, blocked kick figure big
By Fletcher Page
ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia coach Mark Richt told reporters at practice Tuesday the game against South Carolina could come down to special teams play.
The statement proved accurate.
Georgia sophomore Brandon Boykin set a team record with his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the 1st quarter.
Blair Walsh connected on a 50-yard field goal and boomed two touchbacks on kickoffs.
Defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson blocked an extra-point attempt, setting up Georgia’s four-point lead, which took away the option for South Carolina to tie with a field goal on the final drive of the game.
“I knew it was going to be a battle that could come down to field position and field goals,” Walsh said. “I knew it was going to be a close game and I knew this whole week the game could come down to special teams and I think we did the best possible job.”
Boykin just misses second
Boykin narrowly missed taking a second return to the end zone, gaining 48-yards before a shoestring tackle.
His return for touchdown displayed speed and strength, as Boykin broke one tackle and outran everyone else. The return was the longest since Lindsey Scott returned a kickoff 99-yards against Lousiana State in 1978.
“I took off to the sideline and everybody maintained their block,” Boykin said. “It was just open space for me. I had to score.”
“I’m really proud of him,” Richt said of Boykin. “He’s a tremendous athlete. I wished we had three of him.”
Freshman Branden Smith, after fumbling his first kick return, also added a 48-yard return.
“It was a lot of pressure, but that’s what it takes. I had to step up and redeem myself,” said Smith, who had a 61-yard rushing touchdown. “I’m only a freshman but I just had to step my game up.”
Key extra point
Tyson’s blocked extra point in the fourth quarter kept Georgia ahead, 38-37, slowing South Carolina’s momentum after Eric Norwood’s interception and touchdown.
“That’s just a guy giving effort when some people don’t play hard because they don’t think they can block it,” Richt said.
South Carolina kicked five field goals, tying a school record.
But in the end, it was the field goal they couldn’t kick that mattered most.