Rennie Curran broke up a fourth-down pass at the goal line with 22 seconds remaining, and No. 21 Georgia held off South Carolina 41-37 in a wild game Saturday night.
The nearly four-hour contest wasn't decided until Curran, a linebacker, batted down Stephen Garcia's final throw on fourth-and-4 at the Georgia 7.
The Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) avoided their first 0-2 start since 1996. South Carolina (1-1, 0-1) was hurt by a blocked extra point after its final touchdown, which prevented the Gamecocks from going for a tying field goal at the end.
The goal-line stand set off a raucous celebration for the relieved crowd at Sanford Stadium. Curran rolled on the ground with Brandon Boykin, who had a huge game for the Bulldogs. Bryan Evans did a somersault.
The game had a little of everything. Boykin set a school record with a 100-yard kickoff return and set up a score with an interception. South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood returned an interception 35 yards for a TD. There was even an errant snap on a punt attempt by the Bulldogs, the ball rolling through the end zone for a safety.
Stephen Garcia completed 31 of 53 passes for 313 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Joe Cox, reportedly suffering from a sore arm or shoulder, threw for 201 yards and a pair of TDs.
Everyone counted on a defensive struggle, based on the series history and the way the teams played in their season openers.
Neither team had scored more than 20 points on the other in the last five meetings. Besides, Georgia was coming off a 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State, while South Carolina had eked out an ugly 7-3 win over N.C. State.
Instead, this was a shootout right from the start. South Carolina raced to a 17-7 lead in the first quarter, but Georgia rallied for a 31-23 edge at halftime. The Bulldogs looked to be pulling away they took the second-half kickoff and drove for another score, Cox hitting Michael Moore with a 4-yard TD pass to make it 38-23.
But Spencer Lanning hit another field goal _ he had five on the night, tying a South Carolina record _ and the high snap by Georgia's Ty Frix gave the Gamecocks another two points on the safety.
Then, South Carolina looked as though it had tied it up when Norwood reached up to grab Cox's pass, racing the other way for a touchdown that pulled the Gamecocks to 38-37 with just under 13 minutes remaining. All that was needed was the extra point, a mere formality, right?
Wrong. DeAngelo Tyson reached up to swat away Lanning's kick, keeping Georgia ahead. It was the only thing that went wrong for the South Carolina kicker, who connected on field goals of 21, 39, 22, 35 and 34 yards.
When Georgia's Blair Walsh knocked through his second field goal, a 42-yarder with 6:20 remaining, South Carolina needed a touchdown to pull it out. Garcia led the Gamecocks down the field, converting three straight times on third down.
But he couldn't complete the comeback.