Former South Carolina QB Phil Petty knows a thing or two about the South Carolina-Georgia rivalry. Petty led the Gamecocks to two of the most memorable wins over UGA in school history, including the 21-10 home victory in 2000 and the 14-9 victory in Athens the next season, when Petty hit Brian Scott for the game-winner late in the fourth quarter. Petty spoke with TheBigSpur about some of his fondest memories of the rivalry and gave his thoughts on the current South Carolina team.
Q&A with Petty
When you look back on that win over Georgia in 2000, what do you remember about it?
I think that was a pivotal time in the history of South Carolina football, where we were obviously coming off a very bad streak, we had a lot of injuries, we had a coaching change, but we stuck together and we worked hard. We had a lot of guys that were unselfish and we had a lot of good football players. That team was very talented.
Looking back on that game in particular, Georgia was, I'm not sure exactly what they were ranked, I know it was in the top ten (No. 9), but nobody gave us a chance for sure. Our defense played really well, I think Quincy (Carter) turned it over about five times, I think he threw five picks or something, so that certainly helped the cause. We just kind of protected the ball on offense, ran ball-control, Derek (Watson) had some big runs, and we just kind of took care of the ball and got the win, which was huge, because that is a very heated rivalry, I would say second to our other in-state school.
Then in 2001, beating them twice, and the way it happened, what are you memories?
It was a defensive struggle. Both teams were playing lights out and I think when they took the lead, they went up 9-7. We come back out -- I'm not sure how much time was on the clock, it wasn't a lot -- we had a good kickoff return and we had to go, I don't know, about 60-something yards to score. What we did on that drive is we converted three third downs. I know one was to Ryan Brewer, one was to Matt (Thomas) and then the other was on the third down where we obviously decided to take a shot and Brian (Scott) went up and made a catch in the end zone and it ended up working out, and we won, I think the final was 14-9.
It was a great drive, one of the more impressive drives we had, and it was a big game and to be able to go down and convert three third and longs, they were all third and 10s, was pretty impressive. But we stayed calm, we didn't panic, we executed our assignments and we did a good job of just methodically going down the field and converting in a very hostel environment on the road, which it was nice beating them at home, but it's probably even better when you win in Athens, because it surely was a special place to play and it's a special rivalry.
Are you thinking on the sideline that Georgia is thinking Lou Holtz is definitely going to run the football and kick the field goal?
Phil Petty likes what Connor Shaw brings to the QB position.
And coach was [conservative], everybody knows that, we didn't [throw the ball around], I think I'd have thrown a lot more touchdowns if I had played for somebody else (laughs), because most of the time we got in the red zone we were in the T-formation, but it was effective and it won games for us. I think we kind of thought that he would say, let's run it, but Brian and I were on the sideline, and I remember, him saying what do you guys want to do, and I said, let's get him out there one-on-one with (Bruce) Thornton, I believe was the guys name, the DB, and it was sort of a size advantage [in our favor] and I had confidence in Brian, and so did he in me, so we said let's go one-on-one and see if he can make a play, and if we don't get it then we'll kick the field goal, but let's take a chance here and make them go score a touchdown to win it, and it worked out for us.
Would you have liked to play for a coach who throws it around like Steve Spurrier?
Well, and first of all, I have all the respect in the world for Coach Holtz and he obviously was successful here when we were there in getting us to buy in to his philosophy, which was totally different than Coach Spurrier. I commend Coach Spurrier for what he's done at the University of South Carolina is really unmatched. As a quarterback, it would have been a lot of fun, because obviously I think I would have put up those numbers.
There were very few games where Coach Holtz would say, okay let's just throw it all over the field, except for when we have to. I think my senior year, against Alabama, the first time we ever beat Alabama, that was the one game that sticks out, and games like that where he did actually let me sit in the pocket and throw the ball 30 or 40 times and put up big numbers, so to do that on a consistent basis and I think -- I never played for Coach Spurrier but I know him and have a lot of respect for him -- I think any quarterback would say they would be excited to have that opportunity.
Do you get to watch the current South Carolina team a lot?
Oh, absolutely. I've been out of coaching now for going on three years, so I follow them extremely close. Obviously, it's my alma mater and I grew up a South Carolina fan and always will be, so I certainly pull very hard for those guys. I think at the point in time that we came through, it was kind of the height of USC football in maybe the history of the school in the things that we accomplished, but unselfishly I want to see them accomplish more, and they have, and they will continue to do so, and I think that this year's team has an awful lot of talent but they've also got good leadership and it's showing.
I think the Missouri game they kind of put all three phases together and they looked really, really good. Then Kentucky, on the road, to be down early and come back and play the way they did, they showed a lot. Obviously, they have talent but they also have good leadership too and good coaching, and it's been fun to watch. I think this weekend will be as big of an atmosphere and environment that you're going to find in college football. It's going to be one of those games where you walk out there and say this is why you play the game.
What do you think of Connor Shaw? In some ways, taking care of the football, running the offense, he might not be that different from you.
I think Connor is one of the guys that, you know he's a coach's son coming out, he's got the intangibles that as a coach you want to see in a quarterback, not only on the field but off the field. I think he represents playing quarterback at the University of South Carolina the way that you're supposed to, so I'm proud of him in that respect. He's also a dangerous football player. People always say, you're not flashy, you're not this, just because a guy protects the football, but that's your No. 1 job as the quarterback is to protect the football and to run the offense, and keep yourself out of those bad plays and then the good plays will come to you. I think Connor does a really nice job of that.
I think when it's there, he takes it, when it's not, he does a good job, he's a good runner, I think he's proven that obviously. He has quick feet so he has the ability to take the ball down and go with it, which makes him two-dimensional and quite frankly it's hard to defend. I think he's a very good football player and I think he's got a very good future ahead of him.
When it really gets down to it, what are the keys to this weekend's game?
Well, I think, obviously you've got two really good quarterbacks. They're going to have to play well. But I truly think it's going to be a defensive game. There will be some points scored. I don't think it will be like Georgia-Tennessee last week, but I think there will be some points scored. I think the team that can establish the run -- I have not listened to what the coaching staff is saying this week or anything -- but just my perspective, watching Georgia play and watching us play, I think the team that can establish some form of a running game, be able to control the football, have some balance and not let them make you one-dimensional, don't make you just running or just throwing, you've got to do both. Obviously, controlling the line of scrimmage and being able to run the football is going to be a big key, in my opinion, in games like this. And then also, the team that turns the ball over less, those would be my two keys.
Do you have a prediction?
Yeah, I do. I don't give scores, but I think, and I say this wholeheartedly, I think South Carolina's going to win the game. I think we're a better football team. I think we've got better players. And I think we're well-coached. And I think that with the leadership we have, the talent we have on that team right now, and being at home, having Williams-Brice Stadium behind us, I think South Carolina's going to win the football game.
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