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No. 6 South Carolina dominates in 35-7 victory

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No. 6 South Carolina dominates in 35-7 victory

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) In a career of special moments, Steve Spurrier added another one in South Carolina's victory over fifth-ranked Georgia. And there may be some even bigger ones ahead for the Gamecocks and their ball coach.

Connor Shaw threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, Ace Sanders had a dazzling 70-yard punt return touchdown and No. 6 South Carolina's defense dominated fifth-ranked Georgia in a 35-7 victory Saturday night.

``If we play like this, maybe we have a chance for a real big year,'' Spurrier said. ``Maybe.''

Spurrier's caution is well placed. After all, this is the Southeastern Conference.

The Gamecocks (6-0, 4-0 SEC) head to angry LSU, the defending league champions who lost for the first time earlier Saturday, next week night, then go to Florida - the undefeated Gators beat LSU - for a game that should decide the Eastern Division.

South Carolina sure looks ready for the challenge.

``We definitely sent a message out to the whole country,'' Gamecocks tailback Marcus Lattimore said. ``It's not the old South Carolina. We can play with y'all. We can play with anybody.''

The Gamecocks their school-record 10th straight game with a performance that marked certainly marked them an Eastern Division front-runner - and maybe showed they're capable of even more.

``This was a special one,'' said Spurrier, who has a national title on his impressive resume from his time with Florida. ``It really was.''

South Carolina grounded ``Gurshall,'' holding Georgia's stellar freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to 76 yards combined. The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1) finished with 224 yards, less than half their season's average coming in.

``First of all, the bad news is we took a whipping. The good news is we all took it together. It was a team loss,'' Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

Lattimore ended with 109 yards and a touchdown, the third straight time he's gone past the century mark on the Bulldogs. Coincidence the Gamecocks have posted their first-ever three game win streak in the series that began in 1894?

The Gamecocks 10th straight victory surpasses a school best set with their 9-0 start in 1984. That team reached No. 2 in the country and were poised for the top spot when No. 1 Nebraska lost, but South Carolina fell to Navy to lose perhaps its best-ever shot at a national champion.

This South Carolina team showed the brand of championship defense usually found on the SEC's best teams.

Georgia came in with a league-leading 48.2 points and 536 yards a game of offense - and where shut down by the Gamecocks.

Gurley and Marshall kept pounding the line to little effect, held scoreless after combining for 294 yards and five TDs in last week's win over Tennessee. Aaron Murray was 11 of 31 for 109 yards. He was sacked twice and threw one interception.

The game figured to be a matchup of Georgia's explosive offense against South Carolina's impenetrable D. The Gamecocks showed early it was no contest, holding the Bulldogs to just 111 yards of offense in the first half and taking control of the game.

South Carolina's offense set the tone at first, Spurrier once again showing there are few better at calling plays. Damiere Byrd outfought Georgia's Bacarri Rambo for a 42-yard catch on the game's second snap. Two plays later, Shaw hit a wide-open Bruce Ellington for a 20-yard TD catch that sent the record crowd of 85,199 into a frenzy.

They had more to celebrate moments later when Kelcy Quarles tipped Murray's pass high in the air and safety DeVonte Holloman made a diving interception. Shaw cashed in again for the Gamecocks, ending a 69-yard sequence when tight end Rory Anderson came open in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown.

South Carolina used special teams - typically a Georgia strength - to extend the lead a few plays later after a three-and-out by the Bulldogs. Sanders bobbled the punt, got the ball back, broke several tackles and outrun the punter to the left pylon for a 21-0 lead with less than nine minutes gone.

The Gamecocks defense took control after that.

Georgia ``didn't move it very far when they were out there,'' Spurrier said with a grin.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sacked Murray for a loss of 6 yards to stall one series. Gurley and Marshall were continually swallowed up for minimal gains. The Bulldogs looked as if they'd found their footing right before halftime, Murray converting three third-down passes to get to the Gamecocks 4. But on fourth-and-goal, Rantavious Wooten was stopped shy of the end zone after catching a short pass by D.J. Swearinger and Shaq Wilson.

First-year defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward thought his team could put on a show against the high-powered Bulldogs. ``I believe in the young men that I coach every day, I believe in the system that we run and I believe we can play with anybody,'' he said.

The biggest drama of the second half was whether Georgia would leave with its first shutout since a 31-0 loss to Alabama in 1995. Spurrer kept his defensive starters in, yet the Bulldogs drove 75 yards to score on Ken Malcome's 3-yard TD run with 1:55 to go.

Malcome finished as the team's top rusher with 45 yards, all on Georgia's scoring drive.

``We hoped to make a play to change momentum but they never allowed us to,'' Richt said.

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

The win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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