ATHENS, Ga. — Manny Mukuamu was not able to be on hand at Sanford Stadium for South Carolina’s game against No. 3 Georgia, but as many times as his phone went off with an update from Sanford Stadium, it felt like he was. That’s because Manny’s older brother, Gamecock cornerback Israel Mukuamu, had the game of his life against the Bulldogs.
South Carolina (3-3, 2-2 SEC) upset the Bulldogs (5-1, 2-1) 20-17 in two overtimes thanks, in part, to the older Mukuamu’s three interceptions — the first of which he returned 53 yards for a touchdown and the third of which came in the first overtime.
“It seems like every second I looked at my phone my two other brothers would be texting the group chat saying Israel caught another interception,” Manny Mukuamu told Spurs & Feathers in a Twitter message.
“This is huge for my family and him. … For Israel to do it at the biggest stage versus the number three team in the nation, it’s all Christ himself.”
Israel Mukuamu became the first Gamecock to have at least three interceptions in a game since Patrick Hinton did so against NC State on Oct. 29, 1988.
“Coach [Travaris Robinson] told us all week that [Georgia] hadn’t thrown an interception yet, but they’ve never played a defense like us,” the 6-4, 205-pound Israel Mukuamu said. “They’ve never played a d-line like us.
“I was just able to get my hands on the ball. I give all the thanks to God.”
The sophomore now has four interceptions this season (he had one against Charleston Southern) and has five for his career.
His first on Saturday came just before halftime.
On a second-and-four at Georgia’s own 47-yard line, Bulldog quarterback Jake Fromm threw an out route toward the right sideline that Mukuamu jumped and returned to the end zone, giving the visitors a 17-10 lead.
“He was under pressure thanks to the d-line and I just broke on the ball,” Mukuamu said. “And I was able to take it to the house.”
Said Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp, “Javon Kinlaw had a huge rush inside.”
The second came two minutes into the second half with the Gamecocks holding on to that 17-10 lead. On a third-and-three from the Gamecocks’ 44-yard line, Fromm underthrew a receiver.
“With my reach I was able to get it,” Mukuamu said.
The third came on the first possession of overtime on a Georgia second-and-six from the South Carolina 21-yard line.
Though South Carolina did not take advantage (Parker White missed a 33-yard attempt that would have given the visitors the win then), the Gamecocks won anyway moments later, and Mukuamu was the second player wearing garnet and white to run toward fans of the visiting team in the stands.
The Bossier City, La. native ran to the northwest side of Dooley Field and embraced his parents, Charles and Betty, his brother Joseph and a cousin.
“It was so surreal,” Mukuamu said.
Manny Mukuamu saw the emotion from his family.
“Seeing that smile on my parents’ and brother’s face meant everything,” he said. “This is why we play the sport, for moments like these. I can’t imagine the joy that my parents are filled with.”