South Carolina rolls to win over Georgia

semerson@macon.comOctober 6, 2012 

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Mark Richt stood up at the conclusion of his postgame news conference, and there was a loud clang. The chair the Georgia head coach had been sitting in had fallen to the floor.

“Whoops. I’m glad I wasn’t in that chair,” Richt said.

But Richt and his team had already been decked pretty hard.

This game, so anticipated and important for the Georgia football program, turned out to be an embarrassment. No. 6 South Carolina had its way from the start with the fifth-ranked Bulldogs, running away with a 35-7 win.

The first quarter, when things got away from them quickly, the Georgia Bulldogs looked stunned. They looked deflated.

The rest of the way, they looked mostly lifeless, powerless to come back. Occasionally they were chippy.

The main story was the first quarter, when the Gamecocks raced out to a 21-0 lead. But after that the Bulldogs could muster nothing, and rather than threaten to make it a game, they suffered their worst loss ever to the Gamecocks.

And for the first time, the Bulldogs lost for a third straight time to their border state rival.

“They can’t say they own us anymore, that’s for sure,” South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said.

For Georgia, it now has to re-adjust its goals. Players reminded the media that last year it also lost to South Carolina but won the SEC East anyway. But the Bulldogs had also talked about reaching the BCS championship game, a goal that seems far gone now.

“You’re supposed to dream big,” Richt said. “But they’re good men and they’re gonna fight. They’re just gonna start banging away again because you never know what could happen.”

But for Richt and his team, this was yet another opportunity lost. The game was featured on ESPN and got plenty of national coverage, and instead of getting a signature win, the team was obliterated.

Afterwards, Richt was asked if this was an indication of the team still not being where it aspires to be.

“Well, (Saturday) we weren’t very good,” Richt said. “The world hasn’t ended. And we do still have an awful lot to play for, we’ve got a lot of games to play. A lot of things can happen. If we can get back on a winning track, a lot of good things can happen. So that’s what we’re gonna be fighting hard to do. We’re gonna see where everything lands.”

The past two years, it was South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore who led the way over Georgia. So Georgia made stopping him a priority -- but in the process let quarterback Connor Shaw win the game.

On the game’s second play scrimmage, Georgia’s defense dared Shaw to beat them deep, and he did, hitting Damiere Byrd with a 42-yard pass. Byrd wrestled the ball away from Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo, who had played too shallow on the play.

Two plays later, Shaw scrambled for a first down, the Bulldogs leaving the left side of the field open. A play later Shaw hit Bruce Ellington for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

The scrambling would become a theme, as Shaw ran for 50 yards in the first half, often converting good Georgia pass coverage into a first down.

“We were in zone (defense). So your zone players oughta be able to come up and handle that,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

“I think Shaw was reading me,” Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “And I made some bad judgments on the play he got out and made plays on. I got upfield, and he read me and he took off running. So I definitely take that as my fault.”

But the Bulldogs’ offense was plenty at fault, too.

Quarterback Aaron Murray would have one of the roughest games of his career, due in large part to his offensive line being dominated. Murray didn’t help himself with several bad throws. But his younger line did not have an answer for South Carolina’s star ends, Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor.

“I could feel the pressure. And I’m out there (at receiver),” said receiver Malcolm Mitchell. “So I know he could definitely feel it. And we didn’t contain him. We’ve gotta make decisions quick, and that’s what happens.”

South Carolina had 177 total yards in that first quarter, and Georgia had 39. The Gamecocks also got a 69-yard punt return touchdown from Ace Sanders.

The Bulldogs would play a bit better from that point on, but it was too late. Their freshmen tailback combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall was ineffective against the Gamecock front line.

“We made a conscious effort to not let them go on the outside,” South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “If you go back and watch them in every ball game they played, they make their plays by getting on the perimeter. We had a conscious effort to keep them on the inside.”

The best chance the Bulldogs had came late in the second quarter, driving inside the Gamecocks’ 5. The normally conservative Richt decided to go for it on fourth down from the 2, but Murray’s pass to Rantavious Wooten was stopped short of the goal-line.

For awhile, the Bulldogs’ defense clamped down and looked to have the Gamecocks figured out. But midway through the third quarter, the secondary let Gamecocks receiver D.L. Moore get behind the coverage, and Shaw found him. The 62-yard pass play went down to the 1, and Lattimore punched it in from there.

Whatever life had returned to Georgia was about sapped at that point. It took a touchdown by Ken Malcome with 1:56 left to avoid the team’s first shutout since 1995.

“First of all, like I told the team, the bad news is we took a whipping,” Richt said. “I told them the good news was we all took it together. I don’t think anybody could look in the mirror and say, ‘I had a great day but the other boys didn’t.’ I don’t think either side of the ball could say, ‘We did our job and the other boys didn’t.’ It was a team loss. We got beat by a very good team that was primed and ready to go.”

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