COLUMBIA, S.C. — If the Georgia football team wanted to think positive, it could look at Saturday’s 17-6 loss at South Carolina and say it just got run over, literally, by a great player.
If the Bulldogs wanted to look a bit more inward, however, they would look at their inability to stop that player. They would look at an offense that scored the fewest amount of points any Georgia team has against South Carolina since 1904.
Georgia (1-1 overall, 0-1 SEC) could look everywhere, since no facet of its game excelled Saturday. And it has another critical game on tap in six days, against No. 14 Arkansas.
”Obviously we’re not in the lead. We’re in last place in the East right now,” head coach Mark Richt said after just his third loss in 10 years to the Gamecocks. “But it’s one game.”
But it was one game in which Marcus Lattimore announced himself to Georgia and the SEC.
The highly touted freshman gashed the Bulldogs’ 3-4 defense for 182 yards, carrying the ball 37 times. He scored both of the Gamecocks’ touchdowns.
Georgia just didn’t have an answer for Lattimore, who was also the main reason the Gamecocks dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 35:15.
“I think history will prove he’s one of the best,” Richt said. “He’ll be one of the best in our league for years to come and probably play on Sundays, too.”
Still, the lingering sight of the day may not be Lattimore gaining yards. It may be Bulldogs defenders not being able to bring him down. Time and again, the 6-foot, 218-pound running back was hit at the line of scrimmage but carried forward. His longest run was 24 yards.
“He just kept running,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson.
South Carolina got so confident in Lattimore that it called the same basic play quite a bit, an inside-zone run. Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier pointed that out, taking a bit of a shot at Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who was in the NFL the past decade.
“That little inside play (they ran), the NFL doesn’t run that play,” Spurrier said. “That’s a new scheme I guess. I’m sure they knew we’d run it. But they certainly didn’t stop it much.”
Lattimore also got in a bit of a dig when asked about South Carolina’s final drive, when he rushed for 57 yards, leading to a field goal to put it away.
“We had a high tempo. They were just standing around, looking around,” Lattimore said. “We were just running the ball, running right up the gut. They didn’t know what to do.”
Lattimore was special. But the Bulldogs didn’t help themselves.
Tailback Washaun Ealey had a critical fumble. Late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs trailed by eight but were inside the Gamecocks’ 10 and already had a two-point play called.
But Ealey coughed the ball up just before his knee hit the ground at the 4, and South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore picked it up at the 1, returning it 13 yards.
The offense appeared limited without A.J. Green, who was suspended for selling his jersey. Aaron Murray threw for 192 yards, mostly in the second half.
But three trips inside the Gamecocks’ 20 resulted in two field goals and Ealey’s fumble.
“Overall as an offense you can’t put six points on the board,” Murray said. “There were a lot of yards left on the field (Saturday).”
The special teams were also lacking. Punter Drew Butler was below his usual average, and the Bulldogs netted very little on returns.
In short, there was plenty of blame to go around.
“All we can do is work on us,” Robinson said. “We can’t focus on what they did or what Arkansas is going to do. We have to work on us, and get better every game, as far as attitude and effort.”