COLUMBIA, S.C. – 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.
This game, so anticipated and important for the 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 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.
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And for the first time, the Bulldogs lost for a third straight time to their border state rival.
The past two years, it was South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore who led the way. So Georgia made stopping him a priority – but in the process let quarterback Connor Shaw do that.
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.
When the Bulldogs got the ball their first time, they looked set for their own quick answer, after a Malcolm Mitchell kick return and Todd Gurley 15-yard run on first down. But then Aaron Murray’s pass was tipped at the line and grabbed by Davonte Holloman at the South Carolina 31.
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.
The Gamecocks turned that Murray interception into another quick score, this time a 14-yard pass from Shaw to Rory Anderson. That made it 14-0 with 6:29 left in the first quarter.
A few minutes later, Ace Sanders returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown, and it was 21-0. The Bulldogs were officially reeling. South Carolina had 177 total yards in that first quarter, and Georgia had 39.
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.
The best chance the Bulldogs had came late in the second quarter, driving inside the Gamecock 5. The normally conservative Mark 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 Bulldog defense clamped down, and looked to have the Gamecocks figured out. But midway through the third quarter, the secondary let Gamecock 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 3-yard touchdown run by Ken Malcome with 1:55 left in the game to avoid Georgia's first shutout since 1995.