In 60 minutes of football, Greyson Lambert did his part to change the narrative of his season.
After the first two games, the same talking points persisted: Lambert couldn't win at Virginia and was essentially forced to transfer. Georgia's quarterback situation must have been dire if Lambert was named the starter. After starting 0-of-7 against Vanderbilt, why wasn't Brice Ramsey getting a chance to start?
Yeah ... about that.
Lambert had a stunning performance against South Carolina in a 52-20 victory. If he didn't get "greedy," as he said, and hit Malcolm Mitchell on a shallow crossing route instead of trying to throw it to Jeb Blazevich in the end zone early, perhaps Lambert becomes the first quarterback to ever complete 100 percent of his passes with a minimum of 20 throws. As it stands, Lambert became the first to complete 96 percent of his passes, finishing 24-of-25 for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
This is, without a doubt, Steve Spurrier's worst South Carolina team. But at this level, quarterbacks just don't do what Lambert did. Yes, receivers were wide open throughout the game and the offensive line gave him all the time in the world -- a luxury he rarely had at Virginia. But Lambert made all the right throws (outside of the one he admitted to) and was incredibly accurate throughout.
With that in mind, here are five things we learned in Saturday's win over the Gamecocks:
1) Lambert can, and will, get the job done when called upon
So much focus was placed on Lambert going 0-of-7 to start Week 2's game against Vanderbilt. Not as much focus was placed on what Lambert did after that start. He ended 11-of-14 for 116 yards and continued that momentum into the South Carolina game. Since the 0-of-7 start, Lambert has completed 35 of 39 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns. Georgia opened up the playbook more against the Gamecocks and placed a lot of faith in Lambert to execute the gameplan. Lambert came through and showed that if all facets are in sync, he'll be able to succeed.
As mentioned, this isn't a Spurrier team of old. Lambert won't have it as easy as he did against the Gamecocks on Saturday night when the Bulldogs play Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, Florida or possibly even Kentucky. But Lambert proved why he's the guy Mark Richt and Brian Schottenheimer went with out of the preseason. It's evident the Lambert that showed up in the South Carolina game was the guy Richt and Schottenheimer saw throughout the month of August. If that Lambert continues to show up, Georgia's offense will be tough to slow down, no matter the opponent.
2) Defense playing better than expected
I gave Georgia's defense a grade of an A-minus, considering the only hiccup it had against South Carolina was when Steve Spurrier, the guy who created the Fun 'N Gun, went to the triple-option to move the ball against the Bulldogs. The defense flew around the ball and played with an intensity that was lacking before Jeremy Pruitt arrived to Athens.
With that in mind, Georgia's defense has one more tune-up against Southern before going against Alabama, a team that is turnover-prone but can still strike with big plays in both the running and passing games. So will the Bulldogs be able to do so?
So far, it looks like they can, even if the competition hasn't been comparable. In three games, Georgia has seven sacks and 29 quarterback hurries. The Bulldogs have recorded five interceptions, with safety Dominick Sanders picking off passes in back-to-back games. There's a lot of optimism and confidence brewing with this group, and the defense seems to be better than many expected.
The unsung hero, even though he was named a captain for Saturday's game, has been nose tackle Chris Mayes up front. It took three years, but Mayes has emerged as a formidable player on the defensive line that's made plays in the backfield on his own while setting up others. He logged two more tackles against the Gamecocks and has done his part to help solidify a defensive line that had plenty of question marks entering this season.
3) Sony Michel is as valuable as Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb will continue to post gaudy numbers, such as the 159 yards and two touchdowns he added to his stat total in Saturday night's win. But Sony Michel's versatility and ability to play multiple positions on offense has made him just as important to what Georgia wants to do. It seems like Michel is a big play waiting to happen each time he touches the ball.
Michel scored three touchdowns against South Carolina on 11 total touches. He had eight carries for 51 yards and a touchdown and three receptions for 32 yards and two touchdowns. Michel, once again, lined up at receiver and in the backfield and forces defenses to account for him no matter where he's at on the football field.
LSU's Leonard Fournette has received plenty of attention as perhaps the best runner in college football (although the argument for Chubb is certainly valid). But there isn't a better tandem, in terms of what both backs can offer at any given moment, than Chubb and Michel.
4) Malcolm Mitchell is in pre-injury form
Until the season kicked off, it wasn't known which Malcolm Mitchell we'd see. Would it be the guy that made a ton of plays for the Bulldogs before a devastating ACL injury in 2013? Or would it be the guy that was still recovering from the injury's lasting effects in 2014? Through the first two games, Mitchell didn't have too many opportunities to showcase what he could do with Georgia opting for a run-heavy attack.
On Saturday, Mitchell was a man among boys when it came to going against South Carolina's secondary. The Gamecocks defenders respected Mitchell's deep-threat ability and played eight-to-10 yards off seemingly every play. This opened a lot of room for Mitchell underneath. He finished the game with eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
On two receptions, with Mitchell drawing man coverage, Lambert threw back-shoulder passes with a defender draped on him. Each time, Mitchell out-muscled the opposition and came up with the reception. With Lambert's arm and Mitchell's playmaking ability, this Georgia passing game appears to be settling in nicely.
5) Special teams still a work in progress
Georgia has opted to go with younger and more athletic players on scholarship to make plays on its coverage teams. With the youth participating in this phase, the Bulldogs still have some things to work on, specifically when it comes to coverage. On three consecutive kickoff returns in the first half, the Bulldogs allowed Shon Carson to run right up the middle almost untouched. On the first two returns, kicker Marshall Morgan made the tackles, which is never a good thing when it comes to kickoff coverage. On the third one, Collin Barber kicked off and Carson ran the ball for 51 yards.
A week ago against Vanderbilt, Georgia's youth showed when players were caught off guard and began watching a pooch-kickoff instead of blocking their guys. This helped lead to Vanderbilt recovering a live ball 48 yards down the field. It's early in the season and there's still time for Georgia's young special teamers to hone in on what they need to do in this phase.
But as it stands, it's still an area Georgia needs to improve in.