Georgia traveled to a hostile Williams-Brice Stadium to open defense of its SEC title against No. 24 South Carolina. In front of a capacity crowd of 83,140, the Bulldogs dismantled the Gamecocks 41-17 on a blazing hot Saturday.
No. 3 Georgia won the toss, elected to kickoff and on the Gamecocks’ fourth play, Bulldog cornerback Deandre Baker got things rolling with a 55-yard interception return for an apparent Pick-6. However, thinking he had crossed the goal line, Baker purposely dropped the ball, where linebacker Juwan Taylor alertly recovered it for the touchdown.
Georgia (2-0, 1-0) came back on its next possession with a four-play, 76-yard drive, highlighted by wide receiver Mecole Hardman’s 30-yard run. Sophomore D’Andre Swift scored on a 17-yard touchdown scamper around the end.
The Gamecocks came back on an 11 play, 75-yard drive that had the Gamecock faithful in a frenzy. Wideout Deebo Samuel, who the Dawgs effectively neutralized during the game, swept around the end and lofted a 13-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Edwards to make the score 14-7.
From there, the Georgia defense and rushing game took control of the game. The Dawgs controlled both lines of scrimmage, outrushing South Carolina 271-54 yards.
Georgia junior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship added a 45-yard field goal to close out the first quarter scoring, 17-7 Georgia.
In the second quarter, Carolina had a long 71-yard drive that stalled at the 9-yard line and had to settle for a field goal, making the score 17-10 Georgia.
The Gamecocks had a chance to add points near the end of the half but the Georgia defense came up with a couple of big stops and forced a punt from the 50. A shanked, 18-yard punt gave Georgia good field position at the 33-yard line with 43 seconds remaining, and with two timeouts in his pocket, Kirby Smart turned quarterback Jake Fromm loose.
Fromm completed three consecutive passes and scrambled for 7 yards, setting up a 44-yard Blankenship field goal as time expired. The Dawgs went into halftime leading 20-10, and with momentum on their side.
The Dawgs came out firing in the second half and Fromm hit Hardman on a 39-yard catch and run for a 27-10 lead with 12:55 remaining in the third quarter.
The Georgia defense gave the ball right back to Fromm after a three and out. In quick-strike fashion, Georgia marched 75 yards capped by a five-yard touchdown run by Elijah Holyfield and highlighted by Hardman’s 42-yard reception.
The Georgia defense held again after another three and out. The Dawgs offensive line simply manhandled the Gamecocks during a nine-play, 86 yard drive, that included eight runs. Junior Brian Herrien finished the drive and the Gamecocks with a 15-yard run, giving the Bulldogs a 41-10 lead.
South Carolina scored on a 44-yard touchdown pass with 9:59 remaining to close the gap to 41-17. Georgia showed their domination by closing out the game with a 14-play, 75-yard drive and taking a knee as time expired.
Fromm completed 15 of 18 passes for 194 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Hardman had six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown plus a 30-yard run. Holyfield led a balanced rushing attack with 76 yards. Safety Richard LeCounte led an aggressive Georgia defense with 10 tackles and a pass breakup and the Dawgs limited South Carolina to a total of 336 yards.
Sophomore left tackle Andrew Thomas left the game in the second half with a sprained ankle.
Senior linebacker D’Andre Walker returned to the field in the third quarter after suffering an apparent head injury in the first half.
The temperature reached 100° at field level and many Dawgs could be seen taking oxygen on the sideline. South Carolina did not have oxygen available on the bench.
Georgia returns to action in Athens next Saturday with a 7:15 p.m. game against Middle Tennessee. The game will be televised by ESPN2.