No. 24 South Carolina hosted No. 3 Georgia with an eye on announcing themselves as the top dogs (pun intended) in the SEC East. The Gamecocks thought they had the quarterback (junior Jake Bentley), the personnel (led by do-it-all star Deebo Samuel) and the game plan to overwhelm the Bulldogs by wearing Georgia’s defense down through a hurry-up offense that would throw the ball all over the field, thereby wilting the larger Bulldogs in the Columbia heat.
The problem: Georgia was well-prepared and well-equipped to handle such an attack. They may have lost a lot of talent from 2017’s SEC champion squad, but the players who stuck around are pretty good, too.
South Carolina accepted the ball to open the game and threw right at Georgia. This proved to backfire, as Georgia teed off on South Carolina’s skill players. On South Carolina’s fifth snap of the game, all passes to that point, Bentley hit running back Rico Dowdle, who bobbled the ball, which was intercepted by Georgia’s Deandre Baker. Baker returned the ball for a would-be touchdown, but dropped the pigskin just shy of the goal line; Juwan Taylor hopped on the loose ball for a Bulldogs touchdown.
Georgia (2-0, 1-0 SEC) forced a three-and-out on South Carolina’s next touch, then swiftly moved down the field to take a 14-0 lead, needing only four snaps to traverse 76 yards, the last 17 on a D’Andre Swift run.
South Carolina climbed back in the game over the next quarter-plus, but whiffed on two chances to even the score. First, after a 13-yard Samuel pass to Bryan Edwards pulled the Gamecocks within 14-7, South Carolina took over at the Georgia 34 when a Rashad Fenton intercepted an errant Jake Fromm pass. But the Gamecocks moved only yard before turning the ball over on downs, and Georgia capitalized with a Rodrigo Blankenship field goal to push their lead to 17-7.
South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC) pulled back within seven through a field goal of its own and threatened to tie the game just before half, moving to midfield inside the first half’s final minute. But the drive stalled and Joseph Charlton‘s punt sailed just 18 yards. Armed with good field position and two timeouts, Fromm maneuvered Georgia to the USC 27, allowing Blankenship to again stake Georgia to a two-possession lead as time expired in the first half.
Leading 20-10 at the break, Georgia took the ball to open the second half and emphatically shut the door with a third quarter that highlighted the actual distance between the two programs. It was five consecutive possessions that saw Georgia march 75 yards for a touchdown, force a South Carolina three-and-out, move 75 yards for another touchdown, force another South Carolina three-and-out, and then again march the field (this time 86 yards) for a third touchdown in a 12-minute blitzkrieg.
The first score came on a 34-yard pass from Fromm to Mecole Hardman, the second a 5-yard Elijah Holyfield run and the third a 15-yard Brian Herrian dash.
In all, Georgia racked up 21 third quarter points while moving 236 yards in 21 plays and limiting South Carolina to 16 yards in six snaps. That third quarter staked Georgia to a 41-10 win, and the Bulldogs cruised to a 41-17 victory. The win was Georgia’s eighth straight against SEC East competition and fourth straight over its neighbors to the north.
Bentley threw the ball 47 times on the day, completing 30 for 269 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. While throwing the ball nearly 50 times for less than six yards an attempt may have been part of the plan, the running production was not. South Carolina rushed the ball 20 times for just 54 yards.
Fromm completed an efficient 15-of-18 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and a pick, while nine Bulldogs combined to rush 52 times for 271 yards and three touchdowns.