COLUMBIA, S.C. — Aaron Murray and Georgia’s offense spent most of the night grasping at straws and hoping for the best.
The Bulldogs salvaged a little dignity by avoiding a shutout. But that was the highlight of the night South Carolina dismantled Georgia 35-7 on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We got our (tails) handed to us,” Murray said. “It really wasn’t a good game all around.”
Georgia had ranked at or near the top of almost every Southeastern Conference offensive category. But the Bulldogs fell awkwardly flat against South Carolina and came within nearly two minutes of getting shut out for the first time since 1995.
“It feels a little bit better to get seven on the board,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Nobody wants to get shut out. That hurts. It’s embarrassing when people start looking at record books to see the last time Georgia got shut out and that kind of stuff.”
Georgia started the game ranked No. 2 in the SEC in scoring offense (48.2 points per game), No. 1 in total offense (536.0 yards per game) and No. 1 in rushing offense (248.8 per game). But South Carolina turned those numbers upside-down as the Bulldogs totaled just 224 yards and 15 first downs in the game. Georgia’s league-leading rushing duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall totaled 76 yards and didn’t score.
Georgia’s offensive shortfalls were especially obvious early. Georgia gained just 39 yard sand two first downs in the first quarter as South Carolina built a 21-0 lead. When the score stabilized in the second quarter, the Bulldogs didn’t take advantage as they had 18 rushing and 93 passing yards at halftime. Georgia’s best offensive drive of the first half ended when Murray threw a one-yard pass to Rantavious Wooten on fourth-and-goal from the South Carolina 2-yard line.
“We ran into a very good defense,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “We had a couple of opportunities there early even though we fell behind and we just didn’t capitalize on them. You’ve got to give their guys credit. They made plays when it counted. There were too many third-and-long situations early in the game. We couldn’t establish any running game on first or second down and we couldn’t handle their ends (Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor).”
Murray looked especially out of sorts as he completed 11 of 31 passes for 109 yards with an interception and no touchdowns, his lowest output of the season. Murray began the night just one behind David Greene’s school-record 72 touchdown passes and remained there. Murray was only sacked twice but he rarely had time to throw because Clowney and Taylor repeatedly collapsed the pocket and forced quick and inaccurate throws.
“They’ve got great speed and they’re very long human beings,” Richt said of Clowney and Taylor. “I think they’re both (6-foot-8) or (6-foot-6) with long arms. I think there were a couple of times when we were blocking them halfway decent, trying to run them by the quarterback. But their arms are so long and they’re so athletic that Murray’s getting grabbed right at the last moment when he’s trying to move up into the pocket.”
For about the first 10 minutes of the game when the decision was still up for grabs, Georgia managed next to nothing on offense. The Bulldogs’ first drive ended with an interception on the third play. It’s second drive totaled two yards on three snaps and led to a punt that South Carolina’s Ace Sanders returned 70 yards for a touchdown to give South Carolina a 21-0 lead.
“I think we killed ourselves with too many third-and-longs,” Murray said. “When you’re in third and long and they know you’re going to throw the ball, those ends can just gear up. That’s the goal of every defense, to get third-and-long and put the offense in a bad situation.”