(AJ Reynolds/Staff, @ajreynoldsphoto)
Georgia wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (86) and Georgia wide receiver Michael Bennett (82) celebrate after a catch during the first half the NCAA college football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
It’s hard to argue with what Georgia’s offense accomplished against South Carolina on Saturday, especially in keeping Jadeveon Clowney’s long arms mostly off of quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray passed for an interception-free 309 yards and four touchdowns and was sacked twice (half as many times as last week at Clemson). The Bulldogs were also resourceful, spreading the ball around to eight receivers, including Justin Scott-Wesley, the recently promoted rising star who finished with a team-high 116 yards and the Bulldogs’ insurance touchdown on an 85-yard reception in the fourth quarter. Tailback Todd Gurley also had another big game with 132 yards rushing and a touchdown and caught one pass, also for a score.
Some of the previous week’s mistakes were cleared up, but the Bulldogs’ youth definitely showed again at times, and South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw passed for 228 yards and two touchdowns and the Gamecocks rushed for 226 yards and another pair of scores. The defense’s saving grace is that it showed up when it mattered most with a goal-line stand in the middle of the fourth quarter. Though there are still concerns for Georgia moving forward, such as shoring up the secondary, the defense can take some pride in knowing it limited Clemson and South Carolina, both among the country’s best offenses, to a combined 68 points. It’s likely to only get better — and arguably easier — from here.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Blake Sailors, a former Oconee County High standout, recovered a first-quarter onside kick for Georgia that led to a Bulldogs field goal and gave the team a torrent of early momentum. Patrick Beless could not have been more consistent, kicking field goals from 22 and 37 yards out and hitting all five of his point-after attempts, and the Bulldogs didn’t allow a return on their lone successful punt. Take away Collin Barber’s botched punt attempt in the second quarter, which quickly led to a South Carolina touchdown, and the Bulldogs’ special teams play was remarkably efficient with the opportunities it had.
Georgia’s game was far from flawless, but Saturday’s win was a gem for a team that had not defeated South Carolina since 2009. It’ll serve as vindication for Georgia’s offense, which is priding itself on firepower, proof or Murray’s continued improvement and as yet another test (this one passed) by the defense. At 1-0 in SEC play, the Bulldogs’ hopes of returning to Atlanta for the conference championship game look better than they have in years at this point in a season.
MORE COVERAGE OF GEORGIA’S WIN OVER SOUTH CAROLINA