COLUMBIA,S.C.—Presented a big stage to validate itself as one of the nation’s elite teams, fifth-ranked Georgia looked entirely out of its element on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs were buried beneath a first-quarter avalanche of points by No. 6 South Carolina, smothered on offense and never recovered in a 35-7 beatdown.
South Carolina jumped out to a 21-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game and was on its way to a rousing victory that thrilled a record-crowd of 85,199 at Williams-Brice Stadium and took the wind out of the sails of a Bulldogs team with championship aspirations.
“We definitely thought we were up there as one of the top teams in the country,” quarterback Aaron Murray said after throwing a career-low 109 yards on 11 of 31 passing while under frequent pressure. “I still think we’re a very talented team. We just didn’t bring it tonight at all. We got our butts handed to us.”
“Over-rated! Over-rated!” the crowd chanted as South Carolina drove for a 7-yard Connor Shaw touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 SEC) won its third straight game against the Bulldogs for the first time ever in a series that dates back to 1894.
“Like I told the team the bad news is we took a whipping,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “The good news is we all took it together. I don’t think anybody could look in the mirror and say I had a great day but the other boys didn’t. It was just a team loss. We got beat by a very good team that was very primed and ready to go.”
The Old Ball Coach now has the upper hand again against his old nemesis. Steve Spurrier is now 15-5 against Georgia as coach of South Carolina and Florida.
“They can’t say they own us anymore, that’s for sure,” Spurrier said of a series that Georgia leads 46-17-2 all-time. “That’s a team that used to beat my alma mater (Florida) very well. I’ve been fortunate as a coach against them, not so much as a player, but as a coach so that was special.”
The Gamecocks knocked Georgia (5-1, 3-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten and snapped the Bulldogs’ 15-game regular season winning streak. They did it in a nationally televised game that was the backdrop site for ESPN’s “College GameDay.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” cornerback Sanders Commings said. “If we remember this, then I don’t think we’ll ever want to have this feeling again.”
Georgia’s national title hopes dimmed.
“They’ll be fine,” Richt said. “You’re supposed to dream big. I want guys to dream big. They’re good men and they’re going to fight and they’re just going to start banging away again. You just never know what can happen.”
Murray will need to return for his senior season to get another shot at his first win against the Gamecocks. He fell to 2-8 against ranked opponents and Georgia slid to 1-9 against top-10 teams since the start of the 2008 season.
Georgia avoided being shutout for the first time since a 35-0 loss to Alabama in 1995 when Ken Malcome scored on a 3-yard run with 1:55 to play that Richt called “a consolation touchdown.”
South Carolina outgained Georgia 177-39 in total offense and 10-2 in first downs in a disaster of first quarter that blew up onGeorgia.
“We definitely sent the message out to the whole country that this is not the old South Carolina,” tailback Marcus Lattimore said. “We can play with y’all. We can play with anybody.”
Said Commings: “Honestly, that team isn’t four touchdowns better than us. Tonight they were. I think it was because of mental mistakes that we made and giving up big plays that we shouldn’t have given up.”
The Bulldogs will need plenty of help if they are to return to the SEC championship game
South Carolina and Florida (5-0, 4-0) have the inside track now, although Georgia still has a favorable schedule, but the way the Bulldogs were dominated in this one will no doubt linger through the coming bye week and up until the next game at Kentuckyon Oct. 20.
Gamecocks fans made Williams-Brice electric at the start, waving white towels as “Sandstorm” played before kickoff.
The Gamecocks kept the energy going scoring touchdowns on its first two drives and getting a 70-yard punt return for touchdown by Ace Sanders.Murray’s first pass attempt of the game was tipped and picked off.
With 5:18 left in the first quarter, Georgia was already down by three touchdowns.
“They built up a lot of momentum and it’s hard when a team like that gets rolling,” Murray said.
The Gamecocks hit two big plays on the game’s opening drive.
Shaw (6 of 10 for 162 yards, 2 TDs; 14 carries, 78 yards, 1 TD) hit Damiere Byrd for a 42-yard completion, winning a battle for the ball in the air with safety Bacarri Rambo. Three plays later, Shaw found Bruce Ellington for a 20-yard touchdown pass on blown coverage.
Kelcy Quarles tipped Murray’s pass that was picked off by safety DeVonte Holloman.
The Gamecocks went 69 yards in 11 plays without much resistance. Marcus Lattimore (104 yards and TD on 24 carries) accounted for 45 yards on the drive. Shaw connected with tight end Rory Anderson for a 14-yard touchdown.
Then after a 40-yard punt by Collin Barber, Sanders fielded the punt at the South Carolina 30, found running room and was gone for the touchdown.
Meanwhile,Georgia’s offense was stymied by a Gamecocks defense that had allowed five touchdowns in five games.
Georgia was averaging 48 points per game with freshmen tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall leading the SEC’s top-rated rushing attack, but end Jadeveon Clowney (four tackles including two for loss and a sack) and company harassed Murray and the Bulldogs’ rushing game was stalled. They finished with 115 yards on 36 carries and Murray failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 14 games.
“You can’t be hitting third-and-longs against a defense like that,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
The Bulldogs were shutout in the first half for the first time since a 20-13 loss to LSU on Oct. 3, 2009.
“I think it was a situation where we were going to have to make a couple big plays to get ourselves energized,” Richt said. “I didn’t see—especially in the first half—being able to generate some kind of a drive because their front was whipping us.”
South Carolina kept coming in the second half.
Shaw hit D.L. Moore for a 62-yard gain, getting behind Commings and Shawn Williams. That set up a one-yard Lattimore touchdown run to make it 28-0.
The Bulldogs reeled off 10 straight regular season wins last year after losing to South Carolina. Now it will need to pick itself up again if it hopes to make a similar run in the second half of this season.
“We still got life,” receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. “It’s a long season. We’ve got more games to play. If we dwell on this game, we’ll lose the next one and lose the next one. We’ve just got to stay focused and keep pushing.”