Gamecocks dominate Bulldogs in 35-7 victory

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.

Marc Weiszer

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. That took the wind out of the sails of a Bulldogs team with championship aspirations.

“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.

The Old Ball Coach now has the upper hand against his old nemesis. Steve Spurrier is now 15-5 against Georgia as coach of South Carolina and Florida.

The Gamecocks knocked Georgia (5-1, 3-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten and snapped a 15-game regular season winning streak that began after a loss to South Carolina on September 10, 2011.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will need to return for his senior season to get another shot at his first win against the Gamecocks.

Murray 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 with a 3-yard touchdown from Ken Malcome run with 1:55 to play.

South Carolina outgained Georgia 177-39 in total offense and 10-2 in first downs in a disaster of first quarter that blew up on Georgia.

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 Kentucky on 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.

The Gamecocks hit two big plays on the game’s opening drive.

Connor 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 hit Bruce Ellington for a 20-yard touchdown pass on blown coverage.

Malcom Mitchell’s 47-yard kickoff return helped Georgia get good field position on its first possession, but Murray had his first pass of the game tipped at the line of scrimmage by Kelcy Quarles and picked off by a diving safety DeVonte Holloman.

The Gamecocks took advantage, going 69 yards in 11 plays without much resistance. Marcus Lattimore (104 yards and TD on 24 carries) rushed for 23 yards on five carries on the drive and picked up another 22 on two catches. Shaw found tight end Rory Anderson for a 14-yard touchdown. It appeared that linebacker Amarlo Herrera was out of position.

Then after a 40-yard punt by Collin Barber, Sanders fielded the punt at the South Carolina 30 and found running room. He deked out Barber and Connor Norman dove for him at the Georgia 40, but he was gone for the touchdown.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense was stymied by a Gamecocks defense that ranked sixth in the nation in points allowed.

Georgia entered the game averaging 48 points per game and with freshmen tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall leading the SEC’s top-rated rushing attack, but Murray (11 of 31 for 109 yards, 1 interception) was under pressure by the Gamecocks’ imposing line and the Bulldogs’ rushing game was stalled. They finished with 115 yards on 36 carries.

The result: the Bulldogs were shutout in the first half for the first time since a 20-13 loss to LSU on Oct. 3, 2009.

It was their largest halftime deficit since the 2008 game against then No. 8 Alabama when the Crimson Tide led 31-0 and beat then-No. 3 Georgia 41-30.