South Carolina went into Athens with an incredibly tough task ahead of it in No. 1 Georgia, and left with the results you’d expect in a 24-10 defeat to the Bulldogs.
The first half showed some promise. After the Gamecocks elected to receive and Georgia opted for the bizarre power move of a game-opening onside kick, South Carolina had excellent field position. But the drive stalled, and Parker White missed a 46-yard field goal to let the Bulldogs off the hook. Georgia promptly marched its way into the red zone, but the Gamecocks got a break of their own when Terry Godwin fumbled after a catch and South Carolina recovered. The Gamecocks went three-and-out, however, which set up a Georgia scoring drive that was capped by a Sony Michel 8-yard touchdown run.
South Carolina matched that score quickly in the second quarter. After USC covered 75 yards in 3 minutes, 14 seconds, Bryan Edwards pulled in a contested catch that was initially not ruled a touchdown, but overturned upon review. Georgia struck right back with a methodical drive of its own, finishing it off with a Javon Wims 10-yard touchdown catch. While there were some warning signs — inaccurate passes from Jake Bentley, poor tackling attempts, questionable clock management from the coaching staff — a 14-7 halftime deficit nonetheless felt like a positive development.
The Bulldogs returned from the locker room ready to go, leaning on Michel and Nick Chubb to get them down the field and then getting into the end zone with a nice pitch-and-catch from Jake Fromm to Mecole Hardman for a 20-yard touchdown. Down 21-7 and with Georgia’s offense humming, a blowout looked imminent for South Carolina after it went three-and-out on its next possession. But the Gamecocks faked a punt, and a holding penalty on Georgia gave them new life that led to a field goal to trim the deficit to 21-10.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, though, Georgia was able to lean on its running game to simply wear the Gamecocks out. Fatigue set in, and the missed tackles piled up. But South Carolina did manage a goal-line stand that forced Georgia to settle for a field goal, making it 24-10, then started to put together a drive. But Georgia got the Gamecocks to turn it over on downs, and after South Carolina forced a punt to seize one last chance on offense, Bentley threw an interception that sealed the game.
While Georgia amassed 242 rushing yards on 53 carries — a performance you’d expect from a team with so many riches at running back — Jake Fromm stole the show a bit, going an effective 16-of-22 passing for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Many of his throws were slants and intermediate routes, but combined with play-action, that was enough to eat the Gamecocks up for much of the afternoon. The Bulldogs showed their offense isn’t as one-dimensional as some might have thought.
On the South Carolina side of things, the running game was a no-show with 43 yards on 17 carries, with A.J. Turner gaining most of those (35). The receivers fared better, highlighted by the return of Hayden Hurst (seven catches, 93 yards), a few really nice grabs by Bryan Edwards (seven catches, 62 yards), and solid play from the Smiths (36 yards for OrTre, 28 for Shi). The Gamecocks just lack the depth and overall talent to run with a well-rounded playoff contender.
South Carolina falls to 6-3, 4-3 in the SEC, and will face a floundering Florida team in Williams-Brice next week. Fans will undoubtedly have strong differences of opinion about this loss, but the Gamecocks turned in a respectable effort against the division champion in a hostile environment. The Gators represent a different and more achievable benchmark, so the more important thing for USC is to avoid letting this loss beat it twice.