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No. 2 Bulldogs beat down Gamecocks, 40-13

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Well, that was painful.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks caught a good old-fashioned, behind-the-barn beatdown at the hands of the second-ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday night in Athens, falling 40-13 in a contest that was never particularly close and featured Luke Doty making his season debut while constantly running for his life.

The Bulldogs got off to a hot start, as presumably injured starting quarterback JT Daniels showed plenty of vigor in guiding Georgia quickly down the field and into the end zone on the game’s first possession, with a James Cook 23-yard run sealing the scoring drive.

The Gamecocks mounted a response, however, as Zeb Noland’s 58-yard strike to Josh Vann down the sideline set South Carolina up in the red zone. The drive stalled when the Bulldog defensive line smothered any chances of a touchdown, but Parker White got USC in the scoring column with a 37-yard field goal to make it 7-3.

Georgia went right back to work, though, mixing in some tempo, with Daniels quickly tossing a 43-yard touchdown to Jermaine Burton that put the Dawgs up 14-3. On South Carolina’s next drive, quarterback Luke Doty finally made his season debut, entering for Noland after UGA stepped on his hand in the previous series. Another big gain to Vann was unfortunately erased when he bobbled the catch and officials determined the ball touched the ground, so the Gamecocks were ultimately forced to punt.

South Carolina’s fortunes reversed when Stetson Bennett entered the game for UGA and promptly threw an interception to Jaylan Foster, who happily returned it to the 10-yard line. The Gamecocks stalled out, though, hampered by procedural penalties and confusion — but White again put points on the board for South Carolina, drilling a 27-yarder this time to draw within 14-6 as the first quarter came to a close.

After the Gamecocks forced the first punt of the game with a nice defensive possession, Doty linked up with Vann again for another big gain — which, while a clean catch this time, had 15 yards erased for one of the weaker taunting flags you’ll see. That was it for South Carolina on that drive, and USC followed UGA’s three-and-out with its first punt as well.

Georgia got back into the end zone on its next possession, aided by yet another poorly-timed Gamecock penalty, when Adonai Mitchell got behind the USC defense for a 38-yard score to push the advantage to 21-6. Both teams traded punts, and UGA pinned South Carolina to the 1-yard line — and the Gamecocks promptly gave up a safety trying to do too much before the end of the half. The Bulldogs burned South Carolina further, hustling down the field and getting in position to tack on a 36-yard field goal to take a 26-6 lead into the locker room.

The nightmare continued for the Gamecocks, as South Carolina opened the second half with an interception that bounced off Kevin Harris and led to a UGA touchdown, this time courtesy of a 5-yard Zamir White scamper. It didn’t get much better on USC’s next possession, which ended with a Doty fumble despite some positive momentum after a few solid Harris rushes. Georgia cashed in, tossing a 4-yard touchdown to Cook to make it 40-6, which closed the scoring for the quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, O’Donnell Fortune provided a sight for sore eyes with another defensive highlight for the Gamecocks when he recovered a fumble forced by RJ Roderick. Vann finally got a highlight of his own with 36-yard scoring reception from Doty, putting USC in double digits to make it 40-13 — and, incidentally, scoring the first offensive touchdown on UGA this season.

And thus concluded a difficult game to watch in which the Gamecocks did manage to beat the spread, at least. South Carolina (2-1) faces Kentucky in Columbia next week at 7 p.m.

NOTE: The Gamecocks lost veteran linebacker Sherrod Greene on the game’s first possession, and unfortunately, it did not look good. Sending all the good vibes to him.