COLUMBIA - The South Carolina Gamecocks had a glimmer of hope entering the second half of their football game against No. 3 Georgia on Saturday.
No. 24 USC trailed 20-10, but Georgia kicked a field goal on the last play of the first half and …
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No. 24 USC trailed 20-10, but Georgia kicked a field goal on the last play of the first half and scored a touchdown off an interception. The Carolina defense had held the Bulldogs to a respectable 183 yards in the first half.
However, when play began in the second half, the UGA offense imposed its will on South Carolina.
Georgia had two 75-yard scoring drives and an 86-yard TD drive in the third quarter to blow the game open an go on to a 41-17 triumph at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"We go whooped on the line of scrimmage," said South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp. "At the end of the day, we discussed that the line of scrimmage would be a key part of the game and we did not perform well.
"We could not stop the run defensively as we allowed them to score 21 points on their first three drives of the second half. Again, we have to continue to move forward and get better."
The Bulldogs, who played for the national title last season, received the second-half kickoff. They needed just six plays and 2 minutes, 5 seconds, to get in the end zone. Quarterback Jake Fromm connected with Mecole Hardman for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Rodrigo Blankenship kicked the extra point to make it 27-10.
The Gamecocks, who fell to 1-1 on the season, went three downs and out on their first possession of the second half. UGA got the ball back at its 25 and again needed just six plays to reach the end zone. Fromm connected with Hardman for a 42-yard gain to the USC 5-yard line. Running back Elijah Holyfield scored on the next play to make it 34-10 with 9:12 still remaining in the third quarter.
Carolina again went 3-and-out and the Bulldogs again reached the end zone. They ran nine plays, eight of them on the ground with none shorter than four yards. Seventy-eight of the drive's 86 yards came via the run with Brian Herrien going the final 15 yards to push the lead to 41-10.
UGA had 226 yards of total offense in the third quarter alone. It finished with 473 yards of total offense.
"They're very good on the line of scrimmage," Muschamp said of Georgia. "They're massive in their offensive line. We've got to be able to play better up front, play blocks better up front, disengage up front, make better tackles in space.
"We got the ball on the perimeter too many times today. Overall, we need to continue to improve and we will."
The Gamecocks found themselves in a quick 14-0 hole but battled back to 17-10 on a 26-yard field goal by Parker White with 5:57 remaining in the first half. They then forced Georgia to punt and took over at their 12 with 1:59 remaining.
USC moved the ball out to its 49 before the drive stalled. With the normally reliable Joseph Charlton punting, Carolina looked to pin Georgia deep in its territory. Instead, Charlton shanked a punt and it went only 18 yards, setting the Bulldogs up at their 33. They managed to move to the South Carolina 27 to set Blankenship up for a 44-yard field goal as time expired to make it 20-10.
"We made a critical error on the shanked punt to end the first half, which allowed them to get three points to end the half and take the momentum going into the second half," Muschamp said. "That was a critical error on our part. We have to be able to flip the field there on the punt."
USC got the ball to start the game and its receivers had trouble holding on to the football. One of those let cornerback Deandre Baker intercept a pass from quarterback Jake Bentley at the Georgia 44. He went down the sideline and would have had a 56-yard TD return, but he dropped the ball at 1. However, UGA's Juwan Taylor picked it up and went in the end zone to make it 7-0 just 47 seconds into the game.
"It is frustrating getting a tipped ball intercepted and returned for a touchdown," Muschamp said. "It was a big momentum builder for them to start the game like that."
Carolina went 3-and-out on its next possession and Georgia went 76 yards in just four plays. Hardman had a 30-yard run and a personal foul at the end of the play set the Bulldogs, who improved to 2-0, up at the USC 17. Running back D'Andre Swift scored on the next play and it was 14-0 with 11:50 still remaining.
Carolina responded with its best drive of the game, marching 76 yards in 11 plays. It ended with wide receiver Deebo Samuel taking a handoff in motion from Bentley. When Georgia's secondary stepped up to take away the run from Samuel, fellow wide receiver Bryan Edwards released into the end zone and Samuel connected with him for a 13-yard TD pass. White added the extra point to make it 14-7 with 7:18 to go in the first quarter.
Carolina cornerback Rashad Fenton came up with an interception on Georgia's ensuing possession. He returned it 16 yards to set up the South Carolina offense at the Georgia 34. USC could manage only one yard though and turned it over on downs.
Georgia was able to drive to the Gamecock 28 and got a 45-yard field goal from Blankenship with 30 seconds left in the first quarter to make it 17-7.
South Carolina put together another impressive drive, going 71 yards in 14 plays. However, it stalled at the Georgia 9 and White came on to kick the field goal that made it 17-10.
Former Crestwood High School standout running back Ty'Son Williams had 27 yards on the drive. He had three carries for 21 yards and caught a 6-yard pass from Bentley.
USC only had 54 yards rushing with Williams getting 26 of them on six carries. He had two catches for 11 yards.
"We kept fighting and got it back to a 17-10 ball game," Muschamp said. "Give our kids credit; they fought their butts off and got themselves back in that position."
Bentley completed 30 of 47 passes for 269 yards and one TD against two interceptions. Edwards had seven catches for 111 yards and two scores.
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