There are a variety of skills required to become a championship college football team, both physical and mental. One of the most critical? Winning despite not playing your best football.
That is precisely what Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs did in Sanford Stadium this evening, beating the South Carolina Gamecocks 24-10. The Red and Black never trailed. They also never led by more than the 14 point final margin of victory.
Jake Fromm emerged victorious in the first head-to-head battle between two young quarterbacks who will duel again in the future. Fromm, who you may have heard can’t pass, completed 16 of 22 throws for a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions (though he did have a couple of ill-advised balls that were in serious peril). In short, he was pretty accurate and efficient for a guy who isn’t supposed to be. But he’s still a freshman.
The Gamecocks’ sophomore Jake Bentley likewise acquitted himself well, hitting 21 of 35 for 227 yards and a picture perfect touchdown pass to Bryan Edwards.
Bentley, however, also tossed a couple of interceptions, one late in the first half that didn’t really do any damage but another by Malkom Parrish which sealed the deal with under two minutes to play.
Nick Chubb notched his fourth 100+ yard game of the season, converting 20 carries into 102 hard-fought yards. Sony Michel added 81 yards on 16 carries, and is now fifth on the Bulldog all time rushing list with 3091 yards.
Jim Chaney’s unit rolled up 438 yards of total offense ,held a decisive 38:22 to 21:38 edge in time of possession, and an equally imposing 26/14 lead in first downs. It was a dogged and gentlemanly strangulation a Gamecock defense that came into the game with some trouble defending the run and left in the same boat.
The Bulldog defense on the other hand gave up 145 yards and 7 points in the first half, 125 and 3 in the second. The 270 yards was the Columbians’ second lowest total on the season (behind a 253 yard effort versus Tennessee). The Garnet and Black accumulated only 43 measly rushing yards, amazingly only their third lowest total of the season.
The numbers perhaps conceal the fact that the unit gave up a pair of 3rd and long conversions on South Carolina’s lone touchdown drive, and also had a couple of penalties that helped the Gamecock offense either stay on the field or emerge from the shadow of its own goal post. It was an effort that to this spectator looked better on the stat sheet than it did on the field.
It’s hard to be too upset about a two touchdown victory that clinched the SEC East. But this one was not the Bulldogs’ best football of the season, and will give the coaches plenty of ammunition this week to remind their charges what standard they’re striving for. If you’re going to semi-lay a semi-egg, it’s better to do it against a semi-contender like South Carolina than next week in Auburn against Gus Malzahn’s Tigers. Until later . . .