Georgia and South Carolina entered this afternoon’s contest in Columbia as contenders for the SEC East. And while one game into the conference schedule is far too early to rule any team out, it’s pretty clear now which of these schools is the front runner and which one is running behind.
Georgia led all the way, then poured it on in the second half to capture a commanding 41-17 win in the Dawgs’ SEC opener.
South Carolina actually held a slight lead in offensive yardage and time of possession coming out of the half. But timely playmaking by the Bulldogs and clutch kicking by Rod Blankenship staked the Athenians to a 17-7 lead at the intermission. Then, things started to look frighteningly familiar for the Gamecocks.
Jake Fromm hit Mecole Hardman on a 34 yard touchdown pass on the Dawgs’ first drive of the third quarter (Hardman led all Bulldog receivers with 6 catches for 103 yards). A quick 3 and out for the Carolinians and Fromm was at it again. This time the sophomore led the Bulldogs on a second straight 6 play, 75 yard drive, this one ending in an Elijah Holyfield 5 yard touchdown run. Suddenly the Bulldogs’ advantage was 34-10, and this one was on its way to being out of hand.
UGA ran for 104 yards in the first half, but ground out 167 in the second. It’s slight deficit in time of possession turned into a whopping 11 minute advantage by the end of the game (35:43 to 24:17). Elijah Holyfield finished as the Bulldogs’ leading rusher, with 76 yards on 9 carries. Fromm was characteristically workmanlike, completing 15 of 18 passes for 194 yards.
Will Muschamp’s team needed to establish a running game to keep the defense off the field late in this one. For the second season in a row, it just didn’t happen. The ‘Cocks rushed 20 times for 54 yards, a disappointing 2.7 yards per carry. It turns out Georgia may not yet be quite as stifling against the run as they were at the end of 2017, but the early returns are promising.
Gamecock signal caller Jake Bentley threw ‘til his arm fell off, going 30 of 47 for 269 yards. But Bentley alone just wasn’t enough to carry the Garnet and Black. His first of two interceptions led directly to the Dawgs’ first points of the game, his second pick ended a late scoring threat and effectively signaled the last gasp for Coach Boom’s boys in this one.
The Red and Black will return to Athens next Saturday for a 7:15 contest against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.