(Updated 11:50 p.m.)
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Remember the Georgia defense that ranked among the nation’s top five last season and expected to be even better this season?
It once again was nowhere to be found Saturday night.
The Bulldogs’ defense ranked an inexplicable 55th among FBS teams in yards allowed through this season’s first five games and looked even worse in Game 6, a 35-7 loss to South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.
The Georgia defense was porous on South Carolina’s first two possessions, allowing touchdown drives of 76 and 69 yards that gave the Gamecocks a 14-0 lead and set the tone for what was to be a long night for the Bulldogs. A special-teams touchdown –- a 70-yard punt return — stretched South Carolina’s lead to 21-0 with 5:18 still to play in the first quarter.
“We said we were going to fight back,” cornerback Sanders Commings said, “and unfortunately we couldn’t tonight.”
Any remote chance of Georgia getting back into the game seemed to slip away in the third quarter when the defense was burned on a long pass to the 1-yard line, setting up a score that gave the Gamecocks a 28-0 lead.
By the long night’s end, Georgia’s defense had allowed 392 yards. The Gamecocks ran for 230, including 109 on 24 carries by tailback Marcus Lattimore and 78 on 14 carries by quarterback Connor Shaw. Shaw, the dual-threat quarterback from Flowery Branch, threw only 10 passes but completed six of them for 162 yards, an average of 27 yards per completion.
“We just made a lot of bonehead mistakes,” Commings said. “Giving up big plays, jumping offsides — we just can’t do things like that and win ballgames. … It was just lack of focus on our part. When that happens, it’s easy for a team to make a big play, and that’s what they did.”
On South Carolina’s first possession, South Carolina receivers twice got behind Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo for long pass plays –- 42 yards from Shaw to Damiere Byrd and 20 yards from Shaw to Bruce Ellington for the touchdown. Rambo recovered on the first to the point of almost intercepting the pass, but Byrd took it out of his hands.
On the Gamecocks’ second possession, the Georgia defense yielded a methodical 11-play drive that included a 16-yard pass from Shaw to Lattimore and a 14-yard touchdown throw from Shaw to wide-open tight end Rory Anderson.
“We gave up two touchdowns right off the bat on explosive plays. You can’t do that,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “We had a chance to make a play there [on the 42-yard pass to Byrd]. We didn’t. Give them credit. We dug ourselves a hole.”
Another lowlight for the defense: South Carolina’s D.L. Moore ran past Commings in the third quarter and caught a 62-yard pass from Shaw, going down at the 1-yard line. Lattimore scored on the next play.
“Us losing like this, I definitely don’t think they’re that many points better than us,” Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “We could have executed better, and we could have done a lot of things better than we did. We can’t make excuses. It is what it is. They played well. They executed. They made plays.”
Said Grantham: “It’s tough when these things happen, but the thing you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to take an evaluation of yourself and say, ‘What have I got to do as a player and a coach to get better and work through it and make sure that we improve so that when we play in two weeks we’re a much better football team?”
COMPLETE COVERAGE OF GEORGIA-SOUTH CAROLINA GAME