Georgia vs. South Carolina score, takeaways: Dawgs stumble early, dominate second half behind Carson Beck
The No. 1 Dawgs erased an 11-point deficit at halftime to cruise by the Gamecocks in the second half at home
No. 1 Georgia held off a South Carolina upset bid, storming back in the second half from an 11-point deficit at the break to take control of the game the rest of the way. It wasn't pretty for the Bulldogs in their SEC opener, but every win counts the same in the standings no matter how easily you come across them.
Seriously, this was not an easy win. The Bulldogs may have been favored by four touchdowns before the game, but they didn't look the part throughout. South Carolina opened with a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that ultimately proved costly. Antwane Wells caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Rattler to end the drive -- while his day ended, too, as Wells suffered a foot injury that knocked him from the game. The Gamecocks could've used his services in the second half.
Georgia didn't have much trouble moving the ball in the first half, but the issue was stalling out in the red zone. A 15-play, 62-yard drive ended with a field goal, while a 13-play, 72-yard trek ended with a missed field goal. Meanwhile, South Carolina turned up the heat on Georgia with a touchdown drive just before halftime to make it a 14-3 game.
Then the second half started, and with it came the Georgia adjustments. The Bulldogs scored on their first two possessions of the second half while the defense smothered the Gamecocks. While the final margin may have only been 10 points, once Georgia took a 24-14 lead midway through the third quarter, South Carolina never had a chance to make it a game again. The Gamecocks offense ran only two plays in Georgia territory during the second half, failing to get past the Georgia 44-yard line.
Carson Beck threw for 269 yards for the Bulldogs, while Daijun Edwards led the way on the ground rushing for 118 yards and a score.
1. Georgia has red-zone issues
On one hand, you look at Georgia's first two games against UT-Martin and Ball State and feel you shouldn't read too far into either game. That's why I wasn't all that concerned about Georgia's inability to finish in the red zone despite winning those games by a combined score of 93-10. After those games, the Dawgs had a red-zone TD efficiency of 60%, which ranked 81st nationally. But then today happens, and again, Georgia struggled in the red zone. The Georgia offense reached the red zone six times in nine possessions (not counting the end-of-half possessions) but managed only 24 points in those six trips. It finished with three touchdowns, a field goal and two missed field goals.
The inability to finish drives keeps teams like South Carolina hanging around in games and puts Georgia at risk of slipping up. South Carolina wasn't able to take advantage of it today. Georgia's defense was simply too much for the Gamecocks to overcome. But, what happens if somebody like Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss or Tennessee does finish drives later in the season while the Dawgs are still struggling to do so? For a team that doesn't have any glaring flaws, this might be Georgia's biggest concern right now.
2. Georgia has injury issues
The other concern is health; Georgia has been banged up all season. Javon Bullard dressed but did not play, while Ladd McConkey sat out for his third straight game. Georgia is still relying on walk-ons like Cash Jones (two carries, 20 yards, TD) to get carries as it deals with running back injuries. And did I mention Kendall Milton (seven carries, 25 yards) sat most of the second half with a knee injury? Oh, and before halftime, starting tackle Amarius Mims limped to the locker room before showing up on crutches during the second half.
The great thing about recruiting the way Georgia does is you end up with plenty of depth on the roster. However, ask any coach if they'd prefer having depth or using that depth -- having it will win in a landslide. You only want to use your depth when you're up 40 in the second half.
3. Georgia will probably be fine anyway
I mean, it's Georgia. While there are concerns, it's hard to find yourself getting too worried about the two-time reigning national champions. If you've followed the SEC closely this season, you've noticed a severe lack of another team that looks good enough to mount a real challenge to Georgia. As I write this, Alabama is struggling to put South Florida away a week after losing at home to Texas. Sure, a road trip to Auburn at the end of the month could be difficult and the November schedule turns the difficulty up a notch, but even with these concerns, Georgia still looks like the cream of the crop in the SEC.
4. Spencer Rattler deserves a Purple Heart equivalent
I don't know if I've ever done more of a 180 in my feelings for a college football player. To be blunt, I did not like Rattler at Oklahoma. I didn't like what I saw in the QB1 documentary he was a part of, and he gave off a cocky, selfish vibe when watching him play. I have no problem with a QB being cocky, I actually prefer it, but the selfish part was a red flag. I didn't like how he handled losing his job to Caleb Williams (of course, I didn't like how Oklahoma fans handled it, either).
Now, though? After watching the abuse Rattler has put himself through in the first three weeks of the season, I would run through a wall for him.
South Carolina has serious problems on its offensive line. It lost its starting tackles before the season and came into Saturday allowing 11.5 tackles for loss per game. That was the worst mark in the nation and won't improve much after Georgia finished with seven tackles for loss and three sacks today.
Those numbers only tell half the story. Rattler dropped back to pass 42 times and took shots on at least half of them. Time after time he stood in the pocket as a future NFL player in a Georgia uniform bore down on him, and he took the punishment because it was what he had to do to help his team win.
These are not the actions of a selfish player. Rattler sacrificed himself for his team repeatedly, even after it became clear that neither he nor his team would be rewarded with a victory. Spencer Rattler is an absolute warrior, and I hope South Carolina fans appreciate him. I know NFL teams will.
Rattler picked off
Rattler goes down the left sideline on 2nd and 20 and is picked off by Dan Jackson. That should warp it up for real this time, as there's only 4:01 left. Even if the Gamecocks get a stop I don't think they'll have enough time to score twice.
South Carolina gets the stop it had to have
Georgia goes three and out for the first time today and the Gamecocks have a pulse. It's still a faint one, though, seeing as how the Georgia punt pins them inside the 10.
Turnover on downs
South Carolina goes for it on 4th and 15 because it had to, but Spencer Rattler's pass is underthrown. Georgia gets the ball back at the SC46 with 7:43 left, and we're probably a few hand-offs away from being done here.
That may wrap it up
Cash Jones is money and scores from 13 yards out to make it 24-14 Georgia with 9:10 left to play. It was an efficient, 8-play, 61-yard TD drive by the Dawgs. Considering South Carolina has 32 yards of offense and no points in the second half, it's hard to imagine the Gamecocks are going to mount a comeback. That said, this is college football, and I've seen crazier things.
The Gamecocks do nothing with the opportunity
It's another three-and-out. Spencer Rattler is crushed on third down and the pass should've been caught, but that rain I mentioned may have had something to do with the drop. Georgia starts at the UGA 39 following a punt.
The real rain has arrived
It's been wet all day, but it's really coming down right now.
Georgia missed another field goal
Perspective means a lot. For some of you, South Carolina's defense is doing an incredible job of getting stops and keeping the Gamecocks in the game. For others, Georgia is shooting itself in the foot with penalties and special teams miscues.
The Georgia offense was firing on all cylinder until -- and stop me if you've heard this before -- it stalled out in the red zone. A holding call leads to a 43-yard field goal attempt, and the attempt sails far right of the upright. It's still a 17-14 game. South Carolina gets another shot.
Another injury update
Georgia RB Kendall Milton is dealing with a left knee injury and it's unclear whether he'll return. Amarius Mims is officially out with an ankle injury.
Well, fun depends on which team you're rooting for. Anyway, Georgia has won three of the last four games in which it has trailed by double-digits. That includes two last season. South Carolina led this game by 11. Georgia currently leads 17-14. Will it be four of five, or can South Carolina buck the trend?
Georgia's defense wins out
Spencer Rattler makes a couple of nice throws to get South Carolina into Georgia territory, but then the dam breaks. Georgia sacks him for an 8-yard loss on third down to derail the drive and the Gamecocks are forced to punt. Georgia now has three sacks and seven tackles for loss on the afternoon. Rattler's hitting enough big plays, but the struggles up front are keeping South Carolina from being able to string some "singles" together to keep drives goine.
South Carolina's lead is gone
That was quick. The third quarter isn't even halfway finished, but Georgia has already erased the 11-point deficit. The Dawgs go 49 yards on nine plays with Dillon Bell finishing it on a three-yard touchdown run. It cannot be overstated how it feels like this game has flipped on its head. South Carolina looks like a team that's had the wind knocked out of its chest. This next possession will be quite the litmus test.
This is not what South Carolina was hoping for
Georgia immediately comes out of the locker room with a touchdown drive. South Carolina's answer? It goes three-and-out, losing four yards in the process. Sanford Stadium is rocking again, and this is a pivotal possession for both teams. Georgia has great field position at the SC 49.
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