Bulldogs rally past Gamecocks in SEC opener
ATHENS, Ga. — The top-ranked Georgia football team had to work for its first Southeastern Conference win of the season, rallying from 14-3 down at halftime to defeat South Carolina, 24-14, on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium
The Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC) got three rushing touchdowns in the second half, and its defense ramped up its pressure on quarterback Spencer Rattler to shift the momentum of the game, played in front of another capacity crowd of 92,746.
Quarterback Carson Beck was 13 of 18 for 98 yards in the first half, and finished the game 27 of 35 for 269 yards. The Bulldogs outgained the Gamecocks (1-2, 0-1) 458 to 309 in total yards, including a 189-53 advantage on the ground.
The Bulldogs trailed for the first time this season after just over five minutes Saturday, when the Gamecocks, on third-and-15, finished off a 65-yard drive. Spencer Rattler threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Antwane Wells for a 7-0 lead with 9:56 left in the first quarter.
Georgia was able to cut into the lead on its first drive, which ended with a 31-yard Peyton Woodring field goal with 2:02 remaining in the period. In his first action of the season after missing the first two games with an injury, running back Daijun Edwards started in the backfield and ran the ball on the first two plays and three times on the drive.
Late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs drove deep into Gamecock territory, and had a first-and-goal from the 10, but couldn’t come away with any points after a missed 28-yard field goal attempt with 3:27 left in the half.
South Carolina seized the momentum right before the half with an 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a two-yard Dakereon Joyner run with 1:00 on the clock. The Gamecocks led 14-3 at the break.
Georgia received the kickoff to start the second half and went right to work offensively. Powered by a 36-yard completed from Beck to wideout Rara Thomas, followed on the next play by a 15-yard run from Kendall Milton, and then capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by Edwards, Georgia cut the South Carolina lead to 14-10 with 12:20 remaining in the quarter.
The Georgia defense followed that with its best possession of the game, a three-and-out that included a stuffed run, a four-yard sack by defensive end Mykel Williams, and then an incompletion on third-and-long. After the Gamecock punt, Georgia took over at the South Carolina 49 just 80 seconds after Edwards’ touchdown.
Georgia’s offense kept rolling on its second possession of the quarter, marching 49 yards for a 17-14 lead after wideout Dillon Bell’s three-yard touchdown run after lining up in the backfield. On first down at the Gamecock 25, Beck pitched to Edwards for nine yards, then hit receiver Dominic Lovett on the left side for a 14-yard gain to the 3, setting up Bell’s short run.
Early in the fourth quarter, after the Bulldogs had drive down to the South Carolina 16, Georgia came up empty after another drive reached the red zone. A missed 33-yard field goal attempt with 13:45 remaining in the game kept the score 17-14 despite a 366-212 yardage advantage in Georgia’s favor.
A third-and-long pass breakup by safety David Daniel-Sisavanh forced the Gamecocks into another three-and-out. Georgia took over at its 39-yard line, and used a variety of weapons to find the end zone for a 24-14 lead with 9:10 remaining.
On first down, Bell, back in the backfield, ran for eight yards, followed by a four-yarder. Edwards then spotted for 16 yards over three straight carries. Then Beck hit wideout Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint for a seven-yard completion, followed by a 13-yarder to tight end Brock Bowers. Running back Cash Jones then closed out the drive with a 13-yard run up the right side for the score.
Safety Dan Jackson helped put the finishing touches on the Georgia win — and second-half shutout — with an interception at the Bulldog 22 with 4:01 left in the game. Smith added another interception, his second in as many games, with 18 seconds left.
After completing 16 of 18 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown in the first half, Rattler finished the game 22 of 42 for 256 yards and the two fourth-quarter interceptions.
With the win, the Bulldogs extended a trio of lengthy streaks: Georgia has now won 20 straight games overall, a school-record 30 regular-season games in a row, and this was their 21st straight win on Dooley Field. The two-time defending national champions have now won 32 of their last 33 games.
The Bulldogs will wrap up their four-game homestand to open the season next Saturday night when they take on UAB at 7:30 p.m.
*Defense Posts 2nd Half Shutout In Win: USC tallied 180 yards on 26 plays in the first half for a 14-3 advantage, but then the Bulldogs blanked the Gamecocks the rest of the way. USC finished with 309 yards on 58 plays. Coming in today, Georgia had allowed just 10 points on the year.
Georgia’s leading tacklers were junior Smael Mondon (5), sophomore Daylen Everette (5) and senior Tykee Smith (5 plus 1 INT, 1 PBU). Also, senior DL Nazir Stackhouse collected his first sack of year and the second of his career. Junior Kamari Lassiter had four tackles with 2.5 TFL. USC converted a 3rd-and-15 on its opening drive for a TD (Spencer Rattler to Antwane Wells) for a 7-0 edge (10 plays, 65 yards in 5:04). It marked the first time Georgia trailed this season.
Georgia cut it to 14-10 to start the second half. On USC’s opening possession of the half, they went three-and-out, including sophomore DE Mykel Williams collecting his second sack of the year, as it punted. The Bulldogs took over at the USC 49 and went on to score a TD for a 17-14 advantage. After a touchback, USC began at the 25 before the drive stalled following a sack by junior ILB Jamon Dumas-Johnson at the UGA 39.The defense forced another three-and-out on USC’s next possession. Later, USC tried to convert a 4th-and-15 with 7:50 left at its 46 and turned it over on downs. USC’s final two possessions ended on Interceptions, one by senior Dan Jackson, the first this year and second of his career, both against South Carolina. The second came by senior Tykee Smith, his second this season.
*Offense Comes Alive In The 2nd Half: Down 14-3, Georgia started the second half with the football and put together a six play, 75-yard drive in 2:40 capped by a Daijun Edwards 7-yard TD, the 12th score of his career. After the PAT, the Bulldogs trailed 14-10 with 12:20 in the 3rd.
On its second possession, Georgia started at the USC 49 and went nine plays in 3:20 for the go-ahead score capped by a three-yard scamper by sophomore Dillon Bell. With 7:40 left in the 3rd quarter, Georgia had its first lead at 17-14.
On its third possession of the 2nd half, the Bulldogs missed a 43-yard field goal. On the drive, Bell had a 16-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 to keep the chains moving. The fourth possession began at the Georgia 39 with 12:59 left. It led to a 61-yard TD drive on 8 plays capped by redshirt sophomore Cash Jones 13-yard run, his first on the ground this year and second of his career to put the Bulldogs in front 24-14. In the first half, Georgia amassed 168 yards of total offense on 37 plays but managed just three points, going 1-for-2 on field goals. Trailing 7-0, the opening possession resulted in a field goal (15 plays, 62 yards, 7:54).
Junior QB Carson Beck finished today 27-for-35 (both career-highs) for 269 yards. The leading receivers were juniors Dominic Lovett (7-for-56 yards), senior Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (6-for 71 yards) while junior TE Brock Bowers had 6-for-49 yards. Senior TB Daijun Edwards had 118 rushing yards on 20 carries, both career highs, in his first action of the year and first career start. It was third 100-yard game.
*Extending The Streaks: With today’s 24-14 win, top-ranked Georgia has extended its school record for consecutive victories now to 20. The streak began during the 2021 season (Dec. 31) when the Bulldogs beat #2 Michigan 34-11 in a CFP semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl.
*Georgia has won 20 regular season SEC games in a row. The school record for consecutive SEC games is 23 set during the 1980 to 1983 seasons.
*The Bulldogs extended their school record for consecutive regular season wins to 30, which leads all of FBS, and is the second longest active streak in the NCAA behind DIII Mount Union (56 straight). This Georgia streak began during the 2020 season with a 31-24 win over Miss. State. on Nov. 21.
*Georgia now has won 21 consecutive home games which ranks second in school history behind a 24-game home winning streak from 1980-83. The current home streak began with a 21-0 shutout of Kentucky on Oct. 19, 2019.
*Last Time: The top-ranked Bulldogs trailed at the half (14-3) for the first time this season and first time since last year’s CFP semifinal Peach Bowl in Atlanta against Ohio State 28-24. Georgia rallied for a 42-41 win against the Buckeyes. The last time Georgia failed to score a TD in the first half was last year’s Missouri road game when it fell behind 16-6 and eventually rallied for a 26-22 win. The last time Georgia score only three points in the first half was at the 2019 SEC Championship game when it trailed LSU 17-3 and lost 37-10. Today, Georgia came back to win 24-14.
*Red Zone Review: Georgia finished 4-for-6 in the Red Zone. In the first half, Georgia went 1-for-2 in the Red Zone, both field goals (made 31-yarder, missed 28-yarder) while USC went 2-for-2 (TDs). In the 2nd half, Georgia was 3-for-4 (3TDs, 1 Missed FG). USC was 0-for-0.
*Captains, Coin Toss and For Starters: Senior Tramel Walthour (DL) along with juniors Carson Beck (QB), Kamari Lassiter (DB) and Sedrick Van Pran (C) served as the game captains. Georgia won the toss and elected to defer the football until the 2nd half. There were two first-time starters in junior David Daniel-Sisavanh (S) and senior Daijun Edwards (TB). Edwards had appeared in 39 games coming in today and this was his first action of the season. Junior center Sedrick Van Pran made his team-leading 33rd career start.
*Honoring #77 Devin Willock: Redshirt sophomore Tate Ratledge, normally #69, wore #77 today in honor of his late teammate Devin Willock. A different Bulldog offensive lineman will be wearing #77 each game this season.
*Up Next: Top-ranked Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) plays host to UAB (1-1) Saturday, Sept. 23 at 7:30 pm (ESPN2). The Blazers face Louisiana tonight in Birmingham.