GA News: OnlineAthens - Bulldogs leave South Carolina game with something to build on

TideFans Reporter

Click for Real-Time Bama News
Sep 21, 2006
October 9th, 2016 07:32 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. | In a game not worthy of being played on Sunday anywhere with the possible exception of Cleveland, Georgia proved that a good running game trumps a desperation passing game.
Capping off a week menaced by Hurricane Matthew that residents of coastal Georgia and South Carolina would rather not remember, it was a football game that proved to be the most forgettable thing that happened.
The Bulldogs couldn’t pass and the Gamecocks couldn’t run. But Georgia ran so much more effectively than South Carolina passed that it should never have come down to an onsides kick in the closing minutes to settle the Southeastern Conference border matchup.
“We certainly made it more interesting than it needed to be,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart of the Bulldogs’ 28-14 road victory. “We challenged them to be physical and dominate the line of scrimmage and I thought we answered that bell.”
Georgia very nearly had three running backs top 100 yards against a South Carolina defense that seemed neither willing nor able to stop them most of the afternoon. The Bulldogs’ most consistent buzzkill was themselves whenever they decided to get away from what was working.
Nick Chubb rushed for 121 yards and 7.6 per carry. Sony Michel piled up a team-high 133 yards at a 6.3 average. Third-stringer Brian Herrien gained 82 yards at a 9.1-yard clip before running out of time.
The 326 Georgia rushing yards were a stark contrast to the paltry 30 yards on the ground that South Carolina could muster. It was the kind of performance that should have put the game away far sooner than it was until Terry Godwin collected an onsides kick out of the air and covered the 43 yards of open field unchallenged for the clinching score with 1:33 remaining.
It was the kind of performance that an embattled offensive line can build upon.
“I think we came out today knowing that we wanted to dominate these guys up front and enforce our will on them,” said senior right tackle Greg Pyke. “We liked our double teams and we double-teamed these guys across the board and it worked out well.”
What worked that hadn’t in previous weeks was a slight adjustment in utilizing 295-pound hybrid tight end Aulden Bynam as essentially a sixth offensive lineman that helped create gaping holes for the talented corps of Bulldogs backs to run through.
“I think we’re starting to figure it out — who we are at Georgia and our identity,” Chubb said. “We changed some personnel up and I think it worked out for us.”
What didn’t work at all was the passing game. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason seemed out of sorts all afternoon, missing wide-open targets with overthrows and getting burned for one drive-crushing interception on a ball that bounced high into the air off the receiver.
Eason completed only five of 17 passes for 29 yards and one short touchdown.
“They didn’t have to throw it,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “They threw it 17 times; that was probably 17 too many.”
Part of the problem was the wind — remnants of the hurricane that blew through the day before and swirled around Williams-Brice Stadium.
“It was just the wind conditions,” said Godwin. “Every time Jacob threw it and the ball was in the air, the wind kind of caught it.”
It’s hard to summon that excuse too adamantly when South Carolina’s Perry Orth passed for 288 yards.
“We have got to improve how we throw and catch the ball,” Smart said, noting that he never considered pulling Eason from the game and just leaned harder on the rush instead. “We struggled to throw it, so better be glad we could run it.”
“He’s an 18-year-old kid playing SEC football as a starting quarterback,” Pyke said of Eason.
That South Carolina stayed within striking distance when it seemed overmatched most of the day was admirable. It was more a reflection of what the Bulldogs couldn’t do than what the Gamecocks did. Smart conceded “we did not step on people when we had the opportunity.”
Georgia should have been up more convincingly by halftime, but it punted once inside field-goal range and failed to get off a field-goal attempt or pass into the end zone before time expired in the first half.
“That was just a debacle to be honest with you,” Smart said.
As ungainly as Saturday’s game was at times, the end result was a huge lift for Georgia after consecutive losses to Ole Miss and Tennessee that could have sent the team demoralized into a dangerous rivalry game on the road.
“I really think that at this point in the season, kind of near midway, you start to see some teams get better and some teams get worse,” Smart said. “I’m trying to make sure that we’re in the upper half of getting better. We got better this week.”
On a week that inflicted so much damage to both states, Georgia should come away from it with something to build upon.


Latest threads - Wear UA Masks!

Purchases made through our link may result in a commission being paid to TideFans.