COLUMBIA — There was plenty to throw Georgia out of whack for its game Sunday at South Carolina.
The obvious thing is that word – Sunday. The Bulldogs never played a regular season game on Sunday in its history dating back to 1892. But as it turns out, Sunday is a fun run day for the Georgia offense.
Sony Michel and Nick Chubb each topped 100 yards rushing – Michel had 133 on 21 carries and Chubb had 121 on 16 – and freshman Brian Herrien added 82 as the Bulldogs withstood a late Gamecocks rally attempt to win 28-14.
“Those backs are special,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They make you good coaches.”
“Our next goal is hopefully we can get all of our backs over 100,” Michel said.
The teams learned less than 48 hours before a scheduled Saturday night game they would wait a day to play because of Hurricane Matthew.
Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason struggled mightily against the Gamecocks and the Bulldogs scored only seven points off three first-half South Carolina turnovers. But South Carolina couldn’t stop Georgia on the ground on a day the Bulldogs had a season-high 326 rushing yards.
Georgia (4-2, 2-2 SEC) turns around and plays Vanderbilt next Saturday at noon in Athens.
There were some anxious moments in a stadium where Georgia hasn’t won since 2008. The Gamecocks cut the lead to 14-7 and 21-14 after the Bulldogs were ahead by two touchdowns.
“We certainly made it more easy than it needed to be,” Smart said.
Terry Godwin returned an onside kickoff 43 yards for a touchdown with 1:33 to give Georgia its final cushion.
The game was played under sunny skies and kickoff temperature of 77, but it was windy. Some letters came off on the “South Carolina Gamecocks” stadium sign on the press box Saturday in the high winds and the school removed all the letters for this game.
Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner’s house had a tree fall on it Saturday but he tweeted: “We are safe and all is well. Thank you to all for prayers and concern.”
State troopers weren’t serving their regular role assisting on game day because they were needed after the storm, but there were police from several jurisdictions working the game.
More than 11,000 people were without power in Richland County late Sunday morning, according to The (Columbia) State.
The game at least gave the state a competitive diversion.
South Carolina (2-4, 1-4) made Georgia pay for an Eason third-quarter interception, driving 90 yards to score on a 9-yard touchdown run on a speed sweep by wide receiver Deebo Samuel with 3:49 left in the third quarter.
Eason was 5 of 17 for only 29 yards.
Georgia pinned the Gamecocks deep in their territory and got the ball at South Carolina’s 39 with 14:03 to go after a 34-yard Sean Kelley punt.
Herrien had runs of 14 and 18 yards and after two Michel runs gained only one yard, Eason hit Isaiah McKenzie for a 6-yard TD.
Georgia rushed for 195 yards in the first half alone, more than the Bulldogs rushed for three times this season including against Tennessee last week.
Chubb, who had just one carry for three yards last week coming off a sprained left ankle that he said Sunday was “pretty bad” then, rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries in the first half and had touchdown runs of 15 and 1 yards.
He picked up 10 yards on third-and-8 early in third quarter and then went 40 yards, breaking multiple tackles.
“That’s our goal every week, attack them on the ground and that’s what we did,” Chubb said.
Georgia went after South Carolina’s weakness on the opening possession – they ranked 99th in the nation in rushing defense entering the weekend.
The Bulldogs lined up 292-pound Aulden Bynum as a tight end next to the tackles and rushed for 64 yards on five carries on the drive.
“We challenged them to be physical and to dominate the line of scrimmage,” Smart said.
Chubb started the game with an 18-yard run and ended the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run as a Gamecock grabbed his jersey but couldn’t bring him down at the 3-yard line.
“It’s very, very frustrating to know something is coming and having a hard time stopping it,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said.
There were NFL scores being updated on the video board on a day the Atlanta Falcons and Georgia played on the same day and Georgia players seemed to enjoy the idea of playing on a Sunday.
“I could get used to that,” Chubb said.
The Bulldogs may not have liked what transpired for parts of the game, but they’ll go home a day later than they initially expected with the win they wanted.
“We struggled to throw it,” Smart said, “so better be glad we could run it.”