The Gamecocks did, and Georgia couldn't come up with a response.
South Carolina dominated both lines of scrimmage, and freshman Marcus Lattimore rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns as the No. 24 Gamecocks knocked off the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs, 17-6, on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"It was a perfect game for us," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "It was a good game to beat Georgia, and our linemen on both sides were crucial guys to win the game (as well as) Lattimore."
South Carolina made several statements with its victory:
- The Gamecocks can run the ball. Lattimore, a heralded freshman from Byrnes (S.C.) High School, carried the ball 37 times and couldn't be stopped. A year ago South Carolina ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in rushing. "Our offensive line was in better shape than their defensive line," Lattimore said.
- South Carolina's defense is solid. The Gamecocks held Georgia to 61 yards rushing and didn't allow them to reach the end zone. The last time Georgia failed to score a touchdown came in 2007, a 16-12 loss to South Carolina.
- This Gamecock team could be for real. Aspirations are always high in Columbia, but Spurrier knows he has a different team this year. The win stamps the Gamecocks as a contender for the SEC East title, something they have never won. Big games loom, though, against Alabama and Florida.
"I think the players have a better commitment level overall," Spurrier said. "I like all these guys. They give you their best effort. That hasn't always happened around here. We're getting much better effort than we ever have right now."
It was the first win for South Carolina against Georgia in Columbia since 2000, and it improved Spurrier's all-time record against Georgia to 13-5 (2-4 at South Carolina).
Leading up to Saturday's game, NCAA investigations hovered over both programs. Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green was suspended three more games for selling his game jersey, and the Gamecocks received a letter of inquiry from the governing body. South Carolina cornerback Chris Culliver and tackle Jarriel King, who each sat out the opener, were cleared to play Friday and saw plenty of action.
Once play began, South Carolina established control. The Gamecocks (2-0, 1-0 SEC) won the coin toss and made an opening statement, driving 79 yards on 16 plays. It chewed 8:02 off the clock, and it was the longest drive time-wise of the Spurrier era.
Lattimore carried the ball 10 times on the opening drive, and he punctuated it with a 2-yard touchdown run.
"It was a (good) way to set the tone in the game," South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia said. "Unfortunately we couldn't do it every drive, but it set the tone and came out big for us."
After Georgia (1-1, 0-1 SEC) responded with a Blair Walsh field goal, both teams sputtered for much of the first half. Then, the Gamecocks drove 62 yards late in the half to go up 14-3 after Lattimore scored again from 2 yards out.
The loss opened up plenty of questions for Georgia, which hired a new defensive coordinator during the off-season and started redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray.
The Bulldogs couldn't solve Lattimore, and South Carolina converted nine of 14 third-down attempts.
"I don't think we did a good enough job of tackling," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "We didn't do a good enough job of run defense. And when we got them to third down, we didn't get off the field -- we weren't good enough on third down."
On offense Georgia struggled to move the ball consistently. Seven of the Bulldogs' nine drives lasted five plays or fewer.
Still, Georgia was very much alive after opening up the second half with a drive that resulted in Walsh's second field goal. That pulled the Bulldogs within 14-6, and the Georgia fans came to life when Garcia fumbled on the next possession.
Murray connected with Kris Durham for a 55-yard pass to put the Bulldogs on the 10, but three plays later Washaun Ealey was stripped near the goal line and Stephon Gilmore recovered for the Gamecocks.
"We thought we were going to knock it in and we lost the ball," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "That changed everything. That was huge."