ATHENS, Ga. — For the second consecutive week, Georgia had its share of special teams issues, although this time it didn’t cost it a win.
A week ago at Clemson, Nathan Theus botched a field-goal snap late in the third quarter that would have tied the game. It wound up a difference-maker as the Bulldogs fell to Clemson 38-35.
On Saturday against South Carolina, Collin Barber muffed a punt snap, which gave the Gamecocks the ball and momentum.
Barber was credited with a fumble and a 14-yard loss, which put the Gamecocks on the Georgia 18.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw completed a touchdown pass to Nick Jones on the next play, tying the game at 17.
In the span of two minutes, the Gamecocks rallied from a two-touchdown deficit.
“We’ve got to straighten that out. We can’t have that issue,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
QUITE A DEBUT: With the Bulldogs backed up inside their own 1 and 8:28 remaining, Georgia was able to run out the clock with 13 plays – 12 of them runs.
In the middle of it was true freshman Brendan Douglas from Aquinas, who carried five times for 31 yards, including a 17-yarder on his first collegiate carry when he lowered his shoulder to drop a would-be tackler.
“He called me over and I was a little surprised I guess,” said Douglas of getting the call on second-and-7 at the Georgia 43. “But I was ready to go.”
He had rushes of 17, 3, 2, 3 and 6 on the drive that covered 81 yards before time ran out.
“It felt good. It’s a dream come true,” Douglas said.
“But I’ve just got to keep working and keep helping the team out as much as I can. … Just like my high school days. Just running as hard as I can. It was exciting.”
Richt said the final possession was the highlight of the game.
“To finish the game like we did offensively, I don’t know how much clock we chewed up … most of it on the ground. Just to end the game and not let them touch it, that was by far my most favorite part of the game.”
CONTAINING SHAW: Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said that he was more pleased with his unit’s performance this week, but that it needs to improve against the run.
The Bulldogs allowed 226 rush yards against South Carolina, 75 of which were credited to Shaw.
It was the second consecutive week Georgia faced a dual-threat quarterback, though it held Clemson’s Tajh Boyd to 42 yards, with a 3.2 yard per carry average.
Grantham said the defense cleaned up some of its tackling issues it had against Clemson and that Shaw’s success stemmed from his ability to maneuver after escaping the pocket. He said that not many of his runs weren’t necessarily first option reads.
“He kind of chooses to tuck it and take off running opposed to throwing it down the field,” Grantham said. “Obviously it’s an issue. At times, we played the way we needed to play, at others, we didn’t and he got outside.
South Carolina tailback Mike Davis also had a productive afternoon. He briefly left the game in the third quarter with an injury but returned to finish with 149 yards and a touchdown.
GETTING AGGRESSIVE: Richt said he knew that the Bulldogs needed aggressive play-calling in their first two games against top ten opponents.
And in most instances, it paid off.
Richt called for a fake punt early against Clemson that shifted the game’s momentum despite Georgia eventually losing.
On Saturday Georgia responded to South Carolina’s strong opening with a five-play drive for a touchdown. Richt called for an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, and Georgia’s Blake Sailors recovered it.
Seven plays later, Georgia faced a fourth-and-13 at the South Carolina 31, just a tad out of kicker Patrick Beless’ range.
Richt went for it, and again, it paid off with a 24-yard strike to Justin Scott-Wesley. Georgia scored four plays later and took a 14-point lead.
“If we get a little something going early, we’re going to have success that day,” Richt said.
Gates, who left the game late in the third quarter, did not directly address Jadeveon Clowney’s play as he hobbled out of the Bulldogs’ locker room but toed the company line about cohesive play.
“We got the win,” Gates said. “We beat them down on national TV, and that’s all that matters. We took care of business and dominated. We worked together and we worked hard today. I thought I played pretty good – I’m happy.”
After South Carolina’s 27-10 season-opening victory over North Carolina on Aug. 29, Clowney was called out in some circles for his less-than-intense play at times. When asked whether they sensed a gassed opponent on Saturday, several Bulldogs commented on his on-field production.
“I have no idea what was up with him,” guard Chris Burnette said of Clowney. “You’d have to ask him. I know he did seem a little tired, like last week.”
“I think we got him a little tired and we got him out of his comfort zone and that was what we wanted to do, especially after seeing him last week,” tight end Arthur Lynch added. “He got a little fatigued at times and that’s what happens when you’re running all over the field. I think running the ball really is what helped us win this game and Aaron played lights out and that doesn’t hurt.”
Staff writer Scott Michaux contributed to this article.