ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia wanted to patiently stalk visiting South Carolina on Saturday night, corner the Gamecocks and work them over.
It wasn't as easy as they hoped it would be, but that's what the No. 12 Bulldogs did.
Using a bruising defense and overcoming a less-than-stellar offensive effort, Georgia welcomed Lou Holtz to the Southeastern Conference with a 24-9 victory before 86,117 at Sanford Stadium.
The Gamecocks didn't bumble away nearly as many opportunities as they did in their 10-0 loss at N.C. State on Sept. 4 -- but then, the opportunities were rarely there.
The Bulldogs' front seven out-muscled South Carolina's offensive line for most the night, harassing quarterback Phil Petty and holding the Gamecocks to 46 rushing yards on 30 carries.
"We just wanted to come out this week and establish the defense and let everybody know that we were for real," said Georgia defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who hails from the Columbia, S.C., area. "It was real big to do it against the home team, against Lou Holtz and the Cocks."
Georgia's offense wasn't the efficient machine its fans hoped it would be; 12 passes were dropped, and the Bulldogs squandered several scoring opportunities.
But quarterback Quincy Carter passed for 251 yards in the face of numerous blitzes, and the Bulldogs amassed 180 yards rushing on 43 carries -- including 130 yards from sophomore Jasper Sanks.
"We've got to keep feeding the ball to him," Georgia coach Jim Donnan said.
Courtney Leavitt nailed a 28-yard field goal with 2:58 left in the third quarter for South Carolina's first score since seven minutes remained in last year's season-ending loss at Clemson.
It was the Gamecocks' first successful
field goal in 11 tries -- the last was Sept. 19, 1998, against Marshall -- and it broke a streak of eight misses for Leavitt, a senior.
But whatever satisfaction they gleaned from that was erased with a quick look at the scoreboard. The Gamecocks were still down 17-3, and they weren't going to reel off a miracle comeback -- not against Georgia's defense, and not with their offense.
The farthest the Gamecocks traveled on their first nine possessions was the Bulldogs' 28-yard line. Other than that occasion, Georgia's defense pecked at South Carolina like a vulture on a corpse.
"We have the athletes," said Bulldogs defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who tallied four tackles, three for lost yardage. "We feel like we can go out and compete with anybody's offensive line at any time, and that's what we did."
Petty's first pass of the night was tipped by Stroud, then plucked out of the air by former Laney star Kendrell Bell. On his team's fourth possession, Petty missed an open Brian Scott and Bulldogs defensive back Cory Robinson picked it off.
"That was critical," Holtz said of the interception. "That gave them the momentum."
Former Washington County star Terrence Edwards lost the handle on one of Carter's offerings in the first quarter, but the freshman atoned for his miscue with a 47-yard touchdown grab late in the first half that staked the hosts to a 14-0 lead.
Edwards lined up on the right side, stunned cornerback Willie Offord with an inside fake, then found himself wide open down the middle of the field for the score that effectively ended it.
"(Offord) was playing me off and to the outside," said Edwards, who hauled in seven passes for 90 yards. "I went inside, and he just gave it to me."
Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com