ATHENS, Ga. -- A 24-9 defeat against a No. 12 team might typically be deemed respectable, particularly to a downtrodden outfit such as South Carolina.
But in the wake of Saturday's game at Georgia, the 0-2 Gamecocks didn't have much reason to siphon any moral victories from their 12th straight defeat.
"We weren't looking for miracles," senior running back Boo Williams said, "but we weren't just looking to lose by a reasonable score either."
The 15-point deficit might seem reasonable, but other numbers paint a bleaker picture -- one that can't be shrouded by Georgia's offensive bumbles, South Carolina's late offensive production or the scoreboard.
While it might not have been fair to judge the Gamecocks after their wind- and rain-slogged performance at N.C. State a week earlier, it was as clear as the blue skies Saturday that South Carolina's offense is woefully inept.
"We're not giving the defense a break," Williams said of an offense that had 46 yards rushing on 30 attempts and reached Bulldogs territory on one of its first nine possessions.
Clearly, the problems begin with an offensive line that has regularly been crippled by injuries and attrition since the spring.
The Bulldogs' defensive tackle tandem of Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud seemed to arrive in the backfield as the ball was snapped, harassing quarterback Phil Petty and his backfield mates into lost yardage on more than a quarter of South Carolina's offensive plays.
"We knew we had big problems on the offensive line," Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz said. "That's critical. Any good team starts with its offensive line."
The bad part for Holtz is, things could get worse. Starting center Scott Browne went down at the 9:31 mark of the third quarter with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He underwent surgery Sunday and is lost for the season, Holtz said. Right guard Philip Jones suffered a hyperextended elbow against N.C. State and played sparingly Saturday.
The problems extended to Petty, who tossed an interception after South Carolina's most promising drive of the first three quarters reached Georgia's 28-yard line.
The interception came on an overthrow to Brian Scott, who was open.
"It was a slant," the sophomore said of the second-quarter interception that Holtz called the game's turning point. "It was my fault; I led (Scott) to far."
Meanwhile, Georgia linebacker Kendrell Bell, the former Laney standout, made his first career start a memorable one.
Playing in place of the injured Will Witherspoon, Bell made one tackle behind the line of scrimmage, intercepted a pass, and blocked a punt.
"Kendrell Bell's a special player, he made a lot of great plays," said coach Jim Donnan. "But you've got to understand that goes with the territory. We actually finished the game without three starters (Tim Wansley, Jeff Harris and Witherspoon). I thought the entire defense made a lot of good plays."
Donnan knew his defense was capable of showing more than it did in its season opener against Utah State. Now he has proof.
One week after surrendering 411 yards to Utah State, Georgia limited the Gamecocks to 218 yards, including just 46 on the ground.
Nine different Bulldogs combined to knock Gamecock ball carries a grand total of 15 times behind the line of scrimmage. Five of those tackles were sacks of Petty.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour was credited with three tackles for lost yardage and two sacks, while Marcus Stroud added three tackles for lost yardage. Cory Robinson added his third interception of the year.
"We've got some talented players," Donnan said. "We've got some talented young linemen, and were generally able to take over up front. Against Utah State, we stayed pretty much vanilla. But against South Carolina, we had a lot of inside-out plays that enabled us to open up the line of scrimmage which is more in vogue with our defensive packages."
Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com