Originally created 09/14/03

Georgia issues beating



ATHENS, Ga. - Last week, there were clippings on the locker-room bulletin board that didn't make much sense to Georgia's players.

Here was No. 25 South Carolina, a team the No. 8 Bulldogs had beaten in Columbia last season, saying star defensive end David Pollack wouldn't be a factor. Saying Georgia, a team that one service favored by 15 points, couldn't even score 15 points.

"We love it when the other team talks trash," said defensive end Robert Geathers.

The Bulldogs responded to the perceived slights with a chuckle and a yawn Saturday, handing the Gamecocks a 31-7 lashing in a game that seemed over by halftime.

Bulletin-board material? Georgia gave South Carolina some scoreboard material to think about on the long bus ride back to Columbia.

The 92,058 fans came expecting a competition. Most left with an indelible impression that Georgia, a team that had lost two of three to South Carolina, has positioned itself firmly ahead of the Gamecocks in the Southeastern Conference.

The Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC), who were up 24-0 until a touchdown pass with 52 seconds remaining, handed the Gamecocks their worst beating in this series since a 24-0 victory in 1981.

"You kind of take the will away from a team, and that hurts their morale," said senior cornerback Bruce Thornton, whose Bulldogs have won their past six games dating to last season by a combined score of 197-40.

The only drama in this game was whether - or, more precisely, when - the Bulldogs' offense would score a touchdown against the Gamecocks (2-1, 0-1). They had gone more than 11 quarters without one, but that drought ended when David Greene found Reggie Brown on a fade pattern with 3:05 left in the first quarter.

Georgia coach Mark Richt breathed a huge sigh of relief, for he'd seen his team's first drive end in a short Billy Bennett field goal after a touchdown pass from Greene to Brown was called back because of illegal procedure.

"On the first drive, after the penalty, I didn't know if we were ever going to score on those guys," Richt said.

Greene's second touchdown pass to Greene came with no flags attached, and it ended the Bulldogs' touchdown skid at 181 minutes and 18 seconds.

"We finally got it in and broke the curse," said Greene, who was 16 of 27 passing for 208 yards and two touchdowns. "It felt good."

Georgia tailback Michael Cooper, a former Screven County High star, rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in his first collegiate start.

Greene and the Bulldogs torched the Gamecocks on third-and-long, gaining the necessary yardage on four third-down plays of 10 yards or longer. Brown was the recipient on three of them.

With star receiver Fred Gibson out for most the game with a pulled hamstring, Brown had the breakout game fans had been looking for since his much-heralded arrival from Carrollton, Ga.

Brown set career highs for receptions (seven) and yards (104), and he added another scoring catch of 5 yards that put the Bulldogs up 17-0 with 41 seconds left in the first half.

"That might have been his best game," Richt said of Brown, who had seven catches for 88 yards in the Sept. 6 win over Middle Tennessee State. "He's at a point where he's a go-to guy for us. I'm so pleased with everything he's doing, whether it's blocking or running routes. He has just been outstanding."

The Gamecocks, particularly junior quarterback Dondrial Pinkins, didn't seem too impressed with Georgia last week. Pinkins was the one who expressed doubts about Pollack and the potential of the Bulldogs' offense.

And Pinkins was the one being chased by Pollack and almost everyone else from Georgia's front seven. He threw two interceptions and finished 12 of 30 for 116 yards.

Pollack, who had five tackles and made numerous other plays that didn't appear on the statistics sheet, said he and Pinkins had a few verbal exchanges.

"I just said, 'I'm not going to be a factor, huh?"' Pollack said.

Pinkins didn't have much to say in response. And neither did the Gamecocks.

"We'd have to have played a perfect game to win down here," said South Carolina coach Lou Holtz, whose record dropped to 2-3 against the Bulldogs. "We just didn't do it."

Georgia:

Georgia ended its offensive touchdown drought against South Carolina when David Greene hit Reggie Brown for a 2-yard touchdown that snapped a stretch of more than three full games - 181 minutes, 18 seconds - without finding the Gamecocks end zone.

South Carolina:

South Carolina was hurt by penalties and turnovers. The Gamecocks were penalized seven times for 71 yards, including several penalties that nullified big plays, and also had three passes intercepted.

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larry.williams@augustachronicle.com.