Originally created 09/14/03

South Carolina's offense sputters

ATHENS, Ga. - Early in the fourth quarter, South Carolina quarterback Dondrial Pinkins dropped back in his own territory and had Troy Williamson wide open underneath.

It had all the looks of a simple, routine play - maybe even a good play. Problem was, Pinkins threw a few yards behind Williamson.

Like many of Pinkins' passes Saturday, it never had a chance - and neither did the No. 25 Gamecocks, whose offense was often the picture of befuddlement and ineptitude in a 31-7 loss to No. 8 Georgia at Sanford Stadium.

"Every time we had success, we shot ourselves in the foot," said Pinkins, who threw two interceptions and completed 12 of 30 passes for 116 yards. "We just couldn't get it going."

Neither could the two replacements who were inserted to provide a spark. Junior-college transfer Mike Rathe threw an interception on his first attempt late in the first half, and the Bulldogs turned it into a touchdown that made the halftime score 17-0. Redshirt freshman Bennett Swygert was 4-for-5 for 123 yards and a touchdown, but that production came with the game no longer in doubt.

South Carolina coach Lou Holtz said he is considering giving freshman Blake Mitchell a look this week in practice. The Gamecocks play Alabama-Birmingham at home Saturday.

"We have to look at our quarterback situation," Holtz said. "We need to take a strong look at Blake Mitchell, we really do."

Pinkins didn't object to it.

"Maybe they need to give those guys a shot," he said. "The offense is not performing well right now. ... As of now, we can't find the answer."

Pinkins looked shaky at times in the Gamecocks' 31-7 win over Virginia the previous week, throwing into double coverage on a few occasions. Making a few bad decisions can be overshadowed when you're winning a game handily at home.

When you're playing a good team - possibly a great team - on the road in front of more than 90,000 hostile fans, those mistakes can turn a game into a rout.

That's exactly what happened Saturday. On the Gamecocks' second drive, Pinkins faced a first-and-15 from Georgia's 40-yard line and threw for Williamson, but the pass was picked off by Sean Jones.

Two possessions later, South Carolina was down 10-0 but had an excellent chance to slice into the deficit after an errant option pitch by Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley was recovered by Jason Capers.

On third-and-7 from Georgia's 18, Pinkins threw over the middle for Matthew Thomas. He apparently didn't see linebacker Tony Taylor, who made the easy interception to snuff out the threat.

"I tried to stick it in there and force it," said Pinkins, whose team had 180 yards at the end of the third quarter.

Pinkins was replaced by Rathe on the next drive, but Rathe unleashed an ill-advised pass in the general direction of Williamson down the left sideline.

Jones made the easy interception, and the Bulldogs went on to put away the Gamecocks. Pinkins was put back into the game, but the inconsistency continued.

"I don't think I played as well as I needed to play today," he said.

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


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