South Carolina left Sanford Stadium on Saturday winless and wondering. Winless in the Southeastern Conference and wondering if it can be competitive in the SEC East, a division that not long ago it had some say in deciding.
Kentucky barely beat the Gamecocks last week, 26-22. No. 7 Georgia clubbed them on Saturday, winning 52-20, compiling 576 yards and holding the Gamecocks (1-2) to 258 yards, their lowest total in 34 games.
“Our team is sort of what it is right now,” coach Steve Spurrier told The State newspaper as he walked to the team’s locker room after meeting with the media. “Hopefully, we can turn it around. We’ll try. Give it our best shot to turn it around next week.”
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The viciousness of Saturday’s beating seemed to shock the team’s fan base, and it surprised Spurrier.
“I thought we’d get in the game with them,” he told The State. “As well as our defense played in the second half against Kentucky, I thought we could, you know, force some punts. We’re struggling; we’re struggling.”
From 2010 through 2013, South Carolina won the SEC East title once and then won 11 games three consecutive years. The Bulldogs buried the memory of those teams Saturday evening, handing South Carolina its worst defeat since a 56-17 loss against Auburn in the 2010 SEC championship game.
“Hard to imagine we beat these guys four of the last six years isn’t it?” Spurrier said after the game.
The Bulldogs (3-0) clearly hadn’t forgotten that or the 52 points Spurrier scored in this building as Florida’s coach in 1995. Georgia kept All-SEC tailback Nick Chubb in the game until midway through the fourth quarter, and Chubb helped set up a Keith Marshall 3-yard run with 8:24 left in the game that set the final score.
Georgia didn’t punt until its ninth drive and faced only four third downs in the game. Chubb rushed for 159 yards on 21 carries, and senior quarterback Greyson Lambert, who entered the game fighting to keep the starting job, set an NCAA record for completion percentage by connecting on 24-of-25 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
Asked if issues facing a defense that gave up more than 9 yards per play can be corrected this season, first-year defensive co-coordinator Jon Hoke replied, “We have to. We have had moments where we have played good defense. They just didn’t happen tonight.”
South Carolina’s defense was so bad that not many people noticed the offense wasn’t much better … until Spurrier pointed it out after the game.
“They totally dominated us, no question about it,” he said. “Couldn’t throw the ball very well; couldn’t run it very well. Got clobbered.”
South Carolina rotated quarterbacks Perry Orth and Lorenzo Nunez against the Bulldogs, and Nunez finished as the Gamecocks’ leading rusher with 10 carries for 76 yards.
“Offensively, I am open to suggestions,” Spurrier said.
Shock seemed to be the dominant emotion after the game. Spurrier made a couple false starts toward his team’s dressing room after shaking Mark Richt’s hand at the buzzer only to turn around and return to congratulate more Bulldogs. He hugged former Gators player and current Georgia offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Schottenheimer’s young son, saying, “Congratulations,” to both before finally heading to the locker room.
His message to the team there was brief, Orth said.
“It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, and we’ll get back at it on Monday,” Spurrier told the team, according to Orth.
Asked if this might be his last trip to Sanford Stadium, Spurrier replied, “No. I hope to come back many times.”
It wasn’t clear at that moment if he meant as coach of the Gamecocks.