1. The new situation
The Gamecocks’ first SEC loss of the season came via a 41-17 score. In a showdown that had been hyped through most of the offseason, USC absorbed a bad start, closed back in and let things slip away at the start of the second half. It puts USC behind the eight ball in the SEC East with Georgia as the prohibitive favorite.
2. The quarterback
Jake Bentley had a day that was more down than up. He led a trio of long drives in the first half, but USC only got 10 points of them. He had a pair of picks, 269 yards and no touchdowns until things were out of hand. He was undercut by issues on the ground and some drops. In four losses to Georgia and Clemson, he has three touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
3. The freshmen who should play
In a game with more on the line, we get a better sense of which freshmen will avoid redshirts and play real roles through the season. These are the eight true freshmen who got work against the Bulldogs: Jaycee Horn, R.J. Roderick, Josh Vann, Israel Mukuamu, Rosendo Louis Jr., Kingsley Enagbare, Rick Sandidge, Josh Belk.
4. The drops
South Carolina receivers had at least five drops in the first half, six total, which helped short circuit some of USC’s early possessions. The most damaging one came on the first drive, when Rico Dowdle had a ball ricochet off his helmet and into the hands of Deandre Baker, who returned it for a touchdown.
5. The start
As if the pick-six to start wasn’t enough of a hole, the Gamecocks followed by going three and out. Then the Bulldogs went 76 yards on four plays and put USC in a two-score deficit from the start.
6. The missed tackles
A team with the talent level of Georgia forces a defense to play perfect. South Carolina’s couldn’t quite reach that level. There were a few big plays that came when USC defenders couldn’t quite get control of Georgia play-makers on the perimeter. Gamecocks linebacker T.J. Brunson said the team might have lost some focus in the late going Saturday.
7. The running issues
The Gamecocks didn’t run the ball often against Georgia, and they didn’t run it well. The top two runners had only 44 yards on 13 carries, and Will Muschamp came into his postgame lamenting how badly his offensive line was manhandled.
8. The punt
The most subtle turning point of the game came with 43 seconds left in the first half off the foot of Joseph Charlton. His 18-yard boot left Georgia with the ball on its 33 instead of pinned deep in its territory. The Bulldogs drove for a field goal, scored out of the half and took the lead from one score to 17 points.
9. The crowd
The attendance for the day was 83,140, the 23rd-most in program history. That was on a day when the temperature was 93 degrees and humid at kickoff.
10. The trick play
South Carolina’s first touchdown and high point of the game came off some trickery and a good counterpunch on film study. After the Bulldogs blew up a Deebo Samuel jet sweep, the Gamecocks ran the same look but let Samuel throw. He found Bryan Edwards for a 13-yard touchdown, his second career scoring pass.
11. The injury
USC was without top defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum, as an ankle injury continues to limit him. Will Muschamp had been confident Wonnum would play, but now he’ll miss a month with ligament issues factoring in.
12. What’s next
USC will certainly have a step down in opposition next week when it hosts the Marshall Thundering Herd. Doc Holliday’s team has won eight or more games in four of the past five seasons, 10 or more three times. The Gamecocks will be watching the weather, as a big storm could be on the way.