published Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Bulldogs fall short in thriller

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore (21) runs for a touchdown, followed by Georgia cornerback Jordan Love (10), linebacker Cornelius Washington (83), and defensive tackle Jonathan Jenkins (6) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, in Athens, Ga. South Carolina won 45-42.
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore (21) runs for a touchdown, followed by Georgia cornerback Jordan Love (10), linebacker Cornelius Washington (83), and defensive tackle Jonathan Jenkins (6) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, in Athens, Ga. South Carolina won 45-42.
(AP Photo by John Amis)

ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia Bulldogs are 0-2 for the first time since 1996, but coach Mark Richt isn't fretting.

Georgia failed to gain an early leg up in the Southeastern Conference East Division by dropping a 45-42 decision to No. 12 South Carolina inside a frenzied Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs showed notable improvement from their opener, when they were whipped by Boise State in the Georgia Dome, and Richt vowed that the East race has a ways to go and that his team will be in the hunt.

"We will be better exponentially, I believe," Richt said. "I think this team is going to be a very good football team before it's over. We've got to make whatever corrections we need to and get back on the winning track here next week.

"Everybody just needs to kind of wait and see what happens."

Saturday marked the 15th loss in the last 30 games for Richt, who is 96-36 overall.

The Bulldogs were very good for much of Saturday's game but were undone by four gargantuan errors. They allowed a 68-yard fake punt for a touchdown, a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown, a 5-yard fumble return for a touchdown and a 56-yard fumble return that set up a short touchdown.

"This was a good win for us," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "Give Georgia credit. They outplayed us, but we were fortunate to win."

Georgia almost managed to overcome its miscues behind Aaron Murray's 248 passing yards and his career-best four touchdown passes and behind freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell's 118 rushing yards. A 15-yard Crowell touchdown run gave the Bulldogs a 35-31 lead with 6:28 remaining, but South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore scored from 3 yards out to put the Gamecocks up 38-35.

Lattimore's score occurred with 3:28 remaining, which was plenty of time for Murray, but Gamecocks freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney blew inside Georgia left tackle Cordy Glenn and sacked him. Murray fumbled, and Melvin Ingram scooped it up for a 5-yard score and ended the back-and-forth affair with 3:12 left.

"It was a slip screen to the back, and their outside rusher came inside," Richt said. "I don't believe Cordy got a hand on him, so we've got to redirect him a little bit."

Said Glenn: "I'm really not sure what happened on that."

Murray elected to take some of the blame as well.

"I probably could have tried to tuck the ball in a little faster," Murray said. "I turned and he was in my face. The coaches are always saying don't turn a bad play into a catastrophe, and I probably should have just taken the sack."

The clinching touchdown was Ingram's second of the day. He raced 68 yards on a fake punt in the second quarter to put the Gamecocks up 14-13.

Georgia was hoping to defeat a top-12 team at home for the first time since a 2002 win over Tennessee. The Bulldogs didn't, but they came away with more hope than the subpar showing in the opener against the Broncos.

"It's a tough loss, and it's one where we felt like we should have won the game," Murray said. "I still think we're a great football team, and I think it's now just a matter of fine-tuning."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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