ATHENS, Ga. - When in doubt, give it to Gurley.
Georgia sophomore tailback Todd Gurley rushed a career-high 30 times for 132 yards to help No. 11 Georgia to a 41-30 win over No. 6 South Carolina on a sun-splashed Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Gurley had a 2-yard touchdown run late in the first half to cap an 11-play drive in which he had seven carries.
"I was tired, but I wasn't about to come out," Gurley said. "As soon as the second half got here, I got my second wind. We told the coaches that we wanted to keep running it, and we did."
Gurley went over the 100-yard mark for the 11th time in his Georgia career, much to the chagrin of Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier.
"It was a good tail-kicking, and I have to give Georgia credit," said Spurrier, who dropped to 15-6 in his career against the Bulldogs. "They ran it right down our throat. Vince Dooley probably has a smile on his face with the way that they played tonight."
The entire Georgia football program is smiling after ending a three-game losing streak to Spurrier's Gamecocks. The Bulldogs have been fortunate to win the Southeastern Conference's East Division the past two seasons despite losing to South Carolina, but they are now the early favorites to make it to the Georgia Dome for a third consecutive year.
No team has appeared in the SEC title game three straight years since Florida reached each of the first five matchups from 1992 to '96.
"The team that loses this game is waiting for the other's bus to break down," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We've been chasing them the last three years. South Carolina has a very good team, but this year we get a chance to sit in the driver's seat."
Georgia rebounded from last week's loss at Clemson to improve to 1-1, while South Carolina has the same record after opening with a win over North Carolina.
Gurley's powerful running was complemented by senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns. His scores went to tight end Arthur Lynch, Gurley and backup tailback Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley.
The touchdown to Scott-Wesley came from 85 yards out with 13 minutes remaining to cap the scoring.
"I claim I'm the fastest guy on the team," Scott-Wesley said. "I run track, and that was just an opportunity for me to show it. It was the first time since I've been here that I've had an open opportunity, and I showed the world."
Georgia had a goal-line stand with 8:28 remaining to seal the win and leave the Gamecocks wondering what could have been. With the score tied at 24 early in the third quarter, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw scrambled for 9 yards to Georgia's 25-yard line on fourth-and-5.
Before Shaw hit the turf, however, Bulldogs inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera caused a fumble that safety Josh Harvey-Clemons recovered.
"There is no excuse for that," Shaw said. "I tried to make a guy miss, and they punched it out from behind. That's going to stick with me for a little bit."
The two teams played an action-packed first 30 minutes that ended in a 24-24 deadlock thanks to a 30-yard touchdown pass from Shaw to Nick Jones with 13 seconds remaining. It was the second scoring connection between Shaw and Jones, who hooked up for an 18-yard score with 5:07 left in the half.
Shaw's first touchdown to Jones occurred one play after Georgia punter Collin Barber failed to corral a high snap by Nathan Theus, which resulted in a fumble at Georgia's 18-yard line.
Georgia had taken a 17-3 lead on a 6-yard pass from Murray to Marshall at the 12:22 mark of the second quarter. Murray completed 10 of 13 first-half passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, with Gurley rushing 17 times for 90 yards and his score.
The biggest play in the opening quarter came after Murray found tight end Lynch for a 3-yard score, when Barber attempted an onside kick that was recovered by Blake Sailors. The recovery gave the Bulldogs possession at their own 46, and they wound up driving 49 yards before settling on a 22-yard Patrick Beless field goal that made it 10-3.
Georgia is off this week before hosting North Texas on Sept. 21. The next big test comes Sept. 28 with the arrival of LSU.
"We've been in this spot before where we've lost early in the season, but we know it's a long year," Murray said. "All of our dreams are still there. We've just got to keep winning and keep working hard."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.