Bulldogs run all over South Carolina in road rout

AP photo by Sean Rayford / Georgia running back James Cook carries the ball during the first half of Saturday night's SEC game at South Carolina.

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Where the scoreboard is concerned, 13th-ranked Georgia's 45-16 win over South Carolina is the Bulldogs' biggest victory yet of this strange college football season.

However, coach Kirby Smart wasn't sure his Bulldogs had their best game Saturday night - not with the Gamecocks missing more than two dozen players and offering little resistance in a Southeastern Conference matchup of border rivals.

"It's hard to say that because of the quality of the competition," Smart said.

James Cook ran for 104 yards on just six carries, and three other Georgia backs had at least 77 yards in what was barely a game from the start. Georgia (6-2) led 21-0 after three possessions, and South Carolina (2-7) had yet to get a first down.

The Gamecocks can barely field a team. Nearly 20 players couldn't play because of injuries or COVID-19 restrictions. Another seven players have opted out, several since the school fired coach Will Muschamp two weeks ago.

Still, Smart said he was happy for the fast start and the 332 yards his team gained on the ground.

"They didn't play down to that level," Smart said. "They knocked people off the ball."

After throwing for 401 yards in his Bulldogs debut one week earlier, Southern California transfer JT Daniels was 10-for-16 for 139 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Daniels overthrew a few open receivers and took two sacks, but Smart said he thought the redshirt sophomore did fine, making sure he only made a few mistakes.

"He took the things the defense gave to him," Smart said.

photo AP photo by Sean Rayford / Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine tackles South Carolina running back Kevin Harris during Saturday night's game in Columbia, S.C.

Zamir White ran 13 time for 84 yards, Kenny McIntosh had 79 yards on nine carries and Daijun Edwards ran 14 times for 77 yards. The Bulldogs didn't attempt a pass after Daniels' 31-yard touchdown strike to Arian Smith on the first play of the fourth quarter gave them a 45-10 lead.

Georgia got the ball back with 9:27 left and ran 12 straight times, taking a knee on first-and-goal at the 1 to mercifully end it. The Bulldogs averaged 8 yards a run when Daniels' sacks were removed from their total.

South Carolina freshman quarterback Luke Doty made his first start, throwing for 190 yards on 18-of-22 passing with an interception and a touchdown. Running back Kevin Harris continues to be a rare bright spot, churning out a tough 53 yards on 17 carries, and tight end Nick Muse caught eight passes for 131 yards.

South Carolina has lost five in a row, allowing at least 45 points in four of the defeats.

Gamecocks interim head coach Mike Bobo, a former Georgia assistant and player who was a teammate of Smart's in the 1990s, said he was proud that the players he had fought hard and didn't give up.

"Part of being a man is you don't make excuses, and you don't let people make excuses for you," said Bobo, whose team was without leading receiver Shi Smith and SEC sacks leader Kingsley Enagbare.

The coaches have remained friends since their playing days, but that didn't mean Smart felt sorry for the predicament his old pal Bobo is in.

"He doesn't want my pity. He's a football coach," Smart said. "He doesn't need my pity, and I'm not giving him any."

South Carolina won 20-17 in double overtime at Georgia in 2019 when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 3, but the three-interception hero of that game, defensive back Israel Mukuamu, opted out of the rest of the season after the Gamecocks fired Muschamp.

No matter the different players on the field- both quarterbacks changed, along with a host of others - Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine said his team didn't forget the loss that derailed their season.

"It felt great. It felt awesome," Cine said. "We got redemption."

The Bulldogs have their regular-season finale at home against Vanderbilt next Saturday.

It's almost all for bowl positioning for Georgia now, assuming COVID-19 allows the postseason to happen. Georgia does have a tiny chance to make the SEC title game, but No. 6 Florida has to lose its last two to LSU and Kentucky.

The Gamecocks likely end their season next Saturday at Kentucky - but the search for Muschamp's permanent replacement is ongoing.