Georgia collects rare blowout victory by demolishing depleted Gamecocks

Photo by Travis Bell / Georgia junior running back James Cook had 104 yards on only six carries during Saturday night's 45-16 drubbing of South Carolina inside Williams-Brice Stadium.

When Georgia had its breakthrough year under Kirby Smart in 2017, the Bulldogs whipped seven Southeastern Conference foes during the regular season by at least two touchdowns and repeated that feat the following year.

There had been a longing for those days entering Saturday night's game at South Carolina, with Georgia having experienced a stretch consisting of a double-digit loss to Alabama, a mundane 14-3 topping of Kentucky, a double-digit loss to Florida and a 31-24 escape of Mississippi State. The Bulldogs rediscovered the feeling of a convincing conquest, routing the Gamecocks 45-16 inside Williams-Brice Stadium to improve to 6-2 in their coronavirus-altered schedule consisting solely of league contests.

"It felt great," Bulldogs sophomore safety Lewis Cine said. "It felt awesome. We got redemption."

The Bulldogs did redeem themselves from last season's inexplicable 20-17 double-overtime loss to a South Carolina program on its way to a 4-8 season, but the current Gamecocks are much worse than last year's version. South Carolina is 2-7 with five consecutive losses, having parted ways with fifth-year coach Will Muschamp and replaced him with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo on an interim basis.

An eye-popping 20 South Carolina players were either injured or had opted out entering Saturday's slaughter, leaving the Gamecocks a shell of their borderline top-25 team after four competitive showings against Tennessee, Florida, Vanderbilt and Auburn to open the season. When asked whether this was Georgia's top performance, Smart pressed pause.

"It's easy to say that if you just look at the statistics, and that's what people do," Smart said. "The quality of competition was not as high as even South Carolina has been sometimes during the year. I'm just being honest, but we've played against some better teams. We played good against some better teams at times but haven't put a whole game together.

"That was our goal tonight, and we played a complete game with defense, special teams and offense overall, but I also know that a lot of that comes from our kids growing up and them having some guys out."

Georgia's decimation was thorough, as the Bulldogs rushed for 332 yards and 7.2 yards per carry while holding the Gamecocks to 83 yards and 1.9 per rush.

James Cook led Georgia with 104 yards and two touchdowns on only six carries (17.3 yards per carry), while Zamir White rushed 13 times for 84 yards (6.5) and two scores, Kenny McIntosh nine for 79 (8.8), and Daijun Edwards 14 for 77 (5.5). There wasn't a single lost-yardage carry among them.

"We didn't call a lot of different runs or reinvent the wheel," Smart said. "They had some COVID issues and a couple other injuries that hurt their depth, and they're just a very, very beat-up football team. They're not as stout as Mississippi State was up front. With that said, our guys came out from the very beginning and played physical and knocked guys off the ball."

Said Cook: "With games like this, you want to beat them so you can get your younger guys in there."

A week after JT Daniels threw for 401 yards against Mississippi State, the transfer from Southern California served in a complementary role, completing 10 of 16 passes for 139 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that wasn't his fault. Tight end Tre' McKitty had a 40-yard reception and Arian Smith a 31-yard catch to continue the explosive plays with Daniels at the helm.

"I'm really excited for what this offense can do - what some of the young guys bring to the table, what the quarterback brings to the table and what the receivers are doing," Cine said. "I feel like we've progressed and have gotten so much better as the season has gone on, and you can see that through how we're playing."

Smart praised Daniels for making the most of what South Carolina's defense gave him, and he also complimented first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken after the Bulldogs compiled a season-high 471 total yards.

"I think he's a really good play caller, and he does a good job of being aggressive," Smart said. "I think he's been playing with a partial deck in some of the games because of the injuries and the youth, but we know we've got some really good young players on offense who have potential. I like the rhythm of things, and I think the players hearing the plays week seven, eight and nine are a lot better off than in week one, two and three."

Smart would not confirm or deny a report that quarterback D'Wan Mathis, who started Georgia's opener at Arkansas but did not make the trip to South Carolina, was transferring.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.