ATHENS, Ga. - And now for his second act.
Georgia junior tailback Todd Gurley obliterated Clemson in the season opener, rushing 15 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns and returning a kickoff 100 yards for a score in a 45-21 runaway. Now he faces a South Carolina defense that could put all but two defenders in the box with hopes of slowing the Heisman Trophy candidate.
"I'll see eight and sometimes nine, but I think that's a sign of respect," Gurley said this week. "If they put six or seven in the box, I'm like, 'OK. Do that.'"
Gurley ran past and ran through Clemson, strengthening as the game progressed. His first carry resulted in a loss of a yard, but his last three rushes went for 38, 18 and 51 yards, with his final two accounting for touchdowns.
Helping provide a dominant Gurley in the fourth quarter was Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who kept rotating Keith Marshall and true freshmen Sony Michel and Nick Chubb into the game. Gurley had just four carries in the first half totaling 44 yards.
"I'm not going to sit here and say we only wanted him to have four carries in the first half," Bobo said. "We did want to spell him and make sure we got to the fourth quarter, because our plan was to run it more in the second half. That's the luxury of having some depth at tailback. The days of one guy carrying it 30 times are probably gone except for a few occasions.
"You just play at a faster tempo now offensively, so you've got to spell your guys. Guys are bigger and stronger, and it's a long season."
The only 30-carry game of Gurley's career occurred last year against South Carolina, when the Bulldogs ended a three-year losing streak to the Gamecocks with a 41-30 win in Sanford Stadium. The 6-foot-1, 232-pounder from Tarboro, N.C., had 132 yards and a touchdown but suffered an ankle sprain three weeks later that sidelined him for a month.
Bobo said Gurley is "100 percent, knock on wood" for this week's showdown at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"He is a big, strong back, and he and the quarterback at Oregon are the Heisman leaders right now," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "Hopefully he may not be the leader. Hopefully we can slow him down a little bit, but he's going to get his yards, no question about that. He's going to get his yards against everybody.
"They ran out the last nine minutes of the game on us last year, so we know what they're certainly capable of doing."
Gurley has been dealing with fame ever since he arrived in 2012 and rushed for 100 yards and returned a kickoff 100 yards in his debut against Buffalo. That attention has increased following his career-best performance against Clemson, which has the Bulldogs prominently mentioned as a candidate for the sport's new four-team playoff.
"I feel like all that is Internet-based," Gurley said, "so if you just stay off the Internet you won't see any of that stuff. I don't watch TV like that. I watch the Ravens play, Duke basketball, the Orioles sometimes and 'The Simpsons.'"
While Gurley's career-high in carries took place in last year's game against South Carolina, his career low in yardage occurred the last time the Bulldogs ventured to Williams-Brice Stadium. Facing a hostile crowd and an eventual 11-win team, the Bulldogs fell behind 21-0 after 10 minutes and abandoned their weekly plan of establishing the run.
Gurley carried 13 times for 39 yards.
"I haven't lost by that much since I've been here," Gurley said. "It was just like a nightmare come true. I've been stopped in some other games, but I really couldn't do too much that night. They just played harder than us -- they definitely played way harder than us. That [former Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon] Clowney. You just couldn't get away from him.
"They've played spread teams so far this season, and they don't really match up too well against spread teams, but what we do is what fits them best."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs practiced for 90 minutes Wednesday with pumped-in crowd noise. ... Richt on if his players have lost any focus after the Clemson win: "They would have a hard time being complacent with the demanding staff we have right now." ... Junior-college transfer cornerback Shattle Fenteng continues to have a "shoulder issue," according to Richt. ... Gurley on visiting South Carolina tailback Mike Davis in Columbia earlier this year and being spotted by Gamecocks fans: "They were asking what I was doing down here, and I was like, 'I can't come to Columbia?'"
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.