Rapid Reaction: Georgia relies on run game to offset Eason's off-day, top South Carolina
Georgia ended its two-game losing streak with a 28-14 victory at South Carolina in a rare Sunday afternoon game.
The Bulldogs started quickly on offense, marching down the field for a touchdown on their first possession, but settled into a defensive battle for much of the afternoon, relying on its run game to offset freshman quarterback Jacob Eason’s worst performance.
Georgia made enough plays down the stretch, however, and left Williams-Brice Stadium with its second SEC victory. Terry Godwin returned an onside kick for a touchdown in the final minutes to make the margin more impressive than it seemed.
What it means: After a heart-breaking loss to Tennessee, Georgia rebounded with a win. That’s no easy task for a first-year coach, but Kirby Smart’s squad improved to 4-2 with a respectable road victory.
Unless Tennessee and Florida have massive collapses, the focus for Georgia should be on improving a young squad. There were some mental lapses and inconsistencies Sunday, as the Bulldogs appeared to take their foot off the pedal after building an early lead, but it provides more valuable experience for the team.
What I liked
Georgia: The Bulldogs were clearly determined to run the football against South Carolina and they had plenty of success. Georgia’s first touchdown drive was almost exclusively done on the ground as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 64 yards, including a 15-yard score by Chubb.
In the first half, Georgia gained nearly 200 yards and had a nice mix of Chubb, Michel and Brian Herrien. Both Chubb and Michel eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the game, and Herrien came very near to joining that club.
Georgia finished with a season-high 327 yards rushing.
Similarly, the Bulldogs’ run defense was extremely impressive. South Carolina ended the first quarter with zero rushing yards and only mustered 20 in the first half. It was a strong outing in all facets for the defense, which forced three turnovers, but the run defense really set the tone.
South Carolina: There weren’t many positives for the Gamecocks, but they did a good job limiting Georgia’s passing game. South Carolina’s pass rush made life hard for Eason, and Darius English once again had an impact.
Fans got a glimpse of what the offense is capable of on a solid 90-yard drive that included a good balance of run and pass. A 39-yard connection between Perry Orth and Deebo Samuel jump-started the drive and was the type of explosive play the Gamecocks have been missing.
What I didn’t like
Georgia: Eason struggled mightily on the road against Ole Miss, and the freshman still doesn’t look comfortable in hostile territory. He missed several throws that should have been completions and looked shaky going through his reads. The run-heavy focus might have prevented Eason from getting into a rhythm, and a dropped pass by Isaiah McKenzie in the end zone certainly didn’t help, but fans didn’t want to see him have that type of outing.
He finished 5 of 17 for 29 yards. He threw one touchdown and was intercepted once in the red zone. It was a career-low for completions and yards. His previous lows were 8 completions and 131 passing yards.
South Carolina: As has been the case this season, the Gamecocks’ offense was largely ineffective against Georgia. South Carolina mustered only 31 yards in the first quarter and 108 yards in the first half. Orth was fairly efficient, but the offense failed to stretch the field vertically. Any momentum the Gamecocks built was undone by turnovers. Outside of South Carolina’s 90-yard scoring drive, the offense never really looked threatening until the latter stages of the fourth quarter.
Who’s the man: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel each played a big role for the Bulldogs, so it’s only fitting that they share this honor. Both players eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in the third quarter and showed just how dangerous Georgia’s running game can be when both players are healthy.
What’s next: Georgia returns back home for a noon kickoff against Vanderbilt, while South Carolina will enjoy a bye week.