COLUMBIA, S.C. – There were no “For the Gipper” speeches. There were no genius strategic adjustments made. The difference in what Georgia did offensively in the first half and what happened in the third quarter was nothing more than the Bulldogs doing what they do, better.
So said the principle parties involved in No. 3 Georgia’s 41-17 win over No. 24 South Carolina on Saturday. After prying a 20-10 lead out of a defensive-oriented first half, the Bulldogs scored touchdowns on their first three drives of the third quarter to break the game open 41-10. By the time the fourth quarter began, the Bulldogs’ starters were resting and the Bulldogs had served notice in the SEC East.
“It was just doing what we did with cumulative effect,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “At the end of the day I think we just wore them down. [Everybody] always wants to make it about adjustments. But we also stopped them with two or three 3-and-outs and I think that was the back-breaker for their defense, to have to go back out there and lean against those big guys.”
After struggling to 183 yards in the first half, Georgia received the second-half kickoff and immediately put together three run-heavy scoring drives. They were, in order, 6 plays-75 yards, 6-plays-75 yards, 9 plays-86 yards. And while some nifty and timely passing plays were involved on all three possessions, they were increasingly ground-oriented, going from three runs, to four and then finally to eight.
“I think it was just about doing what we do,” said junior running back Elijah Holyfield, who led Georgia’s backs with 76 yards on 9 carries and scored a 5-yard touchdown on the second possession of the third quarter. “We weren’t doing anything bad before that, per se. We just weren’t doing it to the caliber that we’re capable of. I think in the second half we just went out there and executed.”
Georgia had 226 yards and 12 first downs on 21 plays in the third quarter. The Bulldogs finished with 473 total yards.
“We didn’t change a whole lot,” said Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who finished with 194 yards on 15-of-18 passing. “We were just playing our offense, taking care of business. We were playing big-bully football and running the ball.”
Senior center Lamont Gaillard echoed that sentiment.
“We didn’t do anything different,” he said. “We felt like we slacked off the second quarter. We knew we were a second-half team and we just needed to dominate the second half. So we did. That’s the Georgia way.”
The most amazing part of it all is the Bulldogs did it without their top offensive lineman. Sophomore left tackle Andrew Thomas went out of the game after the first play of second half. He suffered a sprained ankle on a 13-yard run by D’Andre Swift off left tackle.
True freshman Cade Mays subbed in for Thomas and played the rest of the game.
“It doesn’t matter who we have on the field, we’re just going to attack the day,” Gaillard said. “Cade came in and played phenomenal. I’m proud of him and everybody who came in and played. That’s why we build depth, so people can come into situations like that.”
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp could attest to that.
“We got whooped on the line of scrimmage,” Muschamp said. “We discussed that the line of scrimmage would be a key part of the game and we did not perform well.”
Georgia spread 295 yards rushing between five backs, two receivers and two quarterbacks. D’Andre Swift had 64 yards on 12 carries and Brian Herrien added 45 on 7 carries. All three scored touchdowns.
“The second half was really important,” Smart said. “We came in and talked about how we wanted to open the second half, about how we wanted to grind the clock and it wore down on them a little bit.”