Seven observations, notes and other bits of analysis as No. 7 Georgia leads South Carolina 24-13 at halftime:
1. Greyson Lambert has answered the critics. It almost seems a shame he has to go back out there in the second half and have another chance to fail. All he did was shine in the first half: He has more yards at halftime (190) than he did either of the first two games. He only has one incompletion. His QB rating in the first half (221.7) is about three times better than what it was for the game last week. His touchdown throw to Malcolm Mitchell was perfect, as was a great completion to Reggie Davis earlier in the drive. Lambert has been composed in the pocket. He’s made the right reads. He even ran the ball twice for 10 yards. For one half, at least, no one can question the decision to make him the starter. There’s no reason to play Brice Ramsey right now unless the game gets out of hand.
2. The playbook has also been opened up a bit, and it showed on the first drive. Passes on the first three plays, all completions, moved Georgia past midfield. The opening drive featured three passes on first down. (Georgia threw it on first down just five times against Vanderbilt, and four times against Louisiana-Monroe.) We also saw a pretty reverse to Isaiah McKenzie, and more downfield plays.
3. The offense in general has been great, especially considering this: Georgia’s offense had to start its first three drives on its 17, 18, 12 and 22. And it went field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Yes, the best field position Georgia had in the first half was its own 22-yard line. And a big reason for that is …
4. Georgia’s secondary continues to give up too many plays. South Carolina was 4-for-7 on third down, almost all of them on pass plays. In hindsight it seems like a gift to Georgia that the Gamecocks didn’t attempt a pass on their opening drive. Since then the Gamecocks have been able to hit receivers in space, and it looks like once again the Bulldogs are playing too loosely in coverage. Pressure on the quarterback isn’t an issue yet either because Perry Orth is getting rid of the ball quickly, or Lorenzo Nunez is running the option. As for the secondary, Quincy Mauger moved to the star, which seemed a wise move. They’d plugged in more inexperienced players at that spot the first game, and the opponents exploited it. This time it’s just the entire back end having trouble.
5. That accounts for 10 points. Then there was the big-time breakdown by Georgia’s kick coverage unit at the end of the half: A long return followed by a late hit that allowed the Gamecocks a long field goal attempt. And it was good. It may not end up being costly, but for now it gave the Gamecocks something to latch onto entering halftime.
6. While there are issues in the secondary, Malkom Parrish isn’t one of them. The sophomore continues to play really well, especially with that knock-away to force a punt on South Carolina’s third drive.
7. Georgia has doubled South Carolina in total yardage: 323-150. But the Bulldogs aren’t quite dominating in the running game on either side of the ball. (Georgia has 133 yards, South Carolina 84.) The thinking here, however, is the second half is set up to go that way. There could be a wearing-down process for the Gamecock defense, which was starting to show on Georgia’s last two drives. We also have to see whether Jon Hoke, South Carolina’s new defensive coordinator, chooses to respect the passing game and move people back, thus opening more holes for Nick Chubb and Sony Michel – who are each still doing well, by the way. Chubb is averaging 5. 7 yards on 12 carries, Michel 11.8 yards on four carries.
Final thought: Georgia’s offense looks great, even the passing game. (Especially the passing game.) South Carolina is down to a true freshman snapping the ball to a walk-on. But the play-caller is still Steve Spurrier, so the Gamecocks are still dangerous. Georgia gets the ball to start the second half, which means a chance to accelerate the process of putting the game away.