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Georgia suffers heartbreak in shootout loss to South Carolina

Georgia coach Mark Richt walks back to his sideline with his head down after losing an argument on a call that went against the Bulldogs in Saturday's 45-42 loss to South Carolina

Georgia coach Mark Richt walks back to his sideline with his head down after losing an argument on a call that went against the Bulldogs in Saturday's 45-42 loss to South Carolina

ATHENS -- Mark Richt's frustration was apparent early on. The normally low-key Georgia coach flung his headset and playcard onto the field when South Carolina pulled off a fake punt for a touchdown.

Before the day was done, he would have plenty of things to moan about.

No. 12 South Carolina had two defensive touchdowns, set up another score with a long fumble return and turned that fake punt into a 68-yard TD, handing the Bulldogs and their embattled coach a galling 45-42 loss on Saturday.

Georgia (0-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) did plenty of things right. Aaron Murray threw for a career-high four touchdowns. Freshman Isaiah Crowell rushed for 118 yards and scored twice. But three turnovers and a hideous breakdown on special teams doomed the Bulldogs.

"We need everybody to support us," Richt said. "We need everybody to just watch and see what happens, because things will turn around. The future is still very bright, I know that."

Melvin Ingram, a 276-pound senior defensive end, scored the first two touchdowns of his career for South Carolina (2-0, 1-0), which gained an early edge in pursuit of its second straight SEC East title.

Looking like a running back, the big lineman rumbled 68 yards for a first-half touchdown after taking a direct snap when Georgia expected a punt. He came up with the clinching score with just over 3 minutes remaining, scooping up a fumble in the end zone.

Antonio Allen returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown, and Stephon Gilmore's 56-yard return with a fumble set up another score for South Carolina.

"When we look at the film, there will probably be some things that cause us to slam the projectors against the wall. There's so many things we can't afford to do," Richt said. "But just as many times, we'll probably say, 'That was awesome. That was awesome execution.' We did a lot of great things too. I think we have all the ingredients to be a really fine team, ultimately."

The teams combined for 60 points over the final 21:09 and the lead changed hands four times (with a tie, as well) during that span.

"Georgia outplayed us. Give 'em credit. They definitely outplayed us," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "But we won the game. Sometimes it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight."

Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for 176 yards on 27 bruising carries, put the Gamecocks ahead for good on a 3-yard run that made it 38-35 with 3-1/2 minutes left.

Then, one last crushing mistake by the Bulldogs.

Freshman Jadeveon Clowney burst through the line without being blocked and threw down Murray, who lost the ball before slamming the ground. Ingram batted it toward the end zone and picked it up there for an improbable two-touchdown performance.

"Whatever my team needs me to do," Ingram said.

Georgia, despite a 436-395 edge in total yards, is off to its first 0-2 start since 1996. The Bulldogs opened with a 35-21 loss to No. 4 Boise State.

The only team to begin the season with back-to-back games against ranked teams can only hope the tough schedule pays off in the end.

"There's a lot of games left to play," said Richt, under fire with Georgia coming off its first losing season in 14 years. "There's no question we're still in the SEC race."

Crowell had some big runs but also made a huge mistake, fumbling a handoff around midfield. The ball bounced into the South Carolina secondary, where Gilmore picked it up at his own 39 and zigzagged all the way to the Georgia 5. Shortly after that, Stephen Garcia scrambled up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown run on an otherwise forgettable day for the senior in his return as starting quarterback.

Garcia, who won back the job by leading a comeback win over East Carolina, went 11 of 25 for 142 yards and two interceptions.

"It's kind of a blur right now," he said. "It's just a big win for us."

Indeed, the second half was a blur. Allen's TD stretched South Carolina's lead to 28-20. Michael Bennett hauled in a 19-yard pass for Georgia, and a two-point conversion tied it up. Jay Wooten's 49-yard field goal put South Carolina back ahead 31-28. The Bulldogs reclaimed the edge on Crowell's stiff-arming, 15-yard touchdown run.

Finally, Lattimore put the Gamecocks ahead to stay.

Murray threw for his fourth score, hitting Tavarres King on a 33-yard pass with 2:15 to go. But Ingram capped off his amazing day by recovering the onside kick, and Lattimore ran for the necessary first down to bleed off the final seconds.

"We can be a great football team," Murray said. "We have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball."

Two special teams plays epitomized a frustrating first half for the Bulldogs.

After going up 13-7 on Murray's 26-yard touchdown pass to Rantavious Wooten, Georgia called an onside kick and appeared to pull it off perfectly, the ball bouncing high over the front line of blockers and right into the hands of Bacarri Rambo. He took it on the fly and scurried into South Carolina territory.

Not so fast. The officials ruled that Rambo had just crossed the line a fraction too early. Georgia had to kick again and booted it deep. From its own 29, South Carolina failed to move it and lined up to punt with just over 2 minutes left in the half.

But Spurrier had a trick of his own.

The snap went straight to Ingram, who took off in front of the South Carolina bench, breaking tackles all the way to the end zone.

The Bulldogs had only themselves to blame. Three times, Georgia drove deep into Gamecocks territory but only managed field goal attempts. Blair Walsh connected from 37 and 39 yards, then missed a 33-yarder.

South Carolina finally struck, wiping out all of Georgia's good work on offense with one throw. Garcia lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone and Alshon Jeffery, who might've gotten away with a bit of a shove on the defender, hauled in the 34-yard touchdown.

Georgia reclaimed the lead on its next possession, finally taking a drive all the way to the end zone. Murray scrambled for a 23-yard gain, then hooked up with Wooten in the back of the end zone to make it 13-7.

But this game was only getting started.

Comments

Fortsand 2 years, 10 months ago

I predicted earlier that the Bulldogs would begin the season at 0-2. They played pretty well, but mistakes killed them against SC.

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