Georgia Bulldogs receiver Justin Scott-Wesley catches an 85-yard touchdown pass behind South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker Skai Moore during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated South Carolina, 41-30, as Scott-Wesley, the Camilla native and former Mitchell County High School two-sport star, led the Bulldogs with 116 yards receiving.
ATHENS — Georgia has always known Justin Scott-Wesley is one of the fastest players in America.
Now South Carolina does, too.
Scott-Wesley, the former Mitchell County High School 100- and 200-meter state track champ, hauled in a 30-yard pass from Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray in the fourth quarter Saturday against SEC rival South Carolina — and his feet did the rest, blazing 85 yards past a helpless bunch of Gamecocks for what proved to be the game-clinching touchdown that lifted UGA to a 41-30 victory.
Scott-Wesley, a former Albany Herald Player of the Year, led the Bulldogs with 116 yards receiving — and the bulk of that couldn’t have come at a bigger moment.
“We’ve got a lot of playmakers,” said Scott-Wesley, who is finally seeing extended playing time after being called on to fill in for injured starting wideout Malcolm Mitchell. “I feel like it’s hard for the coaches to put guys in positions to make plays because we’re so deep and diverse. At any point in time, any one of us can make a play.”
Georgia snapped a 24-24 halftime tie on Patrick Beless’ 37-yard field goal midway through the third quarter and extended the lead to 34-24 on Murray’s 8-yard pass to Gurley with 18 seconds left in the quarter. Mike Davis’ 3-yard touchdown run for South Carolina with 13:55 remaining brought the Gamecocks within 34-30, but Elliott Fry pulled the extra point wide left. Murray then found Scott-Wesley down the left sideline just 55 seconds later to all but put the game away.
Murray passed for four touchdowns and Todd Gurley scored twice to lead the host Bulldogs in their SEC opener.
Not only did Georgia snap a three-game losing streak to the Gamecocks, but the Bulldogs moved into the early lead in the SEC East.
“The team that loses this game is waiting for the other team’s bus to break down,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. “We’ve been chasing them for three years. We haven’t been 1-0 in the league for a while. (Saturday), we got them, so I’m thankful.”
Gurley rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass for Georgia (1-1, 1-0 SEC), which snapped a three-game losing streak to South Carolina (1-1, 0-1). Murray completed 17-of-23 passes for 309 yards to improve to 4-11 against ranked opposition.
Davis rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown for the Gamecocks, and Connor Shaw threw for 228 yards and two touchdown passes to Nick Jones.
Georgia scored 17 unanswered points to turn an early 3-0 deficit into a 17-3 advantage on Murray’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Keith Marshall with 12:22 remaining in the first half. The Gamecocks responded with two quick touchdowns, tying the game at 17 on Shaw’s 18-yard scoring pass to Jones with 5:07 left before halftime.
But Murray and the Bulldogs — and their new weapon Scott-Wesley — were too good Saturday. And Murray said he didn’t care about those critics who have said in the past he can’t win the big game.
“I’ve never worried about that,” Murray said. “With me, you always lose as a team and you win as a team. This wasn’t about me. It was about the team, and this was a huge win.”
NOTES: Georgia played Saturday’s game without redshirt sophomore tight end Jay Rome who sat out with a sprained ankle. … South Carolina announced before the game that starting cornerback Victor Hampton would be suspended for the first half. … The Gamecocks played the game without starting center Cody Waldrop. He was replaced by fellow freshman Clayton Stadnik.
Reuters News Service and Herald sports editor Danny Aller contributed to this report