ATHENS, Ga. — It was third-and-long in the fourth quarter, a perfect moment for Jadeveon Clowney to wake from his slumber.
South Carolina had the momentum. The Gamecocks were about to have the ball. If only Clowney, or any of his 10 teammates, could make a play.
No. 11 Georgia beat No. 6 South Carolina, 41-30, in its home opener before a Saturday night crowd of 92,746 at Sanford Stadium. The crushing play — in a night full of them for USC’s defense — came on an 85-yard touchdown pass from Georgia senior quarterback Aaron Murray to receiver Justin Scott-Wesley.
On third-and-13, Murray escaped the pocket and found Scott-Wesley, who was wide open behind the Gamecocks’ defense.
“Me and the corner we blew the coverage,” said safety T.J. Gurley, who was supposed to cover the deep receiver but instead cut off to an inside route. “But one play don’t determine the game. We couldn’t stop the run all night. So, if we would’ve been stopping the run, we could’ve had a chance. One play don’t determine the game.”
The Gamecocks (1-1) couldn’t stop the run, giving up 132 yards on 30 carries and one touchdown to sophomore Todd Gurley. They couldn’t stop the pass, allowing Murray to complete 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
They couldn’t stop the Bulldogs’ offense, period.
“Aaron Murray played a pretty good game today,” said Clowney, who suggested this offseason Murray may be scared of him. “He threw quick, away from me the whole game, and the game plan worked out for them.”
Clowney got his first sack of the season, but his influence was limited for the second straight week. From start to finish, Georgia (1-1) made sure it ran plays away from USC’s star defensive end. Not coincidentally, the Gamecocks allowed 538 yards and five touchdowns.
“Y’all watched it,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said after the game. “They pretty much went up and down the field on us.”
The Swiss-cheese defense never gave USC’s offense a chance, despite a good night for senior quarterback Connor Shaw. In one of his best road performances, Shaw completed 16 of 25 passes for 228 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He constantly moved the chains with his legs — running for 75 yards on 16 carries — but had a key fumble in the second half.
With a defense that couldn’t get off the field or keep Georgia out of the end zone, none of USC’s highlights mattered.
“This one stings a little bit. It’s frustrating,” Shaw said. “I thought our offense did a good job of bouncing back from big plays, but we had a turnover. They didn’t have any turnovers.”
Shaw’s favorite receiver was junior Nick Jones, who caught six passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores came in the second half.
Sophomore tailback Mike Davis had his second straight 100-yard game. Davis finished with 149 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown, but was stopped on fourth-and-inches short of the goal line in the fourth quarter.
Bottom line: USC scored 30 points on the road, and still lost. Still, Spurrier found something for his offense to improve.
“We didn’t score every possession, so we got beat,” Spurrier said. “Sometimes you’ve got to score on every possession. We weren’t good enough to do it.”
Saturday was one of those times. Now, the Gamecocks return to Columbia with plenty of questions to answer, almost all of them on defense.
“It was a good tail-kicking. Give Georgia credit. They ran it right down our throat. Vince Dooley has probably got a smile on his face the way they played today, no question about it. So we’ll go back and regroup, try not to do too much talking now. We have been totally beaten.”