ATHENS, Ga. — South Carolina’s stingy second-half defense needs to flip the switch once again.
The Gamecocks kept Georgia star tailback Nick Chubb from running wild, but paid for it as Bulldogs quarterback Greyson Lambert enjoyed a near-perfect opening two quarters. The transfer from Virginia, benched in the first half last week against Vanderbilt, threw just one incompletion in piloting No. 7 Georgia to a 24-13 halftime lead over the Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium.
Lambert finished the first half 14-of-15 for 190 yards and one touchdown, that a five-yard strike to Malcolm Mitchell with 17 ticks remaining in the half. Chubb rushed for 68 yards, including a three-yard first-quarter score.
Perry Orth, the former walk-on making his first start at quarterback for the Gamecocks, engineered an early field goal drive and then split time with backup Lorenzo Nunez in a series which netted a four-yard touchdown run by Orth.
But the Gamecocks played catch-up throughout the first half. Sony Michel put Georgia ahead 17-3 on a 21-yard touchdown run, and Lambert was rarely hassled as he picked apart the USC secondary. South Carolina got the boost it needed when Nunez entered late in the second quarter, teaming with Pharoh Cooper and Brandon Wilds for a series of rushes that got the Gamecocks inside the 10.
Orth took over from there, lofting a high third-down pass which tight end Jerell Adams leapt to catch and then carried 15 yards to the Bulldogs’ 8. After a short Cooper rush, Orth faked a handoff right, then dashed left to the pylon and a touchdown which cut the Georgia lead to 17-10.
But Lambert and the Bulldogs didn’t let up. Georgia needed just eight plays and 1:53 to go 78 yards, with the quarterback completing five passes on the drive including the touchdown toss to Mitchell. The Gamecocks then got down to the Georgia 33 after a big Shon Carson return and a facemask penalty, and Elliott Fry booted a career-best 51-yard field goal as time expired.
USC center Alan Knott left the game with a sprained ankle, turning snapping duties over to true freshman Zack Bailey from Summerville. And Wilds went down after a 13-yard rush on the Gamecocks’ first-half touchdown drive, and did not carry the ball again before the break.
Georgia gained 323 total yards in the first half, to USC’s 150. The Gamecocks defense has shut out opponents over the second half of the first two games this season, the only score against USC in that span being a return of a fumbled two-point conversion attempt.