COLUMBIA, S.C. — A long third-down conversion on South Carolina’s first set of downs in its 17-6 win over Georgia was a shining example of the Gamecocks’ advantage Saturday.
True-freshman running back Marcus Lattimore took a draw for 16 yards, converting after the Bulldogs held strong on first and second down.
Lattimore finished with 37 carries for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Averaging just less than 5 yards per carry, Lattimore reeled off yards after the Bulldogs made the initial contact.
“We’ve got to do a better job fundamentally,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “We have to finish tackles off, and that’s the first thing. We have to tackle. When you do tackle, on third down you have to get off the field. From that standpoint of it, we’ve got to do a better job mentally of finishing off tackles. We’ve got to a do a better job in the run game, and when you get them to third down, you have to get them off the field.”
Behind Lattimore’s consistent surge, the Gamecocks nearly doubled the Bulldogs in time-of-possession (19:18 to 10:24) in the first half. South Carolina converted 15 first downs and was 7-of-9 on third downs in the opening half.
“Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the story of the game was,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “Marcus Lattimore was certainly the most dominating player of the game. (South Carolina head coach Steve) Spurrier did a nice job of game planning for that young man to carry the ball. He just kept feeding him — 21 carries in the first half for over 100 yards. I think he was outstanding.”
The issue was tackling, Grantham and his players agreed.
“I think we had all the right calls,” senior defensive end Demarcus Dobbs said. “I think it had to do with execution, just people not — just the team not wrapping up, not gang-tackling, not getting 11 men to the ball. That’s what you have to do with a good running back.”
While Lattimore gained chunks of yards at a time, quarterback Stephen Garcia utilized a quick, efficient passing attack. The senior finished the game 12-of-17, with 165 yards.
The combination of a consistent running threat, mixed with a trustworthy passing option, kept Georgia’s defense on the field.
“South Carolina didn’t do really anything special,” safety Bacarri Rambo said. “We were just missing tackles. We beat ourselves.”
The Bulldogs’ defense improved in the second half. Lattimore was held to 76 yards and didn’t score. A Garcia fumble was recovered. The Gamecocks managed only three points in the half.
“Hey, we didn’t win the game,” Grantham said. “And the bottom line is, we didn’t win the game. You know, we’ve got to find more ways to create more turnovers.
“We’ve got to find ways to get off the field on third down, and that’s the way I look at it. You either win the game or lose the game. I thought the players continued to play hard. I was proud of their effort. I think they bowed up. I think they did a nice job of adjusting on the sideline, because, as the game went along, some things were corrected.”
“I think it’s just one of those things we move forward and learn from it as we get on in the season.”
By game’s end, the Gamecocks had racked up 23 first downs, 14 of which were converted by a rushing play.
Now Georgia looks to this week’s opponent — No. 14 Arkansas. The Razorbacks use a pro-style offense, which has primarily been based on the pass in the past. Georgia will go back to the fundamentals this week to prepare by working on tackling, wrapping up and firing to the football, Grantham said.
“We have nobody to blame but ourselves,” Dobbs said. “We have to look at ourselves, just go out next week and worry about the game next week.”