Breakdown: No. 1 Georgia 48, South Carolina 7

Georgia tight end Brock Bowers breaks away for a touchdown for a 31-0 lead over South Carolina during the third quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Columbia.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Georgia tight end Brock Bowers breaks away for a touchdown for a 31-0 lead over South Carolina during the third quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Columbia. “Curtis Compton / Curtis

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC) annihilated South Carolina (1-2, 0-2) 48-7 in the most dominating conference victory of the Kirby Smart Era. It was the largest margin of victory over the Gamecocks in the 128-year history of the series.

Here’s how it broke down:

Key play

Freshman safety Malaki Starks recorded the second interception of his young Georgia career on South Carolina’s second possession of the game. What made that particularly important is Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler had just hit the Bulldogs with a 46-yard completion on a streak pattern down the left sideline against cornerback Kamari Lassiter. Two plays later, Rattler tried to go deep again. This time Starks stepped in front of the underthrown ball, picked it off and carried it 42 yards down the Georgia sideline. That set up the Bulldogs’ second scoring drive of the day and made Rattler wary of throwing deep the rest of the game.

Key stat

A week after struggling in the red zone against Samford, of all opponents, the Bulldogs were 5-for-5 on scoring opportunities inside the 20-yard line, with four touchdowns and a field goal. For the season, Georgia improved to 19-for-20 in the red zone, with 14 touchdowns and five field goals.

Game ball

Georgia tight end Brock Bowers finally had the kind of game the Bulldogs became accustomed to getting from him last season. The sophomore from Napa, Calif., hauled in all five passes he was targeted on and finished with 121 yards receiving and three touchdowns. One of his scores came on a 5-yard run off a tight-end reverse to the right. The other two came on a high-jumping snatch on a goal-line fade route and the other on 78-yard catch-and-run over the middle that was reminiscent of Bowers’ season-defining TD against Georgia Tech last season. “I don’t even know his numbers; I know he looked fast running down the field,” Smart said. “The thing about Brock that is so hard to measure is the amount of attention he draws.”

What we learned

We’ve learned that Georgia may be as good or – gulp! – better than it was last season when it ran down the program’s first national championship in 41 years. Despite losing 15 players to the NFL draft – including eight overall and five first-rounders from the defense – the Bulldogs are better on offense and seem just as good on defense. “I’ve said all year we have good football players,” Smart said. “We just have to play well, and they have to buy in to being selfless and helping each other. This team’s way different than last year. We don’t have 15 guys who are going to be drafted next year. We don’t. But we’ve got a lot of guys who are tough, they’re physical and they like practice. They buy in to being around each other, they’re connected, they like to compete each other.”

They said it

“I think we handled business this week. Coming into it, we respected South Carolina and coach (Shane) Beamer and prepared well for them and came out here and executed. It was satisfying.” – Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett

“I took that personally, very personally. That’s the entire defense’s body of work. It’s not because certain people are out there, 1s, 2s or 3s. If you’re on the field, you’re a starter for us and you’re expected to play that way.” Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith on South Carolina’s late touchdown

“Oh, yeah. He was fine. He said he was fine. He was like, ‘Yeah, I’m back now. I’m good.’ He said he started coughing, then he dry-heaved and then he threw up some. But he’s a competitor. He wasn’t coming out till we were up far enough that we wanted to take him out.” Smart on Bennett’s midgame illness

“First of all give Georgia credit, they showed out today. Second of all, we apologize to our fans that were out here today. We challenged them in the press conference during the week to show up, and they did. It was an unbelievable atmosphere throughout the game. For a noon kickoff that was awesome, and was great. The atmosphere pregame was great, and they were fantastic. But that was a poor performance by us to say the least. Sorry, we didn’t coach better and play better for them.” – Beamer

“Nothing was really different today, just think worked out the right way. I got certain coverages and the defense was doing certain things, and I was just able to come open a couple of times.” – Bowers on his three-touchdown day.

What’s next

Georgia: The Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 SEC) return to non-conference play when they play host to Kent State on Saturday at Sanford Stadium (noon, SEC Network-Plus). The Golden Flashes (1-2) defeated Long Island University 63-10 for their first win of the season Saturday.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks (1-2, 0-2) play host to Charlotte on Saturday in Columbia. The 49ers are 1-3 after edging Georgia State 42-21 late Saturday night.