Dawgs' Offense Tries to End Drought at USC

COLUMBIA — Georgia's Michael Bennett was taken aback when he heard the stat.

While the sixth-ranked Bulldogs are one of the nation's most dynamic offensive teams, they haven't scored more than 20 points at South Carolina in two decades.

Yep, the last time was 1994 — when Bennett was just 2 years old.

"Wow," the senior receiver said. "I didn't know that. Geez, that might just be a lack of focus. We've let the atmosphere get the best of us. I know that's what happened in 2012."

Two years ago, Georgia (1-0) was blown out by the Gamecocks, going down 21-0 in the first quarter on the way to a 35-7 loss. The Bulldogs still have "Sandstorm" — South Carolina's raucous pre-game anthem — ringing in their ears as they head to Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday with hopes of claiming an early edge in the Southeastern Conference East.

"I hate that song," linebacker Amarlo Herrera groaned.

Since their last trip to Columbia, the Bulldogs have averaged nearly 37 points a game. They've scored more than 40 points in 10 contests, and been held to less than 20 only a couple of times: a 17-9 victory over Florida in 2012 and a 24-19 loss to Nebraska in last year's Gator Bowl.

But the offense always seems to bog down when the Bulldogs travel to South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC), and there's a definite sense of trepidation about that trend continuing — even though the No. 24 Gamecocks hardly look like a defensive powerhouse without Jadaveon Clowney.

South Carolina opened with a 52-28 loss to Texas A&M, giving up a staggering 680 yards. Even though the Gamecocks bounced back last week to beat East Carolina 33-23, the defense still looked a bit shaky, surrendering 453 yards and 27 first downs.

The Bulldogs started with an impressive 45-21 victory over Clemson, matching the combined scoring output of their last four trips to South Carolina.

"It's been really tough for Georgia to score points in that stadium," said coach Mark Richt, whose team was off last weekend. "It's just a matter of a great atmosphere and some great defenses and Georgia just not getting it done."

To get it done this time, the Bulldogs will likely have to be more productive through the air. They didn't have to throw it much against Clemson, rushing for 328 yards, but South Carolina looks extremely vulnerable in the secondary. Kenny Hill put up 511 yards and three touchdowns in Texas A&M's rout. East Carolina had 321 yards passing.

Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason was 18 of 26 for just 131 yards against Clemson. He knows the Gamecocks will likely stack the line, do their best to shut down star running back Todd Gurley, and essentially dare the Bulldogs to throw.

"We can't be naive. Teams understand that Todd is our biggest weapon," Mason said. "When we get those one-on-one opportunities against South Carolina, we've got to be able to take advantage of them. If we don't, we may still be able to find a way to win, but I don't really like our chances if we can't throw the ball effectively."

The Bulldogs are further limited by a series of injuries at receiver. Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Jonathon Rumph are expected to miss Saturday's game, putting more pressure on players such as former scout-teamer Kenneth Towns and freshman Isaiah McKenzie.

"We're a little shaky," Richt said. "We just don't have a lot of depth right now."

Don't look for any sympathy from Steve Spurrier. There's no team the South Carolina coach loves beating more than Georgia, though he doesn't put much stock in what happened the last 20 years.

"We didn't think A&M was going to roll up 52 on us," Spurrier said. "Every year is a new year. We're believing we can play a lot better, but we need to go do it on the field, and this would be a good week to show that."

The Gamecocks aren't totally ignoring what happened before in Columbia.

"We're a different team with a totally different defense," sophomore linebacker Jordan Diggs said. "But we definitely pay attention and watch the films of those previous games, try and take what we can from those games.

"This is on us," he added. "We're going to have to come out and play our game and hopefully come out with a result like those other teams.”


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