May the best team win — finally

Linebacker Tony Gilbert returned Monday after sitting out the off week of practices with a sprained ankle.

ATHENS, Ga. - As was the case two years ago, Georgia will carry a No. 9 ranking into Columbia, S.C., Saturday.

This time, Georgia seniors hope to live up to the ranking.

Georgia (1-0) has lost two straight years to South Carolina (1-1), and each year there were postgame grumbles that the Bulldogs did not play their best game against the Gamecocks.

Said Georgia senior receiver Terrence Edwards Monday: "They have a good team, but personally, I think the two years they beat us we had the best team, but the best team doesn't always win. The best team won that day. They won, and you have to give them credit.''

Georgia delivered one of its worst offensive performances in recent memory two years ago when it was limited to 202 total yards while quarterback Quincy Carter threw five interceptions in a 21-10 loss to South Carolina.

On Saturday night, the Gamecocks  suffered through a similarly frustrating day.

Losing six  fumbles and committing seven turnovers overall, South Carolina suffered a 34-21 upset loss at Virginia to fall out of the Top 25.

Said a stunned South Carolina coach Lou Holtz after the game: "Seven? it seemed like more.''

Holtz skipped his weekly teleconference Sunday, instead leaving those duties - and discussions about the fumbles - with his son, offensive coordinator Skip Holtz.

"Was that just the first time this team had been on the road?'' asked Skip Holtz. "Was it Virginia creating them? Was it just us putting in on the ground? ... There's no excuse for it.''

South Carolina quarterback Corey Jenkins lost three fumbles and threw an interception.

"It was a very humbling football game for us to be involved in,'' said Skip Holtz. "With the success we've had here the last couple of years, we haven't been involved in a game like that.''

Jenkins became involved in an altercation after the game with Virginia fans who rushed the field.

Jenkins was captured in a photograph with his fist pulled back as if about to throw a punch at a fan. He told the Columbia State newspaper that he did not follow through with the punch.

No incident reports were filed with Charlottesville, Va., police after the game, and there has been no announcement of any disciplinary action against Jenkins. South Carolina officials have attributed the incident to poor crowd control by Virginia.

"(Jenkins) was trying to get out,'' said Skip Holtz. "When he was tackled to end the game, fans were already 30 to 40 yards on the field. ... Corey addressed it that there was some pushing and shoving going on, but I didn't see anything first-hand.''

The turnover-filled loss and postgame altercation capped a bad week for the Gamecocks that included reports that the NCAA is asking questions about allegations of rules violations involving former running back Derek Watson.

The arrival of Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game against No. 9 Georgia in Columbia, S.C., brings to light more pleasant recent memories for the Gamecocks.

The 2000 upset victory over Georgia gave the Gamecocks  their first conference victory since 1997. It served as a springboard to back-to-back trips to the Outback Bowl - while Georgia had to settle for lesser postseason games.

Last year South Carolina, then ranked No. 21, beat No. 24 Georgia 14-9 as mistakes again haunted the Bulldogs. This time Georgia was stopped a blocked field goal and an interception in the red zone.

Did the better team win last year?

"That depends on what you think the better team is,'' said senior offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb. "They beat us the last couple of years. The bottom line is they beat us. What does that make us, underachievers? I don't look at it that way.''

NOTES: Freshman Marquis Elmore moved from middle linebacker to defensive end Monday. Elmore returned to practice last week after having arthroscopic back surgery last month. More help is needed at end after Nic Clemons suffered a turf toe injury in the win over Clemson. Starting end David Pollack twisted his right knee Monday, but the injury is not thought to be serious.

Linebacker Tony Gilbert returned Monday after sitting out the off week of practices with a sprained ankle.  "My Achilles (tendon) is still kind of tight, but other than that I'm running well,'' Gilbert said.

South Carolina senior receiver James Adkisson will miss three to six weeks due to a sprained knee. Adkisson (6-5, 215) was expected to be the Gamecocks' top threat this season. He led the team with three receptions for 39 yards against Virginia.

"I hate it for the young man,'' said Skip Holtz. "I also hate it for he offense because he's definitely one of our big-play threats.''

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