Columbia, S.C. — These short takes are presented as a companion to the Georgia-South Carolina game column, which can be found on myajc.com.
1. Georgia botched a better chance than it probably deserved. Having been on the back foot all night, the Bulldogs finally had the game in their hands after Damian Swann flashed in front of Dylan Thompson’s third-down pass and gave the Bulldogs possession at the South Carolina 4 with 5:24 remaining. A touchdown might have won it. The first-down call was a bootleg pass off a play-action fake to Todd Gurley, the nation’s best tailback. If it works, it’s a great call. It didn’t, so it wasn’t. Hutson Mason was pressured and threw the ball away. He was flagged for intentional grounding. On second-and-goal from the 14, a Gurley run gained three yards. (Now they give it to him!) On third-and-goal, Mason’s pass was batted down. On fourth down, Marshall Morgan pushed a 28-yard field goal to tie wide right. Just an awful series at the absolute worst time.
2. The Bulldogs’ secondary isn’t first-rate. Thompson completed 21 of 30 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Two hundred forty of those yards came in the first half, when the Gamecocks scored on four of six possessions to seize a 24-13 lead. With the Bulldogs’ front seven concerned about stopping tailback Mike Davis, South Carolina chose instead to have Thompson throw and keep throwing, and Georgia’s pass defense (such as it was) was laughable. Receivers were allowed to run free over the middle, making it appear the Bulldogs were playing a man or two short. Unlike the Clemson game, when Georgia yielded 21 first-half points and none thereafter, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was unable to halt the assault. The Gamecocks finished with 447 yards and 38 points.
3. As deflating as this loss was, Georgia’s playoff chances aren’t gone — but the margin of error is. If the Bulldogs win the SEC East, they’ll play for the SEC title. If they win the SEC title as a one-loss team, they’ll surely make the four-team College Football Playoff. But they’ll have to win the next 11 games for that to happen. Two losses probably won’t do it, and the Bulldogs will long rue the narrowness of this one. They were outplayed but still had the chance to steal a vital road game against a quality opponent. They banked only three points from two turnovers deep in South Carolina territory, and Morgan — who’d earlier set an SEC record with his 20th consecutive field goal — missed two makeable ones.