ATHENS, Ga. — Once the rock starts rolling downhill, it's hard to stop. Just ask South Carolina.
Georgia rolled up 227 yards rushing on 53 carries in Saturday's 41-30 victory over the Gamecocks, and the Bulldogs' running game—or South Carolina's inability to stop it—was, without a doubt, the deciding factor.
"It was a good tail kicking, and I have to give Georgia credit," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. "They ran it right down our throat. Vince Dooley (former Georgia coach known for emphasizing the run) probably has a smile on his face with the way they played tonight."
And it wasn't a case of chipping away at the Gamecocks with the running game and wearing them down. Georgia ran it early, ran it often and let the running game set the tone.
Tailback Todd Gurley was the go-to guy for the Bulldogs. He finished with 132 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.
Most of Georgia's strategy with the running game revolved around running away from Jadeveon Clowney, the Gamecocks' All-American defensive end.
"It's hard just trying to chase from the back side," said Clowney, who was in on three tackles with one sack. "Really just taking me out of the game. That's basically what they did today."
Jadeveon Clowney gets worn out faster than an iPhone battery.— LostLettermen.com (@LostLettermen) September 7, 2013
South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward refused to lean on that as an excuse.
"We've got other players on defense," he said. "They need to step up and make plays."
Clowney said he was surprised at the Bulldogs' success running the football.
"We worked hard all week," he said. "Game-planning, we knew we had to stop the run coming into the game, and we just didn't do it. We didn't come in and execute like we were supposed to."
South Carolina's frustration was evident. At one point, defensive line coach Deke Adams and linebackers coach Kirk Botkin got into a heated argument that had to be broken up by defensive coordinator Ward.
"In the heat of the moment, things happen," Ward said. "They're good."
Ward was obviously more concerned about a Gamecocks defense that was absolutely ravaged by the Bulldogs.
"There are no excuses," Ward said. "We got our butts beat. We'll go back and look at the video, and I'm sure every position on defense can improve."
Even when the Gamecocks seemingly had the Bulldogs stopped, Georgia would find a way to convert a first down.
Georgia clicked off 25 first downs, were 6-of-14 on third-down conversions and 2-of-3 on fourth down.
The Bulldogs' success with the run not only kept the chains moving and the South Carolina defense on the field, it also opened things up for Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and the passing game.
Most of the day, Murray had the luxury of throwing when he wanted to rather than when he had to.
As a result, he finished the day completing 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns, and the Bulldogs finished with 536 yards in total offense.
That South Carolina kept the game close into the fourth quarter was more a testament to the Gamecocks' offense than any great heroics from the defense.
No doubt, the Gamecocks offense deserved better.
Playing on the road in the most adverse of conditions, South Carolina moved the ball effectively and never got rattled by the Sanford Stadium crowd, despite trailing by 10 points on two different occasions and ultimately losing by 11.
Tailback Mike Davis was brilliant in defeat, rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw gave the Bulldogs fits all day, completing 16 of 25 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Shaw rushed for an additional 75 yards on 16 carries.
Sophomore wide receiver Nick Jones appears to be an emerging star in the Gamecocks' offense. Jones caught six passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns, and through two games, he leads South Carolina in receptions with 10.
"The offense definitely played well enough to win," Ward said. "We didn't do our job on defense. We've got to get better as players, and we've got to get better as coaches. There's a lot of football left."