By JEFFREY COLLINS
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — No. 13 Georgia’s 45-16 win over South Carolina was the Bulldogs’ biggest victory of this strange season on the scoreboard.
But Georgia coach Kirby Smart wasn’t sure had its best game Saturday night, with the Gamecocks missing more than two dozen players and offering little resistance.
“It’s hard to say that because of the quality of the competition,” Smart said.
James Cook ran for 104 yards on just six carries and three other Georgia backs had at least 77 yards. It was barely a game from the start. Georgia (6-2) led 21-0 after three possessions and South Carolina (2-7) had yet to get a first down.
The Gamecocks can barely field a team. Nearly 20 players couldn’t play because of injuries or COVID-19 issues. Another seven players have opted out, several since the school fired coach Will Muschamp two weeks ago.
Still, Smart said he was happy for the fast start and the 332 yards his team gained on the ground.
“They didn’t play down to that level,” Smart said. “They knocked people off the ball.”
After throwing for 401 yards in his first start last week, Southern California transfer JT Daniels was 10 for 16 for 139 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Daniels overthrew a few open receivers and took two sacks, but Smart said he thought the sophomore did fine, making sure he only made a few mistakes.
“He took the things the defense gave to him,” Smart said.
Zamir White ran 13 time for 84 yards, Kenny McIntosh had 79 yards on nine carries, and Daijun Edwards ran 14 times for 77 yards. The Bulldogs didn’t attempt a pass after Daniels’ 31-yard touchdown strike to Arian Smith on the first play of the fourth quarter gave them a 45-10 lead.
Georgia got the ball back with 9:27 left and ran 12 straight times, taking a knee at first-and-goal at the 1 to mercifully end it. The Bulldogs averaged 8 yards a run when Daniels sacks were removed from their total.
South Carolina interim coach Mike Bobo said he was proud that the players he had fought hard and didn’t give up even as Georgia tried to score in the closing moments.
“Part of being a man is you don’t make excuses and you don’t let people make excuses for you,” said Bobo, whose South Carolina team was without leading receiver Shi Smith and SEC sack leader Kingsley Enagbare.
South Carolina has lost five in a row, allowing at least 45 points in four of the defeats.
Georgia: It’s almost now all for bowl positioning for the Bulldogs, assuming COVID-19 allows the postseason to happen. Georgia does have a tiny chance to make the SEC title game, but No. 6 Florida has to lose its last two to LSU and Kentucky.
South Carolina: Freshman quarterback Luke Doty got his first start, throwing for 190 yards on 18-of-22 passing with an interception and a touchdown. Running back Kevin Harris continues to be a rare bright spot, churning out a tough 53 yards on 17 carries. Tight end Nick Muse caught eight passes for 131 yards.
BEATING A FRIEND
Smart and Bobo played together at Georgia back in the 1990s and have been friends ever since. But that didn’t mean Smart felt sorry for the predicament his old pal is in.
“He doesn’t want my pity. He’s a football coach,” Smart said. “He doesn’t need my pity and I’m not giving him any.”
South Carolina beat then No. 3 Georgia 20-17 in double overtime in 2019, but the three interception hero of that game, defensive back Israel Mukuamu, opted out of the rest of the season after the Gamecocks fired Muschamp two weeks ago.
No matter the different players on the field— both quarterbacks changed along with a host of others — Georgia defensive back Lewis Cine said his team didn’t forget the loss that derailed their season.
“It felt great. It felt awesome. We got redemption,” Cine said.
Georgia: The Bulldogs have their regular-season finale at home Saturday against Vanderbilt.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks likely end their season Saturday at Kentucky. And the search for a new coach to replace Muschamp goes on.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.