Georgia Bulldogs running back Keith Marshall (4) carries the ball while being defended by Clemson Tigers linebacker Stephone Anthony (42) during the fourth quarter at Clemson Memorial Stadium on Saturday in Clemson, S.C. (Reuters)
Georgia coach Mark Richt is confident his team will respond from a season-opening loss with a strong effort against South Carolina.
Doomed by two turnovers, penalties and poor pass protection, the Bulldogs lost 38-35 at Clemson. But Georgia’s home opener against the Gamecocks allows a quick chance for redemption. South Carolina and Georgia are considered co-favorites to win the SEC East, and the winner will have a leg up in the race to get to the SEC title game in Atlanta.
“I think we’ll bounce back,” Richt said. “I think we’ll be ready to play and we’ll be excited about playing. We’ll be home for the first time this year. I know our fans will be ready to support the team. … We know it’s a big game and our quest is to try to win the Southeastern Conference. We haven’t played a conference game yet so we have a lot to play for.
“We’ll be home. We’ll be in conference play, and we know how important that is. We haven’t beaten South Carolina in three years.”
South Carolina is coming off an impressive 27-10 win over North Carolina. The Gamecocks boast Heisman Hopeful defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney and an offense that rolled up 406 yards against the Tar Heels.
Georgia will need to turn up its level of physical play after an inconsistent effort against Clemson. Richt said that fundamentals will be a huge point of emphasis in practice this week, including blocking and tackling in space
“There were times where we couldn’t have blocked plays better than we did and had some tremendous results,” Richt said. “Then there were times where we looked like we were in the first grade out there. We were getting out of position, and there were a couple of holding calls that really hurt us and some pass protection issues that we just didn’t handle very well. It just wasn’t a consistent enough effort to do what we really needed to do and put more points on the board.”
Georgia hasn’t beaten South Carolina since a 41-37 shootout win at home in 2009. That, and getting off to a positive start in SEC play, should serve as motivation for the Bulldogs between the hedges.
“Since it’s conference play it’s definitely way more important, but at the same time every game is important,” Georgia defensive lineman Garrison Smith said. “We just want to do the best we can and try and get a victory.”