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UGA NOTEBOOK: Houston revels in home debut

ATHENS — Kolton Houston made the first start of his Georgia career after his three-year battle with the NCAA over a positive drug test for a banned substance in last week’s opener at Clemson.

However, Saturday’s game with South Carolina was the first time the 6-foot-5, 280-pound junior had a chance to suit up and take the field at Sanford Stadium.

And the Buford grad admitted it was a bit of an emotional experience for him.

“Last week, it really didn’t affect me that much,” Houston said. “But (Saturday), … playing in front of the home crowd, it was really special. I took it in and let it soak in. It really meant a lot to me.”

The fact that the first home game came against a team featuring perhaps the nation’s highest-profile defensive linemen made it even more special.

Houston moved around from left guard to right tackle throughout the day, and he was rarely lined-up directly against him, but he was aware where Gamecocks star defensive end Jadaveon Clowney was at all times.

“It made it fun,” Houston said of Clowney’s presence. “But at the end of the day, football’s not about one player. It’s about a team. We didn’t make any special packages. We didn’t come up with any special blocking for him like we tried to do last year. We were just going to play football, and I think that really helped us.”

Snap judgments

For the second straight week, an miscue on a long snap during a special teams play proved costly for Georgia.

This time, it was a snap that Georgia punter Collin Barber bobbled to set South Carolina up at the Bulldogs’ 18, and eventually allowed the Gamecocks to tie the game late in the second quarter.

It came on the heels of a short-hop snap on what should’ve been a chip shot field goal in last week’s 38-35 loss at Clemson.

And while head coach Mark Richt is pleased overall with his special teams — including a daring onside kick in the first quarter to set up a score — he knows that little things like long snaps must be handled with the same care as every other phase of the game.

“I think the ball just hit (Barber) right in the hands,” Richt said. “There were a couple snaps that were just a tad high … but other than that, I think our special teams have played well.”

South Carolina had its own long snap problem early in the fourth quarter when a low pass caused Elliott Fry to miss a critical extra point that kept Georgia’s lead at four points with 13:55 to play.

Head’s up play

A rule adopted last year cut short a potentially remarkable run by Georgia’s Todd Gurley early in the second quarter.

The sophomore had his helmet ripped off while stacked up in a pile at the South Carolina 29-yard line, but broke free and appeared to be headed for a big gain, and perhaps even a touchdown, when the play was whistled dead by the rule that requires such action when a ball carrier loses his helmet.

“I was wonder when they were going to blow the whistle,” Gurley said. “But they blew, like, real late. I felt like I was going to score.”

The play wasn’t a total loss for the Bulldogs. South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles was flagged 15 yards for a facemask penalty, and Georgia scored on Aaron Murray’s 6-yard TD pass to Keith Marshall two plays later.

Homecoming for Griffin

Mill Creek grad Kelsey Griffin continues to make an impact during his freshman year at South Carolina.

The 6-2, 292-pound defensive tackle, who initially tried to commit to Georgia last year, but changed to South Carolina, has seen action in both the Gamecocks’ games so far this season, and was credited with a tackle in Saturday’s game.