Here’s a look at what went wrong and right for South Carolina in the Gamecocks’ 40-13 loss at Georgia on Saturday.
South Carolina thumbs up
Luke Doty debuts: Silver linings are hard to come by in a blowout loss, but in a bit of good news for USC, Doty made his season debut after missing the first two games of the season due to a foot injury. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, a hand injury to starter Zeb Noland is what prompted Doty’s early entrance into the game. The sophomore completed 13 of 26 passes for 153 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but his offensive line gave him little room to work against Georgia’s ferocious defensive line.
Josh Vann: Through three games, the senior wide receiver has been USC’s most dependable target. He reeled in a 61-yard pass by Noland on the team’s first drive to set up a field goal, and he nearly came down with a similar catch from the arm of Doty before a replay review ruled that the ball touched the ground. Vann paced the Gamecocks in receiving with 128 yards on three catches, adding a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
Jaylan Foster: On a night when the Gamecock defense simply couldn’t get off the field, the senior safety Foster provided two of the few USC highlights, intercepting a Stetson Bennett pass in the first half and picking off a JT Daniels pass in the third quarter for his second and third picks of the young season.
South Carolina thumbs down
Injuries: The Gamecocks were bruised and battered early in the contest. Starting linebacker Sherrod Greene went down with a leg injury in Georgia’s opening offensive drive and had to be carted off the field, with Gamecocks teammates gathered around him to offer support. Noland played just one drive and attempted only two passes before a teammate stepped on his hand and forced him into the locker room, prompting Doty’s entrance into the game.
The secondary: Defensive coordinator Clayton White has said that mistakes by the secondary result in points on the scoreboard, and that was certainly the case Saturday. Daniels had little issue moving the ball, routinely finding the soft spots in USC’s zone coverage. Twice a Bulldogs receiver blew by a USC defensive back for long touchdowns. Jermaine Burton ran by Cam Smith for a 43-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and Adonai Mitchell burned Darius Rush for a 38-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter — both receivers wide open.
Third-down defense: Related to the secondary’s struggles, the Gamecocks defense struggled to get off the field on third downs, allowing UGA to convert five of seven third-down attempts in the first half and eight of 12 attempts overall as the Bulldogs marched down the field with authority.
Offensive line: Facing an elite defensive line anchored by Jordan Davis, the Gamecocks struggled to keep pressure off Noland and Doty and especially struggled to open running lanes in the first half (13 carries for nine yards). Constantly under pressure, Doty used his legs to escape the pocket but had little time to complete his throws and was sacked twice — including a second-half strip sack that resulted in a fumble.