It was said almost to the point that it became cliche over the last week: South Carolina had never before defeated Georgia three times in a row. A victory by the Gamecocks would end that streak, which had lasted for 64 games over 118 years. And South Carolina did not defeat Georgia on Saturday night; the Gamecocks destroyed the Dawgs, a 35-7 rout that was in some ways not even that close.
It started on the first drive of the game, when South Carolina took the ball 76 yards in five plays to take a quick 7-0. On the following Georgia drive, DeVonte Holloman picked off a tipped pass to end a scoring threat by the Dawgs; South Carolina eventually cashed that in for another touchdown. A three-and-out later, and Georgia punted the ball to Ace Sanders, who muffed the ball and then picked it and returned the ball 70 yards for a touchdown.
Before anyone knew what had happened, South Carolina had a 21-0 lead and Georgia was playing catch-up. Then, when South Carolina stuffed Georgia on fourth-and-goal from the Gamecocks 2, the game was pretty much over.
Overall, the Gamecocks churned out 230 yards on 51 carries. Marcus Lattimore didn't continue his streak of otherworldly games against the Dawgs -- but he did well enough, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Connor Shaw carried the ball 14 times for 78 yards and a touchdown and went 6-of-10 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, Steve Spurrier had his quarterback attempt 10 passes in a 28-point rout.
To say Georgia's offense struggled would be putting it kindly. Aaron Murray completed barely a third of his passes, going 11-of-31 for 109 yards and an interception. He averaged 3.5 yards a pass. Murray was only sacked twice by the South Carolina defensive line, but faced pressure almost all night. The rushing game rebounded for 115 yards on 36 carries after getting 18 yards on 17 carries in the first half.
For Georgia, the game was a disappointing sign that the Dawgs have a long way to go to defend their SEC East title. There are no sure losses on the schedule, but the Florida game in three weeks looms as a make-or-break showdown for Georgia. Even if the Dawgs win in Jacksonville, they will need someone to knock of South Carolina somewhere along the way.
Which is why next week's game in Baton Rouge might be the truest test of South Carolina's title-worthiness. The last time the Gamecocks pulled off a big win at home, they went on the road and were upset by Kentucky. LSU is a far more difficult opponent and has its back to the wall after Saturday's loss to Florida. Of course, a visit to the Swamp is up after the LSU game if the Gamecocks can get through the bayou undefeated.
But for the moment, South Carolina looks like the team to beat in the SEC East -- again. And if the Gamecocks deliver on the promise they showed Saturday night, they might be able to set their sights even higher than that.