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South Carolina hung with No. 2 Georgia but never quite had enough in 24-10 loss

November 5, 2017 GMT

ATHENS, Ga. – Bryan Edwards burst through the seam with a bead on the end zone, and Jake Bentley knew the game was tied. Just as he released, he was clipped – the throw wobbled to a stop in the arms of Georgia safety J.R. Reed.

That kind of day. South Carolina hung with No. 2 Georgia but never quite had enough to overcome, the Bulldogs clinching the SEC East championship with a 24-10 win.

“Jake gets hit right as he throws it … it’s going to be a touchdown,” coach Will Muschamp said. “Those are the plays you got to make. You want to win this game, you got to make those plays. And they did.”

The Bulldogs, second in the Top 25 but first in the College Football Playoff rankings, rushed for 242 yards but were limited in their explosive plays. Had USC (6-3, 4-3 SEC) managed to get off the field more on third down (Georgia picked up 8-of-13) and made some more tackles (the Bulldogs thrashed USC with the run throughout, but especially in the second half), it could have been different.

But the defense wore down the offense’s ability to get something, anything, going and the Gamecocks were left looking at a missed opportunity.

“Not many teams are able to run the ball against them. We knew that coming in,” said Bentley, who was 21-for-35 with a touchdown and two interceptions. “We competed hard. You don’t see anybody giving up or backing down from them. Couple of plays here and there, the game’s different.”

The Gamecocks left another three points on the field on their opening drive, Parker White missing a 46-yard field goal after USC gobbled an onside kick and went right down the field. Edwards caught a touchdown that was ruled good on review and USC trailed 14-7 with the ball late in the second quarter.

On fourth-and-5 from the 40, USC punted. “There was no reason to panic there in that situation in my opinion,” Muschamp said, and the Gamecocks got a third-down sack with less than two minutes to play to get the ball back.

They didn’t call timeout before the punt, despite having three, and took over with 54 seconds to play. Muschamp said he did it to set up the play to Edwards, which was there.

But Bentley was hit, the throw was picked, and the Gamecocks never got going. Their defense held Georgia to 10 more points, but USC could only manage three more.

“The difference in the game is their running backs and not getting off the field on third down,” Muschamp said. “We forced Jake Fromm to play quarterback and I compliment Jake, he played extremely well tonight.”

Fromm completed 16-of-22 passes, concentrating on short outs to the sideline, and then handed off to Nick Chubb (102 yards) and Sony Michel (81). The Gamecocks countered with Bentley’s arm, getting the ball to Hayden Hurst for 93 yards and Edwards for 62, but couldn’t get to the end zone.

“Always tough losing a game but we never get down on ourselves,” Edwards said. “Not going to let this loss beat us twice.”

Muschamp credited his team’s resolve and said a “hurting locker room” is a good thing to see. The Gamecocks lost the East but still have an excellent chance to finish second and play in a major bowl game.

They host reeling Florida at noon next Saturday. They’ll spend the downtime realizing that they’re much improved, just a couple of steps away from where they want to be.

They just have to take those steps.

“To win these types of games, those are the plays you got to make,” Muschamp said. “Just got to find better ways to get off the field.”