ATHENS, Ga. — Carson Beck passed for 269 yards, Daijun Edwards, Dillon Bell and Cash Jones ran for second-half touchdowns, and No. 1 Georgia rallied from 11 points down to beat South Carolina 24-14 on Saturday.
The two-time reigning national champion Bulldogs won their 20th consecutive game in uncharacteristic fashion, trotting off to a smattering of boos from their home fans and facing their biggest halftime deficit in nearly three years.
But Georgia (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) played like a champ after the teams returned to the field on a soggy, gloomy day between the hedges.
The defense totally shut down Spencer Rattler and the Gamecocks (1-2, 0-1), who couldn’t build on their 14-3 lead at the break. They managed just 129 yards over the final two quarters, with Rattler held to 6 of 24 passing for 104 yards with two interceptions.
The Beck-led offense came out from the break nearly perfect, scoring touchdowns on three of its first four possessions — the only blip being a drive that ended with a missed field goal. Beck finished 27 of 35 passing.
Edwards, who missed the first two games with a lingering knee injury, rushed for 118 yards on 20 carries.
Georgia took the second-half kickoff and quickly drove 75 yards in six plays, scoring its first TD of the day on Edwards’ 7-yard touchdown.
After South Carolina went three-and-out, the Bulldogs ripped off a 49-yard drive that ended with Bell, a receiver who has been getting extended time at running back, taking it in from the 3 to give Georgia its first lead of the game before the third quarter was halfway done.
Finally, Georgia finished off the Gamecocks when Cash sauntered in from 13 yards out with just over 9 minutes remaining.
The first half was a stunner, as Rattler carved up the Bulldogs by completing 16 of 18 for 152 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown to Antwane Wells Jr. on a third-and-16 screen.
It was the first time Georgia has trailed since last year’s playoff semifinal victory over Ohio State in the Peach Bowl.
The Bulldogs answered with Peyton Woodring’s 31-yard field goal, but the Gamecocks tacked on another TD with just a minute left in the half after Woodring missed a chip shot from 28 yards.
Rattler guided South Carolina on a five-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by Dakereon Joyner powering in from the 2 off a direct snap to push the margin to double-digits.
Rattler completed two passes for 53 yards and scrambled twice for 20 yards on the lightning-quick possession, which was helped along by a 15-yard facemask penalty on Georgia’s Warren Brinson.
The final play of the half summed it up for the Bulldogs: Beck was sacked near midfield as the clock ran out with Georgia facing its largest halftime deficit since the Bulldogs trailed Florida 38-21 in the Cocktail Party rivalry on Nov. 7, 2020.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have shown a lot of promise under coach Shane Beamer, and their performance over the first two quarters against the nation’s top-ranked team was certainly impressive. But the second-half meltdown demonstrated they’re not quite ready for prime time in the SEC.
Georgia: The Bulldogs’ running game got a big boost from the return of Edwards, who provided the sort of explosiveness they’d been missing. But Georgia appears to have a problem in its kicking game, which has traditionally been one of its strongest areas. Woodring is just 3 of 6 on the year, including two misses from inside of 30 yards. He also was wide right on a 43-yarder against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina: Hosts Mississippi State next Saturday in its first SEC home game.
Georgia: Caps a four-game homestand to start the season, taking on non-conference foe UAB next Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll