COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)—No. 2 Georgia and Knowshon Moreno made sure South Carolina didn’t ruin a second-straight shot at a championship season.
Moreno’s sliding 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter lifted the Bulldogs to a 14-7 victory over the Gamecocks on Saturday.
Reshad Jones sealed the victory for the Bulldogs (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), intercepting South Carolina’s Chris Smelley’s pass with 13 seconds left inside the Georgia 10.
The Bulldogs had all offseason to remember how last September’s 16-12 loss to South Carolina (1-2, 0-2) likely kept them from playing for the SEC and national titles.
Instead, Georgia had to settle for the title of team no one wanted to face at the end of 2007.
For much of this one, it looked like the Gamecocks could do it again as the Bulldogs trailed 7-6 midway through the third quarter.
Georgia had already muffed a scoring chance near the goal line, settling for Blair Walsh’s 23-yard field goal after having a third-and-goal at the South Carolina 1.
Moreno, who finished with 79 yards on 20 carries, didn’t squander the Bulldogs’ next opportunity.
He ran left, then took a hard cut up the middle with his feet sliding out from under him. Moreno steadied himself with his right hand, then slipped through for his seventh touchdown of the year.
Stafford converted the 2-point try on a pass to Kris Durham and Georgia led 14-7.
Moreno’s TD was the first Georgia’s scored in the past eight quarters against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina had three chances in the fourth quarter to tie things up.
The Gamecocks drove to Georgia’s 2 midway through the period. But linebacker Rennie Curran smacked the ball free as tailback Mike Davis tried to leap the pile and it bounced into the arms of Georgia defensive back Asher Allen.
South Carolina got to Georgia 17 in the final minute before Smelley was intercepted by Jones to keep the Gamecocks winless against teams’ ranked in the top two.
For South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, it was his sixth straight SEC loss, by far the longest of his stellar career.
Only the most ardent Gamecock fans coming in could’ve expected South Carolina to hang with the mighty ‘Dawgs.
Georgia, armed with the memories of last year’s game and the dynamic Moreno, figured to romp to victory. But right from the start, South Carolina showed the Bulldogs things would not be easy.
Georgia’s first two series dissolved into punts. It had two scoring drives that took a combined 28 plays and ate up more than a quarter of the first half, but both ended with field goals.
South Carolina’s offense, which came in ninth in the 12-team SEC, did little to improve that ranking.
But the Gamecocks finally got something going midway through the second quarter. Smelley found Moe Brown for a 19-yard gain to get inside Georgia territory. Two plays later, Brown slipped behind defender Ramarcus Brown for a 34-yard TD pass from Smelley.