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September 7, 2007
South Carolina at Georgia Preview
Georgia coach Mark Richt was pleased with his young team's victory in last week's season opener, but he knows games will only get tougher with SEC play getting underway.
The 11th-ranked Bulldogs look to begin the conference season with another strong performance Saturday when they host South Carolina in their traditional SEC opener.
Georgia won its 11th straight season opener last Saturday night, 35-14 over Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs used 12 first-time starters - including eight on defense - and two true freshmen in a season-opening game for only the second time since 1964.
"I'm excited about the way we started," sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "We are young in spots and we needed to have a good performance. We played with a lot of enthusiasm."
Stafford opened his first full season as a starter by going 18-of-24 for 234 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Freshman tailback Knowshon Moreno led the Bulldogs with 20 carries for 70 yards and added two catches on screens for 51 yards, while Thomas Brown gained 47 yards on 12 attempts and scored two touchdowns.
Georgia had five sacks and held Oklahoma State to 196 yards passing and 70 yards on the ground.
"Everybody played collectively well, and that's exciting," Richt said. "We have to build off what happened so far, and we'll have a chance to be pretty good.
"It's nice to be 1-0, but it's only the beginning. It was a great start, but we've got a long way to go. We played well because we prepared well, and we've got to make sure we do that again this week."
Georgia, which tied for third in the SEC East last season with a 4-4 mark, has opened conference play against South Carolina every year since the Gamecocks joined the league in 1992. The Bulldogs are 11-4 in those games, and Richt has won five straight over South Carolina since losing his first meeting against the Gamecocks in 2001.
Stafford made his first collegiate start in last season's 18-0 victory over the Gamecocks, but had a forgettable performance, completing 8 of 19 passes for 171 yards with three interceptions.
Last season's loss to Georgia was the first time South Carolina was shut out since falling 23-0 to Arkansas on Nov. 9, 2002, and was the first time a team coached by Steve Spurrier was shut out since Oct. 3, 1987, when Duke lost 7-0 to Rutgers.
Spurrier's normally high-powered offense was also sloppy at times in the Gamecocks' 28-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in last Saturday's season opener.
"Now we know we are a bunch of average stiffs, and we will have and average year if we don't play better," Spurrier said. "So maybe this is good for us."
Against the Ragin' Cajuns, the Gamecocks were without starting quarterback Blake Mitchell, who was suspended for missing summer school classes. Mitchell is slated to return for this game.
South Carolina was 5-3 in games Mitchell played last season, as he passed for 1,789 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 66.8 percent completion percentage.
Junior running back Mike Davis rushed for 94 yards on 15 carries last Saturday, and has gained 329 yards on 57 attempts in his last four games.
The Gamecocks finished fifth in the SEC East with a 3-5 mark last season. They have not opened 2-0 since 2003.
"All SEC games count and obviously division games count more," Spurrier said. "If you have two teams tied, it's based on how one team performs against the other. It's just as important for our team as it is for theirs."