Coach Richt said South Carolina was very good:

ATHENS -- Georgia coach Mark Richt insisted all week that South Carolina was a very good football team.

On Saturday, the No. 8 Bulldogs tried to make him eat his words by throttling the No. 25 Gamecocks 31-7 and leaving their coach to defend himself.

"I think time will prove they are a very good football team," Richt said. "We just played extremely well today."

Georgia's win boosted the Bulldogs to 3-0 and set up a showdown against their smothering defense and LSU's electric offense next Saturday in Baton Rouge.

The Bulldogs, who first-team defense has allowed just three points all season, were fourth in the country in scoring defense entering Saturday's game. No. 11 LSU was third in the country in scoring offense entering a Saturday night game against Western Illinois.

"They're just statistically off the charts right now so we're going to face a very confident team," Richt said.

The Tigers were averaging 54 points and 482 yards a game before Saturday night's game.

"I don't want to think about it right now," Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. "I want to go home, eat with my family and relax. I'll start thinking about LSU (Sunday) morning ... maybe a little bit tonight."

There were plenty of good memories to get VanGorder through Saturday night. Excluding a 24-yard rush by punter Joey Bowers on a fake, Georgia allowed the Gamecocks just 2.4 yards a carry. South Carolina gained 350 yards but 170 of those came in the fourth quarter, when the game was decided.

"Last year we learned how to win. Now we know how to win," defense end Robert Geathers said. "We just go out there, run hard and hit folks."

In the first half, Gamecock receivers had four receptions and Georgia defenders had three. Sean Jones picked off both Dondrial Pinkins and short-time replacement Michael Rathe, both of whom were being pressured by defensive end David Pollack when they threw. Georgia linebacker Tony Taylor intercepted Pinkins inside the Bulldogs 20-yard line to end South Carolina's only first half threat.

The Gamecocks' only touchdown came on a 37-yard pass from Camilla native  Pinkins to Demetris Summers with 52 seconds left in the game. Georgia's starters watched it from the sideline.

"The defense was ready to rock," offensive guard Bartley Miller said. "Offensively, we go out and put up 21 and we win a game."

Scoring 21 points against the Gamecocks has been tough on the Bulldogs lately. They hadn't scored more than 13 since 1999, but Greene threw a 2-yard scoring pass to Reggie Brown with 3:05 left in the first quarter to put the Bulldogs ahead 10-0 and break an 11-quarter touchdown drought. It was Georgia's first offensive touchdown against the Gamecocks in 181 minutes and 18 seconds of game time.

"We were definitely glad we scored a touchdown early to break the curse," said quarterback David Greene, who was 16 of 27 for 208 yards and two touchdowns.

Brown led the Bulldogs with seven catches for a career-high 104 yards. He added to the lead by catching a 5-yard touchdown pass with 41 seconds left in the first half.

Georgia running back Michael Cooper, who finished with a team-high 82 yards scored on a 2-yard run with 40 seconds left in the third quarter to put the Bulldogs ahead 24-0. Damien Gary added the final score when he returned an onsides kick 44 yards for a touchdown with 44 seconds remaining in the game.

"Coming into today's game, I thought we were a lot better than that," South Carolina defensive end George Gause said. "Today was not our day."

It was the Bulldogs' day, particularly on defense. Through three quarters, South Carolina was averaging just 3.5 yards per play. Safety Thomas Davis led the charge with 13 tackles and a sack. Linebacker Odell Thurman followed with 11 tackles, including two for loss.

South Carolina cornerback Dunta Robinson, an Athens native, was impressed by what he saw from the sidelines.

"They've got  a swarming defense," he said. "They're on the verge of being great."

That's not the kind of talk VanGorder wants to hear but he admits his defense is much further along than he thought it would be.

"We still have some issues, but I like where we are at this time," he said.

He'll like it even more if Georgia can become the first team this year to slow down LSU.

"It's going to be crazy," cornerback Bruce Thornton said.

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