Georgia vs. Arkansas
When: 7:45 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fayetteville, Ark.
On TV: ESPN
ATHENS — It was sloppy and rousing, tedious and thrilling. In the end, Georgia held on for a win it absolutely had to have.
If not for Rennie Curran's last-second pass deflection near the end zone, the Bulldogs could easily have been 0-2 for the first time since 1996 and headed out on the road again with their season in tatters.
Now, there's hope.
"This does a lot for our team's character," said Curran, who got his left hand on South Carolina's final pass with 22 seconds remaining to preserve a wild 41-37 victory Saturday night. "No matter how much adversity we face, if we can stick together and keep a positive attitude, then we can get through anything."
Georgia (1-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) held on in a game that lasted near four hours and featured just about everything: a kickoff return for a touchdown, an interception brought back for a score, a fake punt that worked, a safety when a high snap sailed out of the end zone, and a blocked extra point — not to mention 77 passes and 24 penalties.
South Carolina (1-1, 0-1) ran 30 more plays than the Bulldogs (83-53) but ran out of plays at the end.
"That's what you live for as a defensive player, to make that stop and be victorious on your home turf," said cornerback Brandon Boykin, who set a school record with a 100-yard kickoff return for Georgia's first touchdown. "We really came together. When adversity struck, we didn't fall apart."
Even with the win, Georgia slipped two spots in the new Associated Press rankings, falling to 23rd.
The Bulldogs got even worse news when an MRI showed starting end Roderick Battle was done for the year with a torn ACL in his left knee. He was the second straight starter to go down with a season-ending injury; offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant tore up a knee in the opening loss to Oklahoma State.
At least Georgia has a potential replacement for Battle. Sophomore end Justin Houston will return for Saturday's game at Arkansas after being suspended for the first two contests.
Quarterback Joe Cox faced all sorts of questions before the game after reports surfaced he was bothered by a sore arm or shoulder. There was even speculation that sophomore Logan Gray might start.
Cox took all but one snap, though he conceded he's got a long-standing issue with his shoulder, one that will lead Georgia's coaches to hold him out from passing drills on Wednesdays for the rest of the season. Even so, Cox said the ailment shouldn't have any impact on his one season as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback.
"It's something that been with me for about a year now," said Cox, who was 17 of 24 for 201 yards, with two touchdowns and one crucial interception. "It hasn't gotten any worse. It doesn't bother me to the point where I can't function. I still feel like I can throw the ball fine. It's just something I've been dealing with for a while."
Cox said surgery was never an option.
"It's just something I'll probably have forever," he said. "It's how my shoulder is and I'll just have to deal with it."
Georgia's defense surrendered 427 yards but really stiffened in the red zone after giving up two first-quarter touchdowns, one of them set up by A.J. Green's fumble. After that, South Carolina has to settle for five field goals by Spencer Lanning, tying a school record; the Gamecocks' other points came on a safety, when Ty Frix snapped the ball over punter Drew Butler's head and through the end zone, and Eric Norwood's 35-yard return after picking off Cox.
Curran said the Georgia defense played better than the score indicated.