ATHENS — No. 7 Georgia is facing a team that has even bigger issues at quarterback than the Bulldogs.
While Greyson Lambert has hardly impressed as Georgia’s new starter, South Carolina will have to go with former walk-on Perry Orth for Saturday’s game between the hedges.
Orth came on in last week’s 26-22 loss to Kentucky after Connor Mitch went down with a separated shoulder. He’ll likely be out for at least six weeks, putting the Gamecocks in quite a bind as they try to avoid an 0-2 start in the Southeastern Conference.
Not that Steve Spurrier sounds all that concerned.
“If we can protect him, and get some guys open, he’s very capable,” the Gamecocks coach said.
Georgia (2-0, 1-0 SEC) picked Lambert as its starter less than a week before the season opener, going with a player who transferred to Athens after losing his starting job at Virginia. The junior looked shaky in last week’s 31-14 victory over Vanderbilt, completing just 11 of 21 passes for 116 yards — none of them as long as 20 yards.
“He short-armed some balls, but he’s going to be fine,” coach Mark Richt insisted. “It’s just a matter of getting into the flow of a game, the flow of a season.”
South Carolina (1-1, 0-1) nearly rallied for a 17-point halftime deficit against Kentucky, as Orth completed 13 of 20 for 179 yards and a touchdown. But a late fourth-quarter interception as the Gamecocks were driving for the go-ahead touchdown ruined his night.
“Obviously, the last play was a careless interception on first down, and really hurt us,” Spurrier said. “Other than that … we probably moved the ball with Perry in there the best we have all year. We had a chance.”
Don’t forget the Spurrier factor. The Gamecocks coach always seems to bring his A-game against Georgia, a team he has despised since his days as a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Florida.
South Carolina has won four of the last five meetings, giving Spurrier a 16-6 career record against the Bulldogs.
“I know that he has a great offensive mind,” said Nick Chubb, Georgia’s star running back. “He’s crazy good, but our defense is crazy good too, so it will be a great matchup.”
Some other things to keep an eye on when the Bulldogs host South Carolina:
CHUBB KEEPS ON CHUGGING: Even though defenses tend to crowd the box against Georgia, that hasn’t stopped Chubb from getting off to another strong start. In the first two weeks, the sophomore back extended his streak of 100-yard rushing games to 10 in a row, including a 189-yard effort against Vanderbilt. Chubb’s backup, Sony Michel, is a dynamic threat as well.
KICKING ISSUES: Georgia Senior Marshall Morgan has been one of the nation’s most reliable kickers. But he’s coming off a game he’d rather forget. Marshall missed a pair of field goal attempts against Vandy, going wide left from 37 and 43 yards. This game may show if that was merely a blip of Morgan’s stellar career, as the Georgia coaches believe, or indicative of a bigger problem.
NUNEZ PREPARES: Look for freshman Lorenzo Nunez to take some snaps for South Carolina. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Kennesaw, Ga., was considered one of the region’s top dual-threat quarterbacks in high school. Spurrier will likely use Nunez in zone-read sets, particularly near the goal line, where the Gamecocks struggled against Kentucky. Nunez worked with the first-team offense for long stretches at practice this week.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF TURNOVERS: Georgia had a plus-16 turnover margin in its first season under defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The Bulldogs are off to another good start in 2015, with a plus-3 edge and 17 points off turnovers. Dominick Sanders clinched the win over the Commodores with an 88-yard interception return for a touchdown.
THE WIDEOUTS: South Carolina has struggled to get any of its receivers outside of Pharoh Cooper involved in the offense. Cooper, a 1,000-yard receiver last season, has 12 of the team’s 17 receptions. Carlton Heard and Terry Googer are next on the list with two catches each. Part of the issue rested with Mitch, who was ineffective before his injury. Let’s see if Orth can get more people involved in the passing game.