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Sept 14, 2002

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AP Sports Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. – On a team loaded with offensive stars, Georgia coach Mark Richt knew who won this game.

“One of my first observations is that David Pollack is a warrior,” Richt said.

No one who watched the sophomore defensive end dominate South Carolina on Saturday would argue.

Pollack recovered a fumble near Georgia’s goal line in the second quarter and then had a strange interception return for a touchdown in the fourth as the ninth-ranked Bulldogs held on to beat South Carolina 13-7 Saturday.

“I don’t know how it happened,” Pollack said.

Neither does South Carolina quarterback Corey Jenkins. He was looking for an open Andrea Gause after dropping into the end zone. Pollack swarmed over Jenkins, but did not appear to get much of the ball.

“When I hit it,” Pollack said, “I noticed it kind of stuck to my hand.”

So did the referee, who put up his arms to signal touchdown as Pollack ran toward his jumping teammates.

“That’s when I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is just one of those days when everything is going to go wrong,”‘ Jenkins said.

He was just about right.

Pollack recovered a fumble by Andrew Pinnock in the second quarter on Georgia’s 3 after Tony Gilbert knocked the ball away with his helmet.

In the SEC opener for both teams, Georgia (2-0) ended a two-game losing streak to the Gamecocks (1-2), who have lost two straight under coach Lou Holtz for the first time in two years.

Georgia’s defense rose up one last time with South Carolina driving in the final moments. Pinnock, the Gamecocks’ goal-line specialist with 22 career touchdowns, had Jenkins’ pitch bounce off his chest with 12 seconds left. Thomas Davis recovered and Georgia ran out the clock.

“I dropped the pitch,” Pinnock said, “and we lost the game.”

Holtz said offensive coordinator Skip Holtz wanted Jenkins to run a tighter option on the final play. But the coach thought he would succeed with Pinnock “in the open field going north-south,” Holtz said. “It looked like a good pitch. I can’t tell.”

As Tropical Storm Hanna made its way to Williams-Brice Stadium, delaying the game by 52 minutes, it looked like Georgia kicker Billy Bennett’s early 22-yard field goal would be the only score of the game.

That is, until Pollack started a crazy fourth quarter with his score.

If it were up to Richt, Pollack might have never been in his position. Pollack was tried at fullback and nose tackle before settling in at defensive end last spring.

Pollack has proved his worth.

“He’s got the heart of a lion,” Richt said. “He’s the kind of guy who takes the knowledge and will work, work, work until he gets better. Not only good at it, but great at it.”

The way Pollard held onto Jenkins’ pass for the interception score was perhaps the biggest play for a Georgia defense stretched to the limit.

“Two guys trying to block him – a lineman and a back – beats those two guys, then he bats down the pass and ends up catching it,” Richt said. “I’ve just never seen a play like that.”

The sloppy weather also played a role in Georgia’s win.

“It was a little slippery,” said Georgia tailback Musa Smith, who rushed for 103 yards.

South Carolina receiver Matthew Thomas had a step on defender Decory Bryant and dropped a sure touchdown strike in the second quarter. Pinnock fumbled on the next series. And South Carolina kicker Daniel Weaver pushed a 37-yard field goal try left as a steady rain fell before half.

The Gamecocks drove inside Georgia’s 25 in the third quarter, but receiver Michael Ages was stopped a few feet shy of a first down on a fourth-and-10 pass.