As Georgia football takes on South Carolina this week, we wanted to take fans on a journey to one of the best times to ever happen between these two programs. You know, the one where former Georgia star David Pollack made one of the most iconic plays in program history against South Carolina in 2002.
Georgia and South Carolina have had a long and storied rivalry. These two southern neighbors first met in 1894 and have played every year since 1992, when the Gamecocks joined the SEC. Some consider it one of college football’s most underrated rivalries.
Many iconic moments have happened in this game over the years. George Rogers and Herschel Walker’s rushing duel in 1980, David Greene staging a comeback on the road in 2004, and the Dawgs scoring “half a cent” on Steve Spurrier in 2015 are just a few Georgia fans are watching with affection.
However, none of this quite matches what Pollack did.
A look back at one of Georgia’s best defensive football games of all time.
On this throwback Thursday, let’s look back at arguably the most famous moment in this rivalry between one of the best defensive players in Georgian football history.
It’s true; we’re talking about Pollack’s strip-sack/interception/touchdown against the Gamecocks in 2002.
This game between the No. 9 ranked Dawgs and the Gamecocks was Georgia’s second of the year in the 2002 season. They beat Clemson in Athens 31-28 the previous week and are looking to capitalize on this momentum.
Sophomore head coach Mark Richt was looking to improve on his 8-4 rookie season in 2001, and he had a great assortment of talent to do so. Names like David Greene, Terrence Edwards, Musa Smith, Boss Bailey, Jon Stinchcomb and of course Pollack were some of the biggest playmakers this season.
South Carolina, meanwhile, entered with a 1-1 record. Despite being ranked No. 22 at the start of the year, they gave up their second game against Virginia 34-21, knocking them out of the standings. This year was head coach Lou Holtz’s fourth season as head coach of the Gamecocks. Holtz had done a great job of rebuilding the program, as their nine wins in 2001 were the team’s highest win total since 1984.
Like so many Georgia-South Carolina games in the 2000s, this game was a low-scoring defensive battle.
Georgia got off to a fast start when Greene threw a deep ball to wide receiver Fred Gibson, putting the Dawgs deep in South Carolina territory. The Gamecocks kept Georgia out of the end zone, so Georgia kicker Billy Bennett netted a 22-yard field goal to give the Dawgs a 3-0 lead.
Heavy rain would delay the game for nearly an hour, not too long after that opener for Georgia. As a result, the two offenses couldn’t do much for the rest of the game. The score remained 3-0 Georgia until the fourth quarter.
With less than 15 minutes left in the game, Georgia punter Jonathan Kilgo pinned South Carolina on their three-yard line with a punt from midfield. After picking up three yards on first down, Gamecocks quarterback Corey Jenkins took the snap and rolled to his right into the end zone.
Pollack was there to meet him as he went to throw, and somehow the ball ended up in Pollack’s hands as he jumped up and put his arm in the air to kick the ball. Georgia now led 10-0.
He stated that he was only trying to hit the ball to set up a long third situation for the Gamecocks. Instead, he made the biggest play of his career.
South Carolina would respond with a touchdown on their next possession. After more back and forth, Bennett hit another field goal with 3:20 left in the game.
The Gamecocks continued to claw their way back and found themselves at the Georgia three-yard line with 20 seconds left. At fourth-and-one, Corey Jenkins threw the ball to running back Andrew Pinnock, who fumbled it. Future first-round pick Thomas Davis got the ball back to seal Georgia’s 13-7 win over South Carolina.
The Dawgs continued to win throughout the 2002 season, eventually finishing with a 13–1 record. They would win their first SEC championship since 1982 with their win over Arkansas, and they would defeat Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
Pollack became a household name in college football after that game, and his career only got better. He would become a two-time All-American, a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and win Chuck Bednarik, Lott, Lombardi, and Ted Hendricks awards.
His 36 career sacks are still a Georgia football record.
What legendary moments will we see this Saturday when the Dawgs take on the Gamecocks? Who will step in and become the next legend of Georgian football? We’ll find out at noon in Columbia on the 17th.