With Georgia football taking on South Carolina this week, we wanted to take the fans on a journey to one of the best moments that have ever happened between these two programs. You know, the one when 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 played each other in 1894 and have played every year since 1992, when the Gamecocks joined the SEC. Some consider it to be one of the most underrated rivalries in college football.
Many iconic moments have occurred in this game over the years. George Rogers and Herschel Walker’s rushing duel in 1980, David Greene engineering a comeback on the road in 2004, and the Dawgs scoring “half a hundred” on Steve Spurrier in 2015 are just a few that Georgia fans look back on with fondness.
However, none of those quite amount to what Pollack did.
A throwback to one of the best Georgia football defensive plays ever.
On this throwback Thursday, let’s look back at arguably the most famous moment of this rivalry by one of the best defensive players in Georgia football history.
That’s right; 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 the second of the year for Georgia in the 2002 season. They defeated Clemson in Athens by a score of 31-28 the week before and looking to build off that momentum.
Second-year head coach Mark Richt was looking to improve upon his 8-4 debut 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 among the biggest playmakers of that season.
South Carolina, meanwhile, was entering with a 1-1 record. Despite being ranked No. 22 at the beginning of the year, they dropped their second game against Virginia 34-21, causing them to fall out of the rankings. This year was head coach Lou Holtz’s fourth season as the Gamecocks head coach. Holtz had done an excellent 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 matchup 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 stopped Georgia from getting in the endzone, so Georgia kicker Billy Bennett punched in a 22-yard field goal to put the Dawgs up 3-0.
Heavy rain would delay the game for nearly an hour, not too long after that opening drive for Georgia. As a result, both offenses could not do much for the rest of the game. The score remained 3-0 Georgia until the fourth quarter.
With less than 15 minutes remaining 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 in the endzone.
Pollack was there to meet him as he went to throw, and somehow the ball ended up in Pollack’s hands as he jumped and put his arm in the air to bat the ball down. Georgia was now up 10-0.
He has stated that he was only trying to bat the ball down to set up a third and long 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 action, Bennett would hit another field goal with 3:20 left in the game.
The Gamecocks kept clawing their way back and found themselves on the Georgia three-yard line with 20 seconds left. On fourth and one, Corey Jenkins pitched the ball to running back Andrew Pinnock, who fumbled it. Future first-round pick Thomas Davis recovered the ball to seal Georgia’s 13-7 victory against South Carolina.
The Dawgs would keep up their winning ways throughout the 2002 season, ultimately finishing with a 13-1 record. They would win their first SEC Championship since 1982 with their win against Arkansas, and they defeated Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
Pollack became a household name in college football after this game, and his career only got better. He would become a two-time All-American, two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and won the Chuck Bednarik, Lott, Lombardi, and Ted Hendricks awards.
His 36 career sacks are still a Georgia football record.