ATHENS, Ga. — Jake Fromm turned toward the Georgia sideline and leaped in the air in disbelief.
The Bulldogs were just gaining momentum, driving for what it hoped would be a game-tying touchdown when a simple exchange with center Trey Hill was botched.
South Carolina recovered the fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter.
It was that kind of Saturday for Georgia’s third-year starting quarterback.
He threw three interceptions – one returned for a touchdown – and was sacked three times in a 20-17 double-overtime shocker in Sanford Stadium.
Fromm threw for a season-high 295 yards and set career highs for completions (28), pass attempts (51) but also interceptions (3).
Fromm walked off the Sanford Stadium field without a win for the first time in his Bulldog career.
He had thrown 146 passes without an interception dating back to the Sugar Bowl last season before South Carolina sophomore cornerback Israel Mukuamu had not one, not two, but three interceptions.
“That’s a big part of my game is protecting football,” Fromm said. “When the ball gets in another team’s hands that’s not characteristic of me, not characteristic of me and our offense. That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the football and helping us move the ball on offense.”
Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw’s pressure up the middle led to Fromm unloading the ill-advised pass intended for George Pickens on the first interception that Mukuamu raced 53 yards for a touchdown with a minute left in the first half.
“I thought I put enough on it,” Fromm said. “I knew I was throwing to his direction but I thought it was going to be an ‘only’ ball where he could catch it or out of bounds. I never saw the player or knew what I was on the ground and getting back up trying to make a tackle.”
The ball hung in the air as it sailed toward the right sideline and the play put the Gamecocks ahead 17-10 with a minute left in the first half.
Georgia trailed by the same margin when the muffed snap became another turnover for the offense.
On the fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, Fromm said he just “pulled out early, eager to get the ball to the running back and couldn’t get a grip on it.”
South Carolina recovered at its own 29.
“That rarely happens with our guys,” coach Kirby Smart said. “It happened today. I can’t tell you exactly why it happened.”
On Georgia’s next possession, Fromm and receiver Matt Landers had what Fromm said was miscommunications. Fromm led the Bulldogs from its own 19 to the South Carolina 44 before the back shoulder pass was intercepted.
“It was supposed to go outside and it was just kind of a little miscommunication,” Fromm said. “I threw it outside and he went inside. Their DB made a great play. We’ve just got to execute and be on the same page.”
In the second overtime, Fromm’s pass to Tyler Simmons went off his hands and into the hands of Mukuamua.
“It’s tough,” Smart said. “It was a tough day.”
Smart was told that fans on Twitter were taking shots at Fromm.
“I believe in Jake Fromm,” he said. “Jake Fromm is a leader of men. He gives tremendous effort week in and week out.”
Georgia got a leaping catch by George Pickens for 34 yards on the drive where it fumbled.
It was the only play of 20 or more yards for the offense.
Fromm had to try to win the game without Georgia’s leading receiver.
Lawrence Cager, who had four catches for 48 yards, missed the second half, bothered by a separated shoulder.
Georgia players and Smart pointed to the turnover disparity – four to zero – in favor of South Carolina.
“When you have four turnovers” offensive guard Ben Cleveland said, “that’s going to put a hurt in any plan.”