Recap and Analysis of Georgia's resounding victory over South Carolina
Credit: AP Photo/Sean Rayford
When The Bulldogs faced Mississippi State last week it was JT Daniels’ arm that led Georgia to victory, as the transfer signal caller threw for four touchdowns and amassed more than 400 passing yards. The Georgia run game struggled heavily against the Miss. State defense, so Daniels’ impressive debut was much needed.
When was the last time Georgia’s run game was stifled in back-to-back weeks? Well, we don’t know either, but it certainly did not happen on Saturday. Georgia’s backfield ran all over the depleted Gamecock defense on their way to 332 yards and 4 touchdowns in the blowout victory.
The golden arm of JT Daniels was not needed as badly as it was a week ago, thanks to the dominating performances of Zamir White, James Cook, Kenny McIntosh, and Daijun Edwards. Daniels completed 10 of his 16 attempts for 139 yards, found the endzone twice through the air, and gave up on interception. In JT’s defense, the lone interception occurred on a wild tipped pass where South Carolina defensive back Jammie Robinson made an exceptional, heads-up play.
Georgia opened the game with a flurry of offense in the first quarter. Daniels connected with tight end Tre’ McKitty for a 40-yard gain down to the 10-yard line, before connecting again with McKitty a few plays later for a 10-yard score.
The Bulldogs went up 14-0 after a solid drive and a five-yard TD scamper by James Cook. Not long after, Zamir White dashed to the endzone practically untouched for a 22-yard touchdown that widened the lead to 21-0.
To Coach Bobo’s credit, the Gamecocks rallied and were knocking on the door with the ball inside the five-yard line as the first quarter came to a close. Kevin Harris scored on the first play of the second quarter, which cut the lead down to 21-7.
South Carolina tacked on field goal, but Georgia answered with a 29-yard Zamir White touchdown run. At halftime, the Bulldogs led the Gamecocks 28-10. However, Kirby Smart was not satisfied and urged his team to increase their intensity after halftime. The Dawgs responded and torched the Gamecocks in the third quarter.
Georgia’s special teams also showed up in Columbia, as Kearis Jackson’s 51-yard punt return led to another Zamir White touchdown. Later in the third quarter, kicker Jack Podlesny split the uprights from 32 yards to extend Georgia's lead 38-10.
In the fourth quarter, junior Tyson Campbell intercepted a pass from USC quarterback Luke Doty and promptly reversed field for a 40-yard return. Campbell’s pick led directly to a Georgia touchdown when JT Daniels threw an absolute DIME to freshman wideout Arian Smith for a 31-yard score.
Daniels’ beautiful touchdown to Smith increased the lead 45-10, and Georgia would not score in the remainder of the game. To their credit, South Carolina did not quit and scored a late fourth quarter touchdown, which brought the game to the final score of 45-16.
Georgia had the opportunity to score in the closing minutes of the game, but Kirby Smart showed his class when he elected to take a knee on the goal line instead of running up the score. This classy move demonstrated Coach Smart’s respect for Coach Bobo, who like Smart, has both played and coached for the University of Georgia.
Game Analysis and a Look Towards the Future
JT Daniels was forced to be a gunslinger last week to push Georgia past Mississippi State. In doing so, the signal caller racked up 4 TDs and 401 passing yards in his debut. This week was a different story. In Columbia, Daniels displayed his abilities as a skillful game manager. Despite the run-heavy game plan, he was efficient in his limited passes with two TDs and an interception that, let’s be honest, really was not his fault.
In his two starts, Daniels has shown an ability to be both a gunslinging, downfield passer and a game managing QB. Assuming Daniels Stays in Athens for the next year or two, he will bring an electrifying, much needed spark to the Bulldogs’ offense.
Compared to last week, the offensive line was much better at run blocking, which facilitated the largest rushing game of the season for Georgia. The Bulldogs have relied on Zamir White heavily this year, and he continued to impress of Saturday with 84 rushing yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. On Saturday, Georgia also incorporated James Cook, younger brother of Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who had a career long 44-yard run on his way to 104 yards and two touchdowns on just 6 carries. That comes out to just over 17 yards per carry for Cook, impressive to say the least.
Daijun Edwards and Kenny McIntosh were able to showcase their abilities after Georgia had a comfortable lead. McIntosh rushed for 79 yards on 9 carries for a healthy average of 8.8 yards-per-carry. Edwards was a workhorse and received the bulk of the carries late in the game. The true freshman used this opportunity to showcase his skills as he tallied 77 yards on 14 carries.
The performances of McIntosh and Edwards are positive signs for the future of Georgia’s backfield, as the respective sophomore and freshman can contribute for years to come. Georgia should seek to continue establishing dynamic running back duos, such as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel who both have found success in the NFL after dominating in Athens.
Zamir White and James Cook appear to serve that purpose for the Dawgs this season, and McIntosh and Edwards could be next in line. Cook showed flashes of next level potential in this game. After all, his older brother has found incredible success in the NFL. While James might not be as good a runner as his older brother yet, he has the potential be more skillful and well rounded. Simply put, he’s an excellent athlete with a high ceiling. If he chooses to stay another year at Georgia as opposed to entering the NFL draft, Cook will be a game changing player that can attack defenses in a number of ways. Cook might even get overlooked by other teams’ game plans that will be focused on JT Daniels, Zamir White, and the elite Georgia Defense.
Saturday's run-heavy game plan by Kirby Smart was designed to attack a Gamecock team that was thin in many positions on the depth chart. In his post-game press conference, Kirby Smart said that the team recognized that South Carolina was missing key players, but was proud that the Bulldogs did not play down to their opponent, and noted that the team “played physical and they knocked people off the ball.” Blowing out a South Carolina team that is having a historically bad season may not seem like an accomplishment to some, but Georgia got to build valuable momentum as they hunt for a bowl game.
Lewis Cine made twelve tackles, and helped Georgia’s defense thwart both senior night in Columbia, as well as Luke Doty’s debut. Despite leading comfortably throughout the game, it seemed like Georgia took their foot off the pedal at times. Throughout his years at the helm of Alabama, Nick Saban has rarely shown mercy to opposing teams. Georgia needs to build a similar culture in Athens, one that emphasizes finishing games and never letting up. Georgia needs to learn how to twist the knife and finish off opponents.
Though the final score may not indicate Georgia became too comfortable with their lead, the eye test provided evidence of the contrary. Georgia players appeared somewhat lazy on plays as they missed tackles, allowed yards after contact, and gave up a few South Carolina scores. Overall, it was a good performance by the Bulldog defense, but they simply cannot take plays off and expect to build a CFB calibur team.
Georgia did not face the stiffest competition this past weekend, but the game allowed them to build momentum into both the bowl season and next season. Saturday’s game also gave JT Daniels invaluable experience under center, assuming the redshirt sophomore elects to remain in Athens.
In his two starts, Daniels has been impressive both as a downfield passer as well as a game managing quarterback. The biggest takeaway from this game was the growth of Georgia’s young and returning players, the success of Daniels, and a breakout performance by the entire running back core. Georgia continues to prove why they deserve the title of Running Back U as they produce elite running backs year after year.