Georgia football: 3 takeaways from Bulldogs' blowout win over South Carolina
There was going to be no upset loss for Georgia in this year’s game against SEC East foe South Carolina. The Bulldogs opened up a 21-0 1st-quarter lead on Saturday and, despite a few shaky moments in the 2nd quarter, were barely threatened en route to a 45-16 win over the shorthanded Gamecocks in Columbia.
One of the big numbers to take from this one: 332 yards, easily Georgia’s most rushing yards of the season and their most against an SEC or Power 5 opponent since a 370-yard output against Missouri in 2017.
The other number: 50. Kirby Smart now has 50 wins as the Bulldogs’ head coach, needing 64 games to get there —just 2 more than his predecessor, Mark Richt.
Here are 3 takeaways from a dominant showing from the Dawgs:
1. After struggling to put Mississippi State away last week, this was more like it
Simply put, the Dawgs shouldn’t have had as much trouble as they did with Mississippi State, especially the way JT Daniels was throwing the ball. Unfortunately, their run game was absolutely stifled, while Will Rogers was able to pick the defense apart with short-yardage passes.
Saturday’s win was a stark contrast. Despite most of Luke Doty’s passes going to Nick Muse, Georgia’s defense largely kept the true freshman in check, sacking him 4 times.
As for the run game? How do 332 yards sound after just 8 in the previous week? James Cook had his best night running the ball this season, while Zamir White gave the Gamecocks defense fits all night. Kenny McIntosh, with 79 yards on 9 carries, turned in a career evening.
It was good to see some of the little-used freshmen see the field, too: Daijun Edwards helped Georgia run out the latter stages of the game and nearly scored the 1st touchdown of his career, and Daniels found Arian Smith for the Dawgs’ final touchdown in the 4th quarter. Smith, a Florida native, played his 1st collegiate minutes against Mississippi State a week prior before his 1st touchdown catch, and his 1st catch period, following meniscus surgery that sidelined him for much of the year.
All in all, it was probably as complete a performance as we have seen from Georgia all season.
2. They made the adjustments they needed to make at halftime, primarily with their tackling
Smart said it himself at halftime during the SEC Network broadcast: His team needed to tackle better.
Sure, the Gamecocks were banged up defensively and probably weren’t going to stand a chance of winning in the first place. But they gained a little momentum toward the end of the 1st half despite trailing by 18, which could have been 15 if not for a missed field goal by Parker White. And a touchdown on their 1st possession of the 2nd half could have provided them with a dose of confidence.
As clear as Smart’s message was on television, it was likely that much louder and, let’s face it, probably much less G-rated in the locker room.
Credit the Dawgs for cleaning that up and showing a much better effort in that department in the 2nd half. There was the 98-yard drive they allowed after a kick-return blunder by the Gamecocks’ ZaQuandre White, but outside of that, their tackling was improved as they were ultimately able to salt this one away.
3. Kearis Jackson may be turning into the return man this Georgia team has needed
We didn’t see much from Daniels and his receivers. He needed to throw it only 16 times as the Dawgs (rightfully) kept it on the ground, meaning that Jackson had only 1 catch for 4 yards.
Which was fine, because the redshirt sophomore made his presence felt in the special teams game.
While the skeptic’s view could be to take his performance as a returner on Saturday with a grain of salt considering the opponent, no one will complain about the job he did. He nearly took a 3rd-quarter punt to the end zone, which would have been the 1st house call for Georgia since Mecole Hardman ran one in from 70 yards out against Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 15, 2018. (Technically, Eric Stokes’ blocked punt and touchdown from 8 yards out a week later counts as a punt return, though.)
Jackson will have at least 1 crack at bringing one back of his own against Vanderbilt, and potentially a 2nd pending the rescheduling of Georgia’s game against Missouri. It probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he did so, either.