Rapid Reaction: JT Daniels shines as Georgia holds off upset-minded Mississippi State
Whether this one would be played was in question as MSU had 49 scholarship players available, but the game would indeed go on. And it would end up being a far-from-easy task for heavily-favored Georgia as this game would remain close heading into the latter stages of the night.
After a lengthy 15-play Mississippi State opening possession ended with a 22-yard Brandon Ruiz field goal with just over 8 minutes played, Georgia failed to make it past midfield as it was forced to punt on its first drive with JT Daniels behind center. Aided by a pass interference, though, the Dawgs found the end zone on their next possession as Daniels connected with George Pickens from 4 yards out as they took a 7-3 lead.
But MSU responded with another lengthy drive, this one for 13 plays, capped by a 4-yard Dillon Johnson touchdown as it jumped back in front 10-7. All but 3 of the plays were runs as the gameplan for Mike Leach and his team against Georgia’s defense was clear.
The game started to open up a little from there.
After a Georgia field goal tied it at 10, the 2 teams traded quick touchdown drives to make it 17-17 at the halftime break as Will Rogers hooked up with Jaden Walley from 51 yards out and Daniels found Jermaine Burton for an 18-yard score.
All eyes were Daniels to see how he would fare in his first start of the season, and the Southern Cal transfer was solid as he threw for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13-of-17 passing in the 1st half. His favorite target was Burton, who he would find for a 48-yard score to open the 2nd half to put Georgia up 24-17.
However, Rogers continued to pick the Georgia pass defense apart as he led MSU to a touchdown of its own, knotting the score at 24 with less than 6 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter as the shorthanded Bulldogs looked to pull off a road upset and hand Georgia—enjoying a terrific passing evening from Daniels but struggling to run the ball—its 2nd loss in a row.
Georgia’s defense, though, began to stiffen as it forced Mississippi State into back-to-back 3-and-outs. And it regained the lead with under 10 minutes remaining in regulation as Daniels hit a wide-open Kearis Jackson with his 4th touchdown pass of the evening as the Dawgs pulled ahead 31-24.