Rapid Reaction: JT Daniels' arm, Georgia's defense team up to silence South Carolina
If Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has his way, heralded recruit Arch Manning, who made the trip from New Orleans to Athens for the Bulldogs’ SEC opener against South Carolina, will be wearing the red and black of the Bulldogs in a couple of years.
Even if he isn’t, Manning was treated to a tremendous offensive and defensive display Saturday night between the hedges.
With the 3rd generation of one of the SEC’s most famous football families watching from the stands, the Dawgs romped to yet another win, easily handling the Gamecocks 40-13 to improve to 3-0 on the season.
In his return to the lineup, JT Daniels completed 23-of-31 passes for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns. James Cook and Zamir White each rushed for a touchdown, with Cook recording another score through the air. Adonai Mitchell and Jermaine Burton both caught a touchdown and combined for 147 yards. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks managed just 96 rushing yards on 34 carries.
It was a complete reversal of fortunes from the last time the teams met at Sanford Stadium in 2019, which ended with the Gamecocks upsetting the then 4th-ranked Georgia 20-17 in 2 overtimes.
And it didn’t take the Bulldogs long to get on the scoreboard as they marched down the field on a 6-play drive that took just 2 minutes and 39 seconds. It ended with a Cook 23-yard run to the end zone as Georgia opened a 7-0 lead.
After South Carolina responded with a field goal, the Bulldogs found themselves back in the end zone once more, this time in less than 2 minutes. A 43-yard strike from Daniels to Burton capped another 6-play drive and it was 14-3 with 7 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter.
Meanwhile, Kirby Smart opted to lift Daniels, who had completed 8-of-9 passes for 119 yards, for Stetson Bennett IV on the Dawgs’ next drive. But Bennett threw an interception to Jaylan Foster on his first pass. The ensuing return put the Gamecocks in field goal range, with Parker White eventually hitting from 27 yards to cut the Georgia lead to 14-6.
But Daniels and the Dawgs hit paydirt once more after the teams traded punts. He sailed a 38-yard pass to Adonai Mitchell, who caught it in stride as Georgia upped their lead to 21-6 with 6 minutes to go until halftime.
And late in the half, the defense added 2 more points following a coffin-corner punt from Jake Camarda. Luke Doty was under pressure by the Georgia defense and taken down in the end zone for a safety with 24 seconds left. The Dawgs then tacked on a Jack Podlesny 36-yarder to take a 26-6 lead into the locker room.
With South Carolina needing a score as it started the 2nd half with the ball, Doty instead saw a pass come off the hands of his receiver and instead into the arms of Derion Kendrick at the Gamecocks’ 20. White then broke off a 15-yard run and found the end zone on the next play to make it 33-6.
The rout was on in full force from that point.
Georgia’s defense smothered South Carolina’s ensuing drive as Doty fumbled it away to the Dawgs while being sacked at midfield. Cook capped the ensuing drive with a touchdown catch from 4 yards out to stretch the lead even further.
Foster added his 2nd interception of the evening late in the 3rd quarter as he picked off Daniels on the right sideline and the Gamecocks forced a fumble early in the 4th that turned into a long Josh Vann touchdown — the first the Bulldogs have allowed on defense this season — but the game was too far out of reach by that point as the 3-0 Dawgs closed the game out to remain undefeated on the young season.
They’ll be heavily favored in their next game, too, as they visit Vanderbilt for a noon ET kickoff on Sept. 25 ahead of a critical October stretch that could define the course of their season.