No. 2 Bulldogs dominate Gamecocks in SEC opener
ATHENS, Ga. (UGA Athletics) — Led by another stifling performance from its defense, the No. 2-ranked Georgia football team opened up Southeastern Conference play in emphatic fashion on Saturday night at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs got multiple explosive plays from their offense — junior quarterback JT Daniels threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns — and a dominant showing from the defense in a 40-13 win over South Carolina.
Along with intercepting a pass and forcing a fumble and a safety, the Bulldog defense held the Gamecocks to just 96 yards on the ground. Getting persistent pressure up the middle and often from the edge too, the Georgia defense spent much of the game in the South Carolina backfield. The defense piled up 3 sacks, 6 tackles for loss, and many more hurries, pressures and quick throws. Junior linebacker Nolan Smith had a busy night with a team-high 8 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, and he forced the fumble.
With Daniels back in the starting lineup after missing last Saturday’s win over UAB, the Bulldogs ran onto Dooley Field and started very fast. Daniels hit freshman tight end Brock Bowers for 21 yards on the first play from scrimmage. A few plays later, senior running back James Cook ran the ball in for a 23-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
One big play on the ensuing drive, a 61-yard completion, allowed South Carolina to get into field-goal range and cut Georgia’s lead to 7-3, on a 37-yarder. Those were the first points that Georgia’s defense had allowed in the first half this season.
Less than two minutes on the clock later, Daniels was lofting a pass down the right side to a wide-open sophomore receiver Jermaine Burton, who caught the ball inside the 5-yard line and strolled into the end zone for a 14-3 lead with 7:00 left in the first quarter.
The Gamecocks got back into scoring position with an interception — Georgia did have xxx turnovers Saturday. South Carolina started its drive at the UGA 12 and only managed 3 yards against the Bulldog defense, settling for a 27-yard field goal to make it 14-6 with 1:34 left in the opening quarter. That was as close as the Gamecocks got the rest of the way.
Converting a couple of third-and-longs with completions midway through the second quarter, Georgia drove down to the 38-yard line. Daniels then dropped back, paused a moment, and hit Mitchell in the end zone for a 38-yard TD. It was the first touchdown catch of the freshman’s career.
A 42-yard punt by senior Jake Camarda was downed at the 1-yard line in the final minute of the first half. On the next play, Georgia senior nose tackle Jordan Davis and Smith sacked quarterback Luke Doty for a safety with 24 seconds left, giving the Bulldogs a 23-6 lead.
A quick drive after the kickoff got the Bulldogs into field-goal position and junior Jack Podlesny booted a 36-yarder as the half expired to put Georgia up 26-6.
Georgia got the second half rolling with an interception by senior defensive back Derion Kendrick, who returned it 9 yards to the Carolina 29. Soon after, junior running back Zamir White ran for a 15-yard touchdown and a 33-6 lead. Following a strip-sack by Smith and a recovery by junior linebacker Quay Walker, Georgia added to its lead when Daniels hit Cook for a 4-yard TD and a 40-6 lead with 7:37 left in the third.
With 10:55 to play in the game, Georgia’s defense, playing a lot of backups, surrendered its first touchdown of the season, on a 36-yard completion. South Carolina drive deep into Georgia territory in the closing minutes but once again the Bulldog defense held firm, preserving the 40-13 win with a stop on fourth-and-goal from the 9.
Before the game, the UGA Athletic Association honored five pioneers — Richard Appleby, Horace King, Larry West, Clarence Pope and Chuck Kinnebrew — who 50 years ago became the Bulldogs’ first African-American scholarship football players, enrolling in 1971. There is now a permanent monument in Reed Plaza that commemorates the trailblazers and their Bulldog careers.
The Bulldogs hit the road for their first true road game of the season next Saturday, playing at Vanderbilt. Kickoff is at 12 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network. Georgia opened its season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., beating Clemson 10-3 on the neutral field.