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Georgia receiver Jermaine Burton had 3 catches for 33 yards.

Georgia football gets passing grade for running and defense at South Carolina

ATHENS — Georgia had its most prolific offensive output in Columbia, S.C., in series history, rolling to the 45-16 victory.

The No 9-ranked Bulldogs (6-2) kept their slim hopes for the SEC East Division alive with the win over the depleted Gamecocks (2-7).

Coach Kirby Smart saw the sort of progress in the run game he was looking for, and he chose to ride that exclusively in the fourth quarter, with 12 straight handoffs to end the game.

The Bulldogs had a season-high 332 yards on the ground on 46 attempts, while holding South Carolina to just 273 total yards.

Here’s a look at one perspective on how the Georgia position groups graded out:

Quarterback (B+)

JT Daniels was a modest 10-of-16 passing for 139 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. Daniels was sacked twice, both times on plays where he had the opportunity to throw the football away. The one interception Daniels threw was the result of the receiver bobbling it to a defender. Daniels’ talent and ability to run the offense is obvious, to the extent Smart could have named his score in this game.

Running back (A)

It was a strong day for the backs, with James Cook rushing for a career-high 104 yards on 6 carries, including a 44-yard burst. Kenny McIntosh also had an explosive run of 32 yards, and Zamir White had a 22-yard run as part of his 84 yards on 13 carries. Freshman Daijun Edwards had 14 carries for 77 yards, most all in fourth quarter.

Receivers (B-)

Tight end Tre’ McKitty saw his most significant contributions on the opening drive, reeling in a 40-yard catch and then showing great effort on his 5-yard catch and lunge to the pylon. George Pickens made a sensational contested 17-yard catch, and freshman Arian Smith caught the first TD pass of his career. Kearis Jackson deflected a well-throw pass into an interception, and Jermaine Burton dropped a TD pass. Burton followed last week’s 8-catch, 197-yard performance with 3 catches for 33 yards. Pickens, who had 8 catches the prior game, had 3 for 25.

Offensive Line (B+)

Ben Cleveland was the DawgNation Game Ball winner, providing some powerful run blocking and competent pass blocking. Justin Shaffer appeared to get beat for a sack for a second straight week, and Warren Ericsson was called for a holding call that wiped out a first down run. It was good to see Jamaree Salayer return to action after leaving the game for a series.

Defensive Line (B)

Jalen Carter’s penetration was a real thing against South Carolina, the true freshman having a standout performance. Zion Logue stepped up with 5 tackles. Nazir Stackhouse showed he’s still learning to wrap up ball carriers, and Azeez Ojulari also let a back slip away for a first down run. Adam Anderson flashed with yet another sack, as did Jermaine Johnson.

Linebackers (B)

Monty Rice had a textbook TFL and looked more like his old self than he has in a while, finishing with 4 total stops. Channing Tindall (sack) and Quay Walker (7 tackles) are getting valuable reps and have shown upside. Nakobe Dean appeared to get limited work, finishing with 2 tackles.

Secondary (B)

Safety Lewis Cine continues to play with All-American qualities, making a game-high 12 tackles. Tyson Campbell hot his first career interception and looked very good doing it, showing off his sprinter speed during his 40-yard return.  Eric Stokes continue to provide sticky coverage, and DJ Daniel showed up in run support. Tyrique Stevenson continues to be around the ball, getting closer to finishing plays.

Special Teams (A-)

Kearis Jackson had a big 52-yard punt return to set up a score, along with two kick returns for 62 yards. Jackson is emerging as an All-SEC type. Jalen Carter blocked an extra point. Jake Camarda only punted once, and it went 50 yards. Camarda also put 6 of his 8 kickoffs into the end zone, but also had one out of bounds. Jack Podlesny was good on his only FG attempt from 32 yards.

Coaching (B)

Georgia look dominant once again, as it should against a depleted South Carolina team. The most puzzling Georgia offensive call came on a third-an-15 at the SC 20, the team already in field goal range, when UGA chose to run the ball. The decision came one play after Burton dropped a TD pass. The run game was working to the extent UGA didn’t throw a pass in the fourth quarter. Lots of young players saw much-needed action, but there was room for more style points and pass game development with Georgia receivers starving for catches this season.

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