Georgia football report card: ‘Proud’ Kirby Smart credits practice juice and energy
Georgia coach Kirby Smart used the word “proud” five times in his opening statement after his Bulldogs took down Missouri 49-14 on Saturday in Columbia.
It was supposed to be the Tigers’ so-called “measuring stick” game after winning five of six entering the action, with Coach Eli Drinkwitz making a case as SEC Coach of the Year.
The Bulldogs flipped that script, and they did it amid an atmosphere that had upset written all over it, with the local kick at 11 a.m. and a wind-chill factor of 30 degrees.
“They said they wanted to play well, they practiced great,” Smart said. “I thought Monday and Tuesday were two of the best practices of the entire year. They had a lot of juice and energy.”
it led to the best combination of offense and defense Georgia football has exhibited this season, with the Bulldogs out-gaining Missouri 615-200.
Here’s a look at one opinion on Georgia’s position grades:
JT Daniels was 16-of-27 passing for 299 yards and three touchdowns amid a 30-degree windchill and 13-mph breeze. The 18.7 yards per completion were impressive, but Daniels also took two sacks. Stetson Bennett got some playing time and threw incomplete on his only attempt. Freshman Carson Beck also played but did not attempt any passes.
RUNNING BACKS (A)
Four different Georgia running backs scored in the same game for the first time since 1995. Zamir White led the way with 126 yards on 12 carries, including a 43-yard touchdown run. Freshman Daijun Edwards also went over 100 yards, gaining 103 on 11 carries with a TD and a 47-yard run. Kenny McIntosh showed next-level vision on an 18-yard jaunt, and James Cook had a TD run and TD catch.
George Pickens had some amazing catches, including a momentum-changing 36-yard grab in the second quarter. Jermaine Burton also had five catches for 38 yards. Tight end Darnell Washington had two catches for 61 yards, but Tre’ McKitty and Jon FitzPatrick were unable to reel in their targets, McKitty dropping his. Kearis Jackson with one catch for 12 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE (B+)
The offensive line got pushed back a few times in the pocket, but it’s hard to argue with 316 yards rushing and an average of more than 8 yards-per-carry for the running backs (42-337).
DEFENSIVE LINE (A-)
What a difference Jordan Davis makes in the middle of that defensive line, just dominant gap control and presence. Missouri managed only 22 yards rushing on 22 attempts, and Davis was a big (literally) reason why. Nolan Smith credited with three tackles and a sack. Slight downgrade for not making the third-and-goal stop from the 2 after it appeared the wall was built.
Quay Walker and Monty Rice had three tackles apiece for the linebackers, who on this day were on top of the action from the opening kick. Nakobe Dean only one stop, not as active in past games, and he missed tackle near the goal line on a Missouri touchdown.
Junior cornerback Eric Stokes got the game started right with an interception and 27-yard return on Missouri’s game-opening possession, setting up UGA’s opening touchdown. Tyson Campbell was mostly solid, but a pass interference penalty was the Bulldogs’ only flag in the game. Safety Lewis Cine appeared fooled by a flea-flicker. Mark Webb dropped an interception.
SPECIAL TEAMS (D)
This would have been a complete team effort if not for the worst special teams outing of the season. Georgia had a punt blocked that led to Missouri’s second and final touchdowns, Kearis Jackson muffed a punt and Jack Podlesny missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.
It was a big win for Kirby Smart and his staff, keeping the team motivated, dialing up the right plays and out-scheming Eli Drinkwitz and the Tigers. There was a healthy balance on offense and a second-half shutout on defense. Smart’s game management at the end of the first half, calling a timeout with Missouri near the goal line, allowed for UGA to put together a final first-half scoring drive in the two-minute offense.