ATHENS — Kirby Smart wanted to run game to get on track, so Georgia pushed the buttons and made it happen against a depleted South Carolina team on Saturday night.
The No. 9-ranked Bulldogs — who could move up to No. 8 in the CFP Rankings with Northwestern losing to unranked Michigan State — pounded out a season-high 332 yards rushing in the 45-16 win over the Gamecocks.
The Georgia football stock went up, as a whole, from where it was after the team’s 31-24 close call against Mississippi State the previous week.
If there was a drawback, it was that the UGA receivers went largely ignored after the first quarter, with JT Daniels just 10-of-16 passes for 139 yards.
That surely wasn’t the game plan coming in, but that’s how it ended up, making for an interesting Georgia football stock market.
Daijun Edwards: The freshman running back led the team with 14 carries and made 77 yards. The fact Smart handed him the ball 12 times on the final drive is an indicator he places enough value in Edwards to invest those precious game reps into him.
Lewis Cine: It’s fast becoming Cine’s team on defense, as he continues to make plays and lead by example. Cine is a serious-minded leader who brings a much-needed football-first tone to Georgia football. He had 12 tackles in the win over South Carolina.
James Cook: Speaking of value, the junior tailback’s roller coaster season is back on the upswing after he rushed for a team-high 104 yards on 6 carries, including a 44-yard run. Cook has good upside when he’s dialed in.
Tre’ McKitty: There’s still time for the Florida State graduate transfer to salvage what has been a lost season, as he proved on the opening drive with a 40-yard catch and 6-yard TD grab. McKitty could have chosen a lot of schools, but he picked UGA to prepare him for the NFL.
Kearis Jackson: The Bulldogs’ special teams got a lift from the great play of Jackson on special teams, as he set up a score with a 52-yard punt return and ran back two kicks for 62 yards. Jackson only had two targets, dropping one ball that turned into an interception, but his special teams play is noted.
JT Daniels: Smart said Daniels was’t asked to do much work, as his modest 10-of-16 passing line would indicate. Daniels made a couple of nice throws, and missed a couple he would like to have back and took two sacks. He’s the same player who threw for 401, but the opportunities were different in Columbia.
George Pickens: Pickens had three catches on four targets for 25 yards. This elite receiver had a chance to show he can block on the perimeter in the win over South Carolina, helping to spring some big runs.
Zamir White: It was another blue-collar effort for White, who added two more touchdowns to his resume with a 13-carry, 84-yard effort. Georgia assistant Dell McGee loves how hard White works and leads in practices.
Fourth down defense: The Gamecocks were 3-of-3 on fourth downs against Georgia, executing one on a 98-yard touchdown drive that was the highlight of the season for Mike Bobo.
Jermaine Burton: If we’re being honest there was only one place his stock could go after his incredible 8-catch, 197-yard, 2-TD breakout performance against Mississippi State. Burton had three catches for 33 yards on six targets, dropping a touchdown pass.
Justin Shaffer: The offensive line is a challenging place to play, but Shaffer seems to be tailing off late in the season, appearing to give up a sack for the second game in a row.
Tyrique Stevenson: This super talented defensive back continues to be a step away from making plays. Seeming always around the ball, Stevenson needs to start finishing plays, be that turnovers or tackles.
Keep An Eye On ….
Freshman receiver Arian Smith. The blazer from the Florida prep ranks made his first career collegiate catch a special one, reeling in a 41-yard Daniels’ pass for a touchdown. It was only Smith’s second game appearance since returning from the torn meniscus he suffered last summer.