Georgia football report card: Bulldogs fly by South Carolina 40-13

091821 Athens: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart coaches up defensive back Latavious Brini during a time out against South Carolina during the second quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 18, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

ATHENS — Kirby Smart said it’s “wheels up” for Georgia football, the team taking flight with a championship destination in mind.

The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs continued their climb with a 40-13 win over South Carolina Saturday night, but the head coach made it clear UGA must stay on the right trajectory.

RECAP: How Georgia football scored in win over South Carolina

“We’re on this flight, we’re trying to take off, we’re wheels up and we’re getting in the air,” Smart said. “But we’re not at the highest altitude yet.”

QUARTERBACKS (A-)

JT Daniels played about as well as possible, 22-of-31 passing (two passes were dropped) with 3 TDs and 1 interception. Daniels was special on third-down throws — 7 of 7 for 65 yards and six first downs. Stetson Bennett was ineffective when forced to play off the bench, 1-of-3 for 4 yards and an interception.

RUNNING BACKS (B)

James Cook was the backfield MVP with a rushing and receiving TD and 4 carries for 51 yards and 4 catches for 20 yards. Kendall Milton led the team with 10 carries for 66 yards, but also, a controversial fumble. Zamir White had 8 carries for 51 yards while Kenny McIntosh had a solid blitz pickup and 3 catches for 35 yards. Still, no explosive plays of more than 23 yards on the ground this season.

RECEIVERS (B)

Brock Bowers had a team-high 5 catches for 53 yards, but also a drop. Adonai Mitchell made the most of his first start with 4 catches for 77 yards and a TD. Jermaine Burton had 3 catches for 70 yard and scored on a blown coverage. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint had just one catch, and also, a dropped pass. Ladd McConkey caught his only target and was scrappy blocking.

OFFENSIVE LINE (B)

Opened some run lanes for the Bulldogs’ backs, getting to them to the second level of the defense. The one sack surrendered was horrible, as Warren Ericson, Jamaree Salyer and Justin Shafer were all beaten al the play. Shafer had a false start.

DEFENSIVE LINE (A)

The first-team unit was dominant once again as South Carolina had just 41 yards rushing through 3 quarters (55 came in fourth quarter with reserves in the game). Jordan Davis was dominant in the middle while Nolan Smith had his coming-out party off the edge. Smith had a team-high 8 tackles along with a strip-sack and a sack for a safety.

LINEBACKERS (A-)

Nakobe Dean was once again outstanding, on the spot for key spots that denied South Carolina opportunities for momentum early. Channing Tindall is proving a weapon with his fast pursuit, leading the backers with seven tackles. Quay Walker lost out on a sack because of his facemask penalty. Adam Anderson had a sack and looks impressive in pursuit.

SECONDARY (C+)

The Gamecocks had four passes of longer than 35 yards, beating Ameer Speed deep for a touchdown. Smart made it clear Speed wasn’t the only defensive back beat deep, as Derion Kendrick, Lewis Cine and Kamari Lassiter also had balls thrown deep on them.

SPECIAL TEAMS (B)

Jake Camarda continues to have an All-American campaign, averaging more than 50 yards per punt and burying one that Speed downed at the South Carolina 1 to set up the first safety of the season. Jack Podlesny got back on track with a 36-yard make. The return game remains solid but not spectacular. McIntosh had two kick returns for 44 yards, while Kearis Jackson had a 5-yard punt return.

COACHING (B)

Georgia looks like the best team in the SEC when its starters and best players are in the game, but some curious substitutions have interrupted momentum South Carolina’s offense exposed the back end of the defense and showed UGA susceptible to the quick snap. The Bulldogs were shut out in the fourth quarter.

OVERALL (B)

Georgia took care of business at home and appeared to exit the game without any serious injuries. Smart was intent on getting the run game fired up, and the Bulldogs were efficient in that capacity, as well.

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