Would you like to receive DawgNation news alerts? Excellent! News alerts will be displayed in your browser.
Curtis Compton/AJC
Mecole Hardman had a monster game on Saturday.

Winners and losers from Georgia’s big win over South Carolina

Connor Riley

Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.

Winners and Losers from Georgia-South Carolina

Winner: Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman

Coming into the game, there was a lot of talk about a versatile wide receiver who had the ability to score on any play and take over a game. But prior to the game it wasn’t Hardman who the national pundits were talking about. But following his 7-touch, 133 yard performance it’s pretty clear that Hardman is every bit the player that Samuel is. He opened the second half with a 34-yard jaunt to the endzone  and his stellar third quarter was a big reason Georgia pulled away from South Carolina.

Hardman may not be featured in every game, and given the talent and speed Georgia has he may not even be needed against lesser opponents. But as he showed on Saturday, against Alabama in the national championship game, the junior wide receiver is absolutely someone Georgia can count on in a big game.

Loser: South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel

While we can’t quite call Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker a winner after he dropped the ball on the 1-yard line and had two pass interference penalties called on him, we can call Samuel a loser. You can’t talk trash like he did during the week and then come out and catch 6 passes for 33 yards. Yes he did have a touchdown pass for South Carolina’s in the first half, but when the Gamecocks desperately needed someone to make a play in the second half to keep the game close, Samuel was nowhere to be found.

Related: Early miscue aside, Georgia CB Deandre Baker proved his worth vs. South Carolina

Samuel can’t control how much hype he gets. But for South Carolina to have had a  chance to pull off the upset of Georgia, the Gamecocks needed him to have a game like Hardman had, and not one that consisted of 16 total yards in the second half of the game. Surely Samuel will bounce back against lesser competition, but he’s clearly not the player some in the media thought he was.

Winner: Georgia safety Richard LeCounte

While he didn’t come up with an interception, sophomore safety Richard LeCounte was the best player in the Georgia secondary on Saturday. He led the Bulldogs with 10 tackles, including 7 solo stops. After the game, Kirby Smart noted that his linebackers had a couple of busts in pass coverage. These busts would’ve been a lot worse if LeCounte hadn’t covered up for some mistakes, like any good safety does.

The safety also got named to Pro Football Focus’s team of the week for week 2.

LeCounte was someone who needed to step up, especially after he was called out by Smart in the preseason. But if he’s going to be the player that Georgia fans saw on Saturday—a game-changing safety who can erase other players’s mistakes—Georgia’s already strong pass defense just got a lot scarier.

Loser: Former South Carolina tight end Tori Gurley

I won’t go to long on this, as DawgNation has already given Mr. Gurley more than enough airtime. I think Gurley was trying to be a Lavar Ball-type and hope that his alma mater would come through and hopefully launch a media career.

Instead Gurley just comes off looking dumb on the matter. Kudos to him for owning up to it, but to paraphrase my old high school economics teacher, only make a bet(or guarantee) you know you’re going to win.

Winner: Georgia outside linebacker D’Andre Walker

There was a brief moment on Saturday where some wondered about Walker’s availability, as he went down shortly before halftime. Fortunately for Georgia fans he was able to return to the game and the injury wasn’t serious. Because the senior linebacker was an absolute monster on Saturday.

He only finished with four tackles, but two of those were for a loss and he added a sack. He also swallowed Samuel like he was a whale inhaling it’s dinner when he got his hands on him in the first quarter.

Statistically Walker was Georgia’s second-most disruptive defender last year. If he can continue to produce at a similar rate while he also takes on a larger role, Georgia’s defense could be even better than last year’s.

Walker also had the perfect postgame tweet.

A forum shout-out to Rodrigo Blankenship

Two things on the DawgNation Forum: First it is the place to be on Saturday’s. This past weekend with the in-game thread you are able to get live thoughts and analysis from both DawgNation experts like Brandon Adams and Jeff Sentell and share real time thoughts. As a Georgia fan, it is a great way to experience the game if you can’t attend it in person.

The other thing was a comment made by ugaforever about Rodrigo Blankenship, saying he deserves more praise for his performance. And he absolutely does.

Blankenship has been so money this season, and I’m not sure how much of the Georgia fanbase has realized it. He’s been perfect on field goals so far, and that comes after not missing on any attempts under 40 yards last season. At one point during the South Carolina game, Georgia had the ball on the South Carolina 37, meaning it would’ve been a 54-yard field goal for Blankenship. In the past he’s shown he can make a kick of that length and I actually would’ve liked to see him get a chance to do so.

It might be hard to believe, Blankenship has been even better on kickoffs this season. He’s kicked off 15 times this season, and every single one has resulted in a touchback. A big reason Samuel was hyped as much as he was was due to his return abilities. On Saturday Blankenship neutered any chance of Samuel making an impact on special teams.

On a loaded team, it’s sometimes easy to forget just about what kind of weapon Blankenship has become. But he’s already shown this season he’s an incredibly valuable piece to the Georgia football team.

Other Bulldogs shine over the weekend

Georgia didn’t just have a strong weekend on the football field. The Georgia volleyball team picked up two wins, including a victory over No. 24 Colorado. Georgia is now 8-1 on the season as it heads into its matchup with Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs take on the Yellow Jackets on Friday at 7 p.m. in Atlanta.

The Georgia men’s tennis team also had a busy weekend, as Georgia’s Sam Dromsky and Alex Phillips won the Division II doubles title of the 2018 Southern Intercollegiate Championships. Junior Robert Loeb will also play for the singles title in the main draw and he will team up with senior Jan Zielinski to try and take home the doubles title on Monday.

“I thought it was a great day for our team,” Georgia tennis coach Manuel Diaz said. “I want to start with Sam and Alex who proved that hard work pays off. These guys always represent us in a first-class manner whether it be in the classroom or on the court, so I am happy for them. Robert and Jan have great opportunities tomorrow, and I am vey pleased with the progress that they have made in doubles. I could not be more impressed with Robert’s singles play this tournament. He is maturing right in front of our eyes and I am very happy for him.”

The Georgia soccer team split its two games this weekend, as the Bulldogs beat Georgia State on Friday but lost to Kennesaw State on Sunday. Georgia begins SEC play against Arkansas on Thursday.

Best stories from DawgNation

Dawgs on Twitter

Good Dog of the Day

A good dog and some cows.

Miss a previous edition of Good Day, UGA? Get caught up here.