JT Daniels’ explosive plays to Jermaine Burton, receivers bring joy to offense
ATHENS — The Georgia offense broke out like never before in the Kirby Smart Era on Saturday night, showing the world a passing game that the Bulldogs have been missing.
When quarterback JT Daniels rolled to his right and fired a strike to George Pickens in the end zone in the second quarter, it was the first of four consecutive scoring drives featuring throws and catches that left many mouths agape.
The redshirt sophomore USC transfer passed for 401 yards and 4 touchdowns on 28-of-38 passing, while Pickens found his groove again with 8 catches for 87 yards in the 31-24 victory at Sanford Stadium.
It was the first 400-yard passing game by a Georgia quarterback since SEC all-time passing leader Aaron Murray went for 415 yards in a 2013 loss to Auburn.
Daniels’ best throws were destined for freshman Jermaine Burton. The freshman wideout drew a great deal of single coverage that Daniels was all too ready to exploit.
Burton reeled in catches of 49, 46 and 48 yards en route to 197 yards and two touchdowns on his eight catches. The school record is 205 yards in a game by Tavarras King in 2012 against Michigan State.
To think: Burton had all of 10 catches for 130 yards the first six games of the season combined.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) November 22, 2020
There were three more bombs on this night: 28 yards to Pickens, 31 yards Demetris Robertson and 40 yards to Kearis Jackson.
“We can be explosive,” Coach Kirby Smart said matter-of-factly after the game. “I’ve seen those kind of plays in practice and even other times we’ve been able to be explosive.
“I thought that was the difference in the game; our explosive plays versus there not explosives.”
Jackson, the team’s receiving leader with 31 catches this season for 451 yards, took the performance in stride.
“I wasn’t really too surprised, because what you do in practice, you’ll do in the game,” Jackson said. “It felt good. It’s just showing what we’re capable of doing.”
Daniels had just two weeks of preparation with the starting receivers in practice after being elevated from the scout team following the Bulldogs’ 44-28 loss to Florida on Nov. 7.
He had worked with the starters in August, back when he had a heavy knee brace on while still recovering from two surgeries two repair the torn ACL and meniscus he suffered in USC’s 2019 season-opening game.
But when Daniels wasn’t cleared for the opening game against Arkansas, Smart turned to the D’Wan Mathis and Stetson Bennett to run the team while the USC transfer recovered.
Daniels indicated there was some trepidation of having not played a ton of snaps with the starters, but nothing he wasn’t sure he would overcome.
“I wouldn’t say concerns, but it was something that was in my mind, I had not thrown to those guys for a little while,” Daniels said. “But when you have guys like George, and Kearis, and Jermaine, and guys that you know are going to be in the right spot … I trust them to be in the right spot, and it’s my job to put (the ball) in the right spot.”
Highest-graded QBs in Wk 12
1️⃣ JT Daniels, Georgia – 94.8
2️⃣ Brennan Armstrong, Virginia – 93.7
3️⃣ Dustin Crum, Kent State – 92.3
4️⃣ Zach Wilson, BYU – 91.8 pic.twitter.com/4Hz1OewYMG
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 22, 2020
Team captain and offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer couldn’t stop smiling after the game.
“JT played his tail off, you could see how he prepared this week, he was lighting the scout team up, ask those guys on defense, they will tell you,” Salyer said. “We see it in practice, the ball just pops out of his hand in a different type of way. It made my job a lot easier.
“I’m smiling every time the ball is going 50 yards.”
JT Daniels at Georgia stories