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Kirby Smart on Georgia football rushing game: ‘We didn’t go out and reinvent the wheel to run the ball’

Before you get too excited about Georgia’s 332-yard rushing performance against South Carolina, head coach Kirby Smart wants you to take into account that the Bulldogs were going up against a depleted South Carolina team.

“Let’s be honest. A lot of it has to do with the other team and what they do. So we don’t call a lot of different runs,” Smart said. “We didn’t go out and reinvent the wheel to run the ball. We played a team that had three or four guys out. They’re a very beat up football team.”

The Gamecocks were without a number of defensive linemen such as 5-star freshman Jordan Burch due to COVID. Then two key members of South Carolina’s front seven went down with injuries during the game.

Still, Smart liked what he saw from Georgia, especially a week after the Bulldogs ran for eight yards against Mississippi State. In the days after that performance, Smart made it clear the fault fell on the offensive line.

Against the Gamecocks, the same starting group of Jamaree Salyer, Justin Shaffer, Trey Hill, Ben Cleveland and Warren McClendon were opening holes all night. Georgia scored on its opening three drives and finished the first half with 208 rushing yards.

“Our offensive line had more of a bully mentality of we’re going to run the ball, and we’re going to get physical, and we’re going to move people, and they were able to do that,” Smart said. “Every cut and every snap was a wear and tear on their defensive line, and we tried to take the totality effect of taking a bunch of snaps and hitting them.”

The top rusher for the Bulldogs was James Cook, as he ran for a career-best 104 yards on just six carries. He showed off some early explosion while ripping off a 44-yard run. He also had two scores in the opening half, with the second being a 29-yarder where he was untouched.

“Just knowing that the o-line out there blocking their tail off just made me excited,” Smart said. “Hats off to the o-line for doing a good job and making me and the running backs job easier.”

Zamir White added two more touchdowns of his own while rushing for 84 yards on 13 carries. Kenny McIntosh was also involved, as he added 79 yards on nine carries for Georgia, with most of his work coming after the half.

In the fourth quarter, Georgia turned to freshman Daijun Edwards, as he rolled up 14 carries for 77 yards. He nearly had a touchdown but came up a yard short on the final carry of the game.

The Bulldogs averaged 7.2 yards per carry on 46 rushing attempts. With all that running, Georgia rarely asked quarterback JT Daniels to do much. He threw the ball only 16 times in the game. The Georgia quarterback threw for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the game though he did toss his first interception as a Bulldog just before halftime.

Smart made sure to clarify after the game that it wasn’t necessarily in the game plan to run the ball as often as Georgia did.

But when it’s working, why change it?

“It wasn’t like we came out and said we’re just going to run it, we’re (not) going to throw it,” Smart said. “We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to be successful.”

Georgia showed last week that it can throw the ball against inferior opponents with Daniels at quarterback. This week it showed that it can still run the ball when it needs to against an outmatched foe.

And going forward, Cook thinks the offense should continue to be as explosive as it has been now that it has shown it can be balanced.

“Just knowing that we can pass the ball, and we got a physical line that can run the ball, it just is going to open up the offense more,” Cook said.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart talks about bully mentality after beating South Carolina

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