CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Quarterback JT Daniels came to Georgia to put points on the scoreboard and run up prolific passing numbers, but he’s a team player first.
That’s why Daniels said he was happy with and proud of the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs 10-3 upset over No. 3 Clemson at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday night despite his modest output.
“Do I have a half and half feeling? Hell no, we just beat Clemson, I’m happy,” Daniels said after completing 22 of 30 passes for 135 yards with one interception, suffering just one sack.
“Our D-Line played amazing, our whole defense played amazing, I think our O-Line fought their ass off in the end when we had to run four-minute (offense) and run the ball,” he said. “I think we did good things offensively, just not consistently to where you will put up points against Clemson.”
The Tigers, Daniels said, caught Georgia off-guard by playing somewhat out of character on defense.
“They were very different than what we had seen on film and what we had kind of expected,” Daniels said. “A lot of times against a lot of teams they had played a good amount more man (coverage).
“They had shown a lot more exotic pressures and dropping less guys in coverage trying to create more with their d-line and linebackers, secondary blitzes.”
But Saturday night, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables threw a curveball at Daniels, forcing him to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, while fooling him on other occasions.
One such play came with 9:39 left in the third quarter and Georgia leading 7-0.
“They played ‘3 buzz’ on us, they did a great job of disguising it, (and) number 10, linebacker Baylon Spector is a great player,” Daniels said. “He did a great job sitting from the inside route and jumping the outside route on the last hitch.
“What do I got to do better? I got to see that it’s three buzz and get the ball to the running back,” Daniels said. “When they’re going to drop eight, and drop into windows, the best thing to do is get the ball to the running back and take our chances with him.”
Kirby Smart said Clemson’s conservative pass defense didn’t allow Georgia the opportunity to take many shots downfield, forcing Daniels to go with a more controlled passage game.
No doubt, Georgia’s longest pass completion in the game was a 21-yard catch by former walk-on Jaylen Johnson.
Indeed, H-back Brock Bowers was the leading pass catcher with 6 catches for 43 yards, while tailback James Cook had 4 catches for 7 yards.
The top receivers were Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Ladd McConkey, who had 2 catches for 12 yards apiece.
Coach (Todd) Monken says all the time, ‘We can’t play with 10,’ (and) there were too many times that either I make the wrong decision, or we don’t get the protection right, or one guy doesn’t line up in the right spot,” Daniels said.
“On third down against a team as good as Clemson, that’s going to lead to punting over and over again.”
The Tigers returned all 11 defensive starters and proved disciplined and sound.
Georgia still managed to convert 7 of 15 third downs, but Daniels was far from satisfied with the output.
“I think the biggest thing that Clemson showed us was that we need to be more explosive,” Daniels said. “Teams are being more explosive on creating different ways to run the ball, creating different ways to get the ball in the guy’s hands quick and in space against zone teams.
“I think we’ve showed that we’re really good when teams are going to play us low safety and when teams are going to play us man, we’ve been very explosive.”
But Clemson brought a different game plan, and it’s something Daniels is eager to get to work on.
In the meantime, the redshirt junior from Southern California will continue to lead on and off the field, and celebrate having a great defense.
“It’s awesome when your defense holds a Clemson team to three points and scores seven,” Daniels said. “It’s awesome and a huge help... our defense deserves all of the credit for tonight.”
Daniels couldn’t help but joke, saying “If the defense does that every game, we don’t need to score much more than 4 points.”