Somehow, three games with JT Daniels under center at Georgia may be all that’s needed to conjure next season’s expectations.
After Daniels threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns against Mississippi State, Georgia’s rushing attack finished with 332 yards and four touchdowns against South Carolina. While strong offensive performances, both were one-dimensional. Georgia still needed to piece both the passing and rushing attacks together.
In Saturday’s 49-14 rout over No. 25 Missouri, Georgia’s offense did just that. Daniels threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns and Georgia’s running attack finished with 316 yards and four touchdowns, leading to its best offensive performance of the season.
“It's what we've been looking for the last couple of weeks,” Daniels said during the virtual postgame press conference. “I'd say that was our first real complete game. … Today we threw when the looks said to throw and we ran when the looks said to run.”
It was evident from Georgia’s first possession that the game plan was to lean on the run. All six plays of the Bulldogs’ opening drive were carries by either Zamir White or Kenny McIntosh, and it led to the game’s first touchdown.
But when it needed to, Georgia’s offense leaned on the shoulder of Daniels and the play-making ability of his receivers. After a blocked punt by Missouri’s Mason Pack set the Tigers up for their game-tying touchdown, Daniels completed 5 of 6 pass attempts on a six-play scoring drive to put Georgia ahead 21-14 at the half. Daniels completed passes to George Pickens, Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson on the drive that took all of 43 seconds.
“That two-minute drive was huge. That was an absolute game-changer,” Daniels said. “[We] went from having none of the momentum on the road to now the momentum [being] in our favor. And that started the whole second half for us.”
Four Georgia running backs finished with one rushing touchdown. White ended with 126 rushing yards on 12 carries. Freshman Daijun Edwards had a season-high 103 rushing yards on 11 carries, followed by McIntosh’s 58 yards and James Cook’s 44 yards.
Also finishing with season-bests, Pickens hauled in five receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman tight end Darnell Washington caught two passes for 61 receiving yards, which is more than he had all season entering Saturday.
It would be easy to give credit to Daniels. The Bulldogs have improved each week with him at quarterback, with their previous season-high of 471 total yards coming on Nov. 28 against South Carolina.
However, perhaps credit should go to offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who now has consistent quarterback play, healthy wide receivers and a group of freshmen with more experience in his offense.
A more routine offensive performance like Saturday’s would place Georgia into the higher echelon of offenses in the SEC. The Bulldogs’ 615 total yards would by far rank first in the conference, and the majority of Georgia’s offensive production could return. Every Bulldog who found the end zone has at least two years of eligibility remaining.
“So where that falls and who gets the credit ... it really doesn’t matter,” said head coach Kirby Smart during the postgame press conference. “What matters is that we're playing better and we still haven't reached our potential."