Cincinnati TD

Alec Pierce #12 of the Cincinnati Bearcats goes up and over Darius Jackson #29 of the Georgia Bulldogs for a touchdown during the 2020 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl NCAA football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Cincinnati Bearcats, Jan. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. (Jason Parkhurst via Abell Images for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl)

No. 9 Georgia trails No. 8 Cincinnati 14-10 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Here are some observations from The Red & Black:

Channeling the deep ball

Since JT Daniels became Georgia’s starting quarterback against Mississippi State, big plays through the air have seemingly come whenever needed. Cincinnati didn’t do much to control that in the first half.

Daniels connected with Pickens for a 50-yard reception, freshman receiver Arian Smith for 55 yards and tight end Darnell Washington for 38 yards. He even got the running backs involved in the passing game, connecting with Kendall Milton for a 22-yard gain and Kenny McIntosh for 17 yards.

Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder didn’t have many issues through the air either, as he completed 15 of 22 pass attempts for 170 yards and two touchdowns. On the Bearcats’ final drive to end the half, Ridder completed 6 of 7 pass attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown to give the Bearcats their 14-10 halftime lead.

Daniels completed 13 of 17 pass attempts for 224 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Georgia’s self-inflictions

Punter Jake Camarda was announced as a Ray Guy Award semifinalist on Dec. 22 to recognize a junior season averaging 47.87 yards per punt. That’s the good.

However, what continues to plague his Georgia career are shanked punts, never coming at a good time. His second punt against the Bearcats went for a measly four yards, and Cincinnati took advantage by finding the end zone seven plays later for the games’ opening touchdown.

Cincinnati’s Ridder completed all three pass attempts of that drive for 39 yards and a touchdown.

Georgia’s opening play of the subsequent drive — a 50-yard reception by George Pickens — would lead you to believe a responding touchdown drive was underway. But Daniels threw his second interception of the season to Cincinnati’s Coby Bryant, setting up the Bearcats on their own 1-yard line to keep momentum.

To put it lightly, penalties were an issue for both sides. Georgia finished the opening half with four for 45 yards, and Cincinnati finished with a not-so-detrimental four penalties for 34 yards.

Rushing struggles for both sides

Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that both defenses were able to stifle the opposing offenses rushing attack. Cincinnati led the American Athletic Conference in rush defense allowing 118.4 yards per game. Georgia led the SEC allowing 69.3 rush yard per game.

But the Bulldogs finished with 18 rush yards on nine attempts and the Bearcats ended with 28 yards on 13 attempts. Yards on the ground didn’t come easy.

Redshirt sophomore running back Zamir White was responsible for the longest rush of the half picking up 12 yards with less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter. McIntosh received just four carries for 5 yards, with Milton taking his only carry for 1 yard.

Ridder led the Bearcats in rushes with seven for only 6 yards, with Tre Tucker and Jerome Ford combining for 22 yards on six carries.