Georgia football instant observations as JT Daniels saves game against Mississippi State
It looks like Georgia finally has its quarterback in JT Daniels. The problem is that it seems to have found him as every other aspect of the team falls apart.
Daniels carried Georgia all night as he shredded Mississippi State. He threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Those numbers top anything he did in his time as a freshman at USC. It was literally the best game a Georgia quarterback has had under Kirby Smart, as he threw for the most yards in a single game during the Smart era.
And Daniels numbers could’ve arguably been better. With the score tied at 24, Daniels put back-to-back perfect passes on to Kearis Jackson and George Pickens. But both ended in drops.
No matter for Daniels, as he found Jackson on third down for the go-ahead score. Georgia won 31-24 to improve to 5-2 on the season.
Perhaps the concerning takeaway from the game was that Georgia needed everything out of Daniels as the Bulldogs struggled in other areas. Georgia had just 12 rushing yards in the game, the lowest total in the Smart era. The defense also struggled mightily for much of the first three quarters against the Mississippi State offense.
Daniels became the first Georgia quarterback to throw for 400 yards in a game since Aaron Murray did back in 2013. On Saturday, Daniels looked every bit as good as Murray did back when he was in Athens.
Maybe that’s enough to overlook some of the obvious problems with Georgia on Saturday night.
Mississippi State didn’t have a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback. It was starting true freshman Will Rogers. The Bulldogs from Starkville haven’t had a good offensive showing since the first game of the season.
And yet the Georgia defense somehow made them look pretty good. Rogers looked poised and unbothered as he threw for 336 yards on 41-of-52 pass attempts.
Georgia seemed content to let Mississippi State pick up short pass after short pass, which put them in favorable second and third-down situations. Mississippi State was able to keep Georgia’s offense off the field as Mississippi State converted on 7-of-13 attempts.
Georgia’s defense did start to play better in the second half after giving up a touchdown on the opening drive. The Bulldogs finally started to get pressure, as Jermaine Johnson and Azeez Ojulari had second-half sacks, with Ojulari’s ending Mississippi State’s final drive.
The defense was once again without Richard LeCounte and Jordan Davis. But should losing those two players merit such a steep drop-off in play? This is a Georgia team that signed a top-three recruiting class in each of the past four recruiting cycles. And Mississippi State brought only 49 scholarship players to the game.
Something pretty clearly isn’t right with the Georgia defense. Can it be fixed this season? Maybe if LeCounte returns. But one player, even someone as good as LeCounte, should not make an entire defense.
Coming into the game, freshman wide receiver Jermaine Burton had 130 receiving yards and a touchdown.
In the first half against Mississippi State, he blew past that with 149 yards on seven catches. He also scored on Georgia’s final offensive play of the first half to tie the game.
And then he came out and scored on a 48-yard touchdown on Georgia’s first drive of the second half.
Burton finished the game with eight catches for 197 yards to go along with the touchdown catch. It was nearly a school record-breaking performance, as he fell just shy of Taverres King’s 205 yards against Michigan State back in 2011.
It helped that Georgia had George Pickens back in the game. He established an immediate connection with Daniels, as he had a 28-yard catch and run on the first drive. Pickens finished with 87 yards on eight catches. It was his most productive game of the season, and he found the end zone for the first time since the Auburn game.
Wide receiver had been a serious concern in recent seasons for Georgia. With the promising play of Burton — a freshman — and Pickens — a sophomore — it was an encouraging night for the position.
So the Bulldogs followed through and wore the black jerseys for the first time since 2016.
Overall, people seemed to like the way they looked, and it got people excited pregame for what was a pretty meh opponent in Mississippi State.
Certainly, the initial response to the jerseys on social media was positive. But as Georgia once again struggled in the black threads, it feels like we might not see them again for a while, and certainly not in a game of consequence.
This is only the fifth time in program history Georgia has worn them and the second time under Kirby Smart. The two times under Smart were both in November games in which Georgia did not control its own destiny in winning the SEC East.
Is that what it takes to wear and see these jerseys again? Only Smart knows and ultimately controls whether that is the case.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
• Poor defensive showing spoils first half debut of JT Daniels, black jerseys against Mississippi State
• Georgia football to bust out black jerseys against Mississippi State
• 4 things to know before betting UGA as a 25-point favorite vs. Mississippi State
• SEC Network broadcaster on JT Daniels: ‘I want to see him play’
• Georgia-Mississippi State: TV Channel, game time, how to watch online, odds for Week 12 game
• National media, Georgia football fans interested to see JT Daniels against Mississippi State
• Priority targets Terrion Arnold and Xavian Sorey Jr. plan to be at UGA this weekend
• Monty Rice shows why he is a leader for Georgia football by playing through pain