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Georgia Football

Legge's Thoughts: Is UGA QB JT Daniels For Real, or is This a One-Game Thing?

November 22, 2020
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AND THEN THERE’S GEORGIA

These guys. 

Georgia has been looking for quarterback play like we saw Saturday night since Aaron Murray left town. Don’t get me wrong - Jake Fromm was a good leader, and played really well in plenty of big moments. But he never looked like JT Daniels did against State. 

So much to unpack - In many ways what we saw Saturday night makes the most sense. It can’t be that surprising that the former 5-star QB with a year of starting under his belt would perform better than the other QBs UGA has rolled out there this season. 

But Kirby laid out pretty much everything publicly Saturday night that sources had been telling Dawg Post for some time - here are the highlights (or lowlights depending on how you look at it). 

“JT’s mobility and decision-making wasn’t great in that fall period, in those two, three scrimmages we gave him a lot of reps. So we had to go in a direction with somebody - we had to get somebody ready to play. And we felt the mobility and being able to have a running quarterback, which helps your run game when you have a running quarterback, would help you.”

“And things changed obviously in the Arkansas game. Then we moved on to Stetson and thought Stetson did a really good job through really halftime of Alabama. And from the Alabama game on during the off week is when we gave the most looks and the most reps to JT, and felt like Stetson was the best answer at he time. And (Bennett) played pretty good against Florida without George Pickens until he took the shot. And when he took the shot on the arm on the third and eight and threw the touchdown, it kind of all went downhill.”

Daniels and Kirby both, too, confirmed once more than he was not cleared for the Arkansas game. So you go into that game with Mathis. It doesn’t work. Then Stetson rolls in and in three games goes a collective 53 of 84 with 5 TDs and no picks while you are winning by 27, 21 and 23… and you are supposed to take him out with a hobbled Daniels? Or even a healthy Daniels?

Pretty unlikely. 

But it was clear after Florida that UGA had to make a change. Mathis - totally out of the question because he simply was not functioning as a QB. Stetson was not only banged up, but his production - as everyone had seen and Kirby pointed out - had dropped dramatically. 

A change had to happen. It did. The result?

28 for 38. 401 yards. 4 TDs, and a lot of questions no one is going to like the answers to. 

I watched a lot of Daniels’ play at USC when he played as a freshman. What Kirby described as “decision-making wasn’t great” very much describes the way he played as USC at times. One of the early drives Daniels had tonight - the one with the ball that 100% should have been picked - that’s what I thought UGA was getting into with him. That’s a guy who would have tossed the ball around a lot, and put the ball in harms way a lot. 

He tossed it around a lot tonight, but that was the only time I can remember off the top of my head where he really put the ball in harms way. There were some times the WRs helped him out, but they certainly hurt him more than they helped him. 

The question - and this really is the question because for the most part I think the defense did what it had to do in this one game to win, and the run game was a total outlier - was this question: 

Was this an outlier? Is this game - a 400-yard masterpiece in Silver Britches - an outlier? Certainly folks can’t expect this from here on out… right? I’m not talking about the numbers - the 400 and 4 - I’m talking about the 3rd down conversions and the playmaking. The numbers were great, but Daniels was functional the entire night. Actually, he wasn’t functional he was the reason Georgia won. 

Again… when is the last time a quarterback was the reason Georgia won? Jake Fromm’s final drive in the Rose Bowl Game mattered a lot in that one. Stetson Bennett mattered a lot at Arkansas. Greyson Lambert broke an NCAA record in a game. 

This didn’t feel like Lambert’s - this wasn’t balls being thrown side to side with Carolina backing off the line of scrimmage for some unknown reason. These were down-the-field balls and 3rd down conversions that mattered. 

This, very simply put, was quarterbacking. It’s something Georgia has tried so hard to stop this year, but hasn’t been able to. Perhaps now we see the reason why. State couldn’t get pressure on Daniels (UGA couldn’t get pressure on Jones or Trask). UGA’s receivers made plays (Bama and the Gators’ receivers made plays). It is so much easier to score when you are explosive (Bama) than when you have to work the ball down the field. 

You want a stat?

Three of Georgia’s top four wide receivers - Jermaine Burton, George Pickens and Demetris Robertson - all had their season high for longest reception in the same game. The team’s top receiver this year, Kearis Jackson, didn’t top his season high (49 yards), but he did have a 40-yard catch which is the third-longest reception of the year for a receiver. It was also the game-winning score. 

I don’t know if this will hold. I don’t know. But there didn’t seem much flimsy about what went on in the passing game for Georgia Saturday night. It seemed pretty solid, and it was stunning for the crowd. 

Not only did the students chant Daniels’ name after the game (which isn’t exactly common), but I could overhear fans screaming for Kirby to stop running the ball. 

Once, more slowly, Georgia fans… no longer wanting to run the ball. What is going on? 

But this is one moment. This isn’t a pattern. It is one dot of data on what could be a long line. Let’s see where we are after Cootlumbia. I’m getting my tetanus shot lined up for early this week. You can never be to careful about these sorts of things.

EVERYTHING ELSE:

Part of what happens when the Gators play in Nashville is that they fall asleep. That’s somewhat what happened on Sunday. Florida got down, and was losing for much of the first half. It was clear, at least to me, that they were the better team, but they were off. The passing game wasn’t crisp like it has been in the last two games. 

All of the sudden you are in the fourth quarter as a 31-point favorite on the road, and Vanderbilt is knocking on the door to make the game far too interesting. The effort today from Florida might look fine on paper - although they couldn’t run to save their lives - but this isn’t the effort or execution that’s going to get the job done against Alabama and beyond.

You don’t give back wins - particularly road wins in conference play. But this wasn’t a great day for the Gators. 

Ohio State, much like the Gators, didn’t have the sort of Saturday that will win games in the playoffs. Justin Fields was bad at times. It felt like he was trying to do too much after the first drive of the game. He’s been very good to start the year. This was a game where he went backwards for the first time in a long time. 

Indiana didn’t seem like a top-ten team coming in, but the Hoosiers certainly fought pretty hard today with the Buckeyes relatively deep into the game. It wasn’t so far from what Vanderbilt did with the Gators until the late rally from Indiana made the game a one-score affair late in the fourth quarter. 

Arkansas and LSU seemed to fight themselves as much as the other team. A lot of slipping on the ground today during that game. Arkansas seemed like the better team the bulk of the time, but lost to LSU. That’s a tough one for the Razorbacks. 

I was looking forward to the Clemson-FSU beating until that game was cancelled. I’m a little confused as to how a player that travelled with Clemson was COVID positive. How does that happen? Why is a player who is showing symptoms of covid practicing with your team? Also - What I’m asking is: Why did someone travel who wasn’t cleared? Why was there the chance that someone who travelled “could” still test positive? 

That’s not possible in the SEC. Is this a Clemson thing or an ACC thing? The problem now for the Tigers is that their game next week at home against Pitt could have some serious issues as it relates to contact tracing. Again: Why someone with symptoms is practice on your team?

None of that was handled well.

I don’t think I have to touch on both Michigan and Penn State (but I will because it is fun). Teams with the power and prestige of those two schools should never been in the position of being a combined 2-8 with one of those two wins coming in overtime against 1-4 Rutgers. 

Penn State is a joke. Honestly, James Franklin is doing the worst job of anyone in college football right now - and there is a lot of bad in the sport at this moment. There is no excuse - none - for Penn State to be 0-5. This is a team that started the season ranked in the top 10.

Total joke. Franklin’s off-field antics are starting to catch up with him. The truth always comes out - THE TRUTH ALWAYS COMES OUT - and we are seeing the truth about Franklin right now. He’s not the coach everyone made him out to be, and 2020 has been a horrible look for him. 

I’m not sure if he will recover from this at Penn State, but he will get his chance to get out of this hole. But he should probably put up the shovel he continues to dig with. 

I’m going to leave Tennessee for another week as there’s no point in squeezing all of the air out of a ballon that was burst weeks ago. Five losses in a row… all by double digits. As Jewel said in the 1990s: “Who will save your soul?”

This ain’t the 90s, and that’s pretty clear in Knoxville right now. 

Yuck. 

 
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