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All Eyes May be on JT Daniels, But Saturday Showed Other Serious Concerns

November 23, 2020

ATHENS—There’s a general rule of thumb in writing that you write numbers fewer than 10 out. In my eight years of writing about football, I don’t think I’ve ever had to apply that rule when writing about a team’s total rushing yards. At least not about a Kirby Smart-led team.

Look, JT Daniels’ performance against Mississipi State was very, very impressive. 28-of-38 with 401 yards and four touchdowns? On paper, we’re looking at the most impressive game by a UGA quarterback since Aaron Murray. 

That’s encouraging, to put it lightly—it shows that Georgia has the potential to fix their single greatest weakness. In the process though, they showed several other problems. The biggest being their inability to run the football. For the first time ever, Kirby relied almost entirely on his passing game. He was outrushed by a man whose offense is built on throwing the ball 95% of the time. 

In total, the Dawgs had 23 carries for eight yards. On the inverse, Mississippi State had 14 carries for 22 yards. To put it bluntly, that is unacceptable for a Georgia team. Running the ball is Kirby’s bread and butter. The Bulldogs should be outrushing State with half the carries.

To try and extinguish worries, Kirby pointed to the scheme of Leach’s defense.

“When people play you like Mississippi State plays you, you gotta be patient, creative; you have to throw,” Smart said. “You’re not going to see a lot of teams rushing for a lot of yards against those guys if they’re playing the same way they played against us.” 

Even if they are loading the box, this Georgia team has enough talent to at least bully a bottom-of-the-barrel Mississippi State team to three yards a carry. A lot of that, at the end of the day, falls on this offensive line. 

All night, these front five (and the tight ends that rolled through) were incapable of making even the slightest of holes for these backs. It wasn’t even that they were missing assignments—they were just losing their matchup.

“I wouldn’t say there were many times where we missed a block,” Smart said. “I would say ‘whipped’ or ‘beaten’ a lot of times… We didn’t do a good job handling their movement more than anything else.”

For as reassuring as it was to see a Georgia quarterback actually sling the football, their complete inability to run it Saturday might be even more concerning. This is the life and blood of Georgia’s offense. Even if they do move towards a more modern offense, the performance on the ground Saturday is unacceptable for a program of this caliber.

Tags: Kirby Smart
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