ATHENS – Kirby Smart said it was for JT Daniels to take what the state of Mississippi was giving, which he knew the transfer from USC was capable of doing.
The Bulldogs, ranked 13th to Smart (5-2), took a 31-24 victory over coach Mike Leach’s Maroon Bulldogs (2-5) on Saturday night at Sanford Stadium behind 401 passing yards. Daniels and 4 TD shots.
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“The way they played us was to stop every (racing) game and force him to make plays on the field, and that’s what he’s doing well,” said Smart, whose tenure of The head coach hadn’t introduced a 400-yard passer until Saturday night. .
“(Daniels) gets the ball straight up, give the guys a one-on-one chance. We had our full wide receiver corps, (and that) makes it harder to defend you when you have these weapons.
“And he was precise,” Smart said. “The only thing we said we had to be at this position was correct.”
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Daniels walked into Smart’s office the day after the loss in Florida and told the head coach he can make a difference for the team.
“He was very adamant that he was confident in his knee, that he was ready to go, that he could make the throws and make decisions and do anything that wasn’t done in terms of precision. , ”Smart told me.
“He has tremendous self-confidence which is what you want in this job because if you don’t and doubt yourself it’s really hard. He did a good job of working with the receivers, also making them believe that he was going to give them the ball and make plays and recharge their batteries. this group which is really important.
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Smart was strewn with questions about why he hadn’t told Daniels about the offense earlier this year, and he said he could understand why.
“Absolutely,” Smart said. “But maybe the question should be, ‘Dude, aren’t they happy to have JT here when no one thought they might need him.
The point is, Smart evaluated Daniels with the starters in August when he was still wearing a heavy knee pad and wasn’t as mobile or as sharp on his throws.
Daniels improved over the season, but Smart noted that Stetson Bennett performed well in the Arkansas game thanks to wins over Auburn, Tennessee and the first half at Alabama.
“Decisions were made on who we think gave us the best opportunity to win, and that has a lot to do with Stetson’s mobility and play,” said Smart. “The kid played pretty well against Florida without George Pickens until he shot.”
Bennett led a 6-game, 61-yard TD practice that gave UGA a 14-0 lead over the Gators, but was injured in his field goal.
“Then it kind of went downhill,” Smart said. “As Stet struggled, we had to look for other options.”
Smart said the real story is how Daniels handled things when he was relegated to the third string behind Bennett and D’Wan Mathis in the first six games of the season.
“Let’s do the discussion of how JT handled it in a world where nobody handles things very well when they don’t get what they want,” said Smart. “What he did was he said, ‘Coach, I want to come to scouts and I want to pitch and I want to be part of the game plan.’
“And he went down with me and went everyday against what I think was a pretty good defense… he played, he moved in the pocket, and he started showing us that, ‘hey, I can do that thing. ‘ He took the bull by the horns and took advantage of it tonight.
Good thing, as the Georgia running game generated just 8 yards on 23 carries, hampered by Daniels getting sacked three times for minus 21 yards.
Yet Zamir White only gained 21 yards on 11 carries.
“They kicked us, that’s the bottom line,” Smart said. “Hey, we pass better protected than they pass rushed, and they run stopped better than we ran.”
Kirby Smart speaks after Georgia’s football win over Mississippi State