Daniels lifts Georgia to 31-24 victory over Mississippi State
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Daniels lifts Georgia to 31-24 victory over Mississippi State

UGA Football
Photo: Perry McIntyre/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – The 13th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs defeated Mississippi State Saturday night 31-24 under the lights of Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in front of a crowd of 20,524 and a nationally-televised audience on SEC Network.

In his Georgia debut, redshirt-sophomore quarterback JT Daniels completed 28-of-38 passes for a career-best 401 yards. Daniels became the first Georgia quarterback to pass for 400 yards since Aaron Murray against Auburn in 2013.

Daniels’ go-to receiver was freshman Jermaine Burton who tallied career-bests with eight catches, 197 yards, and two touchdown catches. Sophomore George Pickens also added a touchdown catch, one of eight total catches for 87 yards. As a team, Georgia’s 401 passing yards was a season-high, topping the mark of 269 against Alabama.

Defensively, sophomore Nakobe Dean totaled 12 tackles to lead the team. Senior Mark Webb picked up a career-best nine tackles Saturday.

Mississippi State (2-5, 2-5 SEC) jumped on the board on the opening drive of the game with a 22-yard field goal by junior Brandon Ruiz. The opening drive by Mississippi State ate up just over eight minutes of the clock to begin the game as MSU found itself with an early 3-0 lead.

The first quarter ended with MSU leading Georgia 3-0.

All five drives (three Georgia drives, two Mississippi State) in the second quarter ended with a score for each team.

On the sixth play of the quarter, Daniels connected with Pickens on an 8-yard touchdown pass for Daniels’ first TD pass as a Bulldog. It was Pickens’ team-leading third TD catch of the season. A successful PAT put Georgia (5-2, 5-2 SEC) ahead 7-3. Georgia’s scoring drive took 5:14 and spanned 69 yards.

Mississippi State responded by putting together a 14-play, 75-yard, 7:04 drive concluding with a 6-yard touchdown catch by senior Osirus Mitchell to put MSU back in front 10-7 with 5:24 to play in the opening half.

Daniels jumpstarted Georgia’s next drive with a 49-yard pass to Burton. The play topped Burton’s previous season-long catch of 36 yards at Alabama. Mississippi State was able to halt Georgia after the big play and the drive concluded with a 41-yard field goal off the foot of redshirt-sophomore Jack Podlesny to tie the game at 10 all.

A 51-yard catch-and-run by MSU freshman Jaden Walley into the end zone on the responding drive gave Mississippi State the 17-10 advantage.

Georgia’s next drive began with just 1:22 to play in the half. Daniels went to Burton again, this time completing a 46-yard pass to the freshman to put the Bulldogs in MSU territory. An 18-yard TD pass, once again to Burton (his second of the season), tied the game up at 17-17 with just 30 seconds left in the half. The score stood as both teams went to the locker rooms at halftime.

At halftime, Daniels had completed 13-of-17 passes in his Georgia debut for 204 yards, 149 of which were completed by Burton on seven catches, already a season high in both for him.

Georgia began the second half with the ball. On second down just inside MSU territory, Daniels dropped back and aired out a 48-yard pass to Burton in the end zone for Burton’s second TD catch of the night. After the PAT, Georgia led 24-17.

Once again, Mississippi State responded with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive, this time completing the sequence with a 3-yard rush by freshman Dillon Johnson into the end zone to tie the game at 24 in the third quarter.

The third quarter concluded with the game knotted 24-24.

Georgia regained its lead at 31-24 with 9:50 to play in the game on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Daniels to redshirt-freshman Kearis Jackson, the fourth TD pass of the game for Daniels, a new career-best. The play also tipped Daniels’ career best with 370 passing yards at the time.

Next up, Georgia travels down the road to Columbia, South Carolina for a matchup with the South Carolina Gamecocks next Saturday, Nov. 28. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 on SEC Network.

POST-GAME NOTES

*Daniels Makes Bulldog Debut: In his first action for Georgia, redshirt sophomore transfer JT Daniels (28-for-38, 401 yards, 4 TDs) set a career high for passing yards and TD passes. His previous best was 349 yards versus Notre Dame in 2018 and he had three TD passes twice before while at USC. Daniels became the first Bulldog QB to throw for more than 400 yards in a game since Aaron Murray in 2013 against Auburn when he went for 415. Daniels is the seventh Bulldog to throw for at least 400 yards in a game. He became the third different Bulldog to start at quarterback this year. The Bulldogs finished with 409 yards of total offense.
Down 3-0 in the first, he led an 11 play, 69-yard TD drive in 5:14. It was his 16th career TD pass and first as a Bulldog, connecting with George Pickens for four yards. Also, he had a 49-yarder to freshman Jermaine Burton. Down 17-10, he directed a 70-yard TD drive on seven plays, culminated when he connected with Burton on 3rd-and-7 for an 18-yard TD with 30 seconds left in the first half. To open the second half, Daniel and Burton connected on a 48-yard TD to finish a 75-yard drive on eight plays to go up 24-17. On a 3rd-and 20, he found Kearis Jackson for a 40-yard TD to put Georgia up 31-24. It completed a 9 play, 72-yard drive.
The 2006 season marked the last time Georgia started three different QBs in a season in Joe Tereshinski III, Matthew Stafford and Joe Cox. That year, the Bulldogs went 9-4 capped by a victory over Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
 
*Big Night For Burton: Freshman Jermaine Burton led the receivers with eight catches for a career-high 197 yards and 2 TDs. His 197 yards ranks fourth best in Georgia history for a game and the most since Tavarres King set the record with 205 against Michigan State in 2012 Outback Bowl He had a career-long 49-yard reception plus one for 46 yards and an 18-yard TD, the second of his career.  In the second half, he added a 48-yard TD. Sophomore George Pickens finished with eight receptions for 87 yards and one TD. Pickens had his team-leading third TD catch and 11th of his career as the Bulldogs converted on a 3rd-and goal from the four. Kearis Jackson had four for 55 yards including a 40-yard TD on a 3rd-and-20 for a 31-24 lead with 9:50 left.

*Defense Faces Air Raid:  Coming in tonight, Georgia was leading the SEC in Scoring Defense (20.8 points per game) and was 10th in Passing Defense (262.8 ypg). State and its “Air Raid” offense tallied 241 yards (210-passing, 31-rushing) in the first half as the game was tied at 17.  In the second half, Georgia limited State to one TD and 117 yards of offense, forcing three punts and they turned it over on downs to close out the contest. State came in averaging 303.2 passing yards and finished with 336. Sophomore Nakobe Dean had his third straight game with double-digit tackles, finishing with a team-best 13.
 
*Special Teams Summary: Redshirt sophomore PK Jack Podlesny went 4-for-4 in PATs and hit a 41-yard field goal. Georgia now has made an NCAA record 316 consecutive PATs as the streak includes six kickers dating back to 2014. Podlesny is 9-for-11 in field goals this year. Junior punter Jake Camarda finished with four punts for a 43.8 net average (no returns) including booming a 56-yarder. Kearis Jackson had one KOR for 30 yards.

*Series History: With the 31-24 win, Georgia now leads the all-time series 19-6 including 12-2 in Athens. Georgia has won the last 11 contests over MSU in Athens. Also, today served as the Homecoming game, and it marked just the second time that State had ever been a Homecoming foe for the Bulldogs. Georgia improved to 79-18-2 on Homecoming and 2-0 versus State.
 
*For Starters:  Redshirt sophomore QB JT Daniels made his first career start for Georgia after making 12 at USC during the 2018-19 seasons. The longest active starting streak on offense belongs to center Trey Hill now with 25 while the longest streak on defense is junior DB Eric Stokes at 22. Sophomore WR  George Pickens returned to a starting role after missing the last two games due to an injury.
 
*Captains: Redshirt sophomores Kearis Jackson and Azeez Ojulari plus junior Jamaree Salyer served as the captains. State won the toss and elected to receive the football.
                                                                                          
*Black Jerseys Return: For the fifth time in a regulation game in the modern era, and the second time under Kirby Smart, Georgia wore black jerseys. The Bulldogs last wore them in a real game during a 2016 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. In the 2019 Red-Black Spring game, the black team wore black jerseys.
 
*Homecoming Royalty: While there was no on-field recognition due to the ongoing pandemic, the Homecoming King and Queen were announced and celebrated virtually on the videoboard. The King was Caleb Kelly, a fourth-year student from Macon, majoring in Sport Management. The Queen was Jasmine Gresham, a third-year student from Stockbridge, majoring in Health and Physical Education.
 
*Up Next: Georgia (5-2) will face South Carolina in Columbia, Sat., Nov. 28 at 7:30 pm ET on the SEC Network.

POST-GAME QUOTES

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement…
“First off, hats off to Mississippi State and Coach Mike Leach and his team. To come over here and have some guys down and go out and play the way they did; I thought they played with a lot of heart and a lot of fight. What they were able to do defensively in terms of stopping our run game, we knew the guys they had played up front play really hard and physical, they do a tremendous job of making you one dimensional and I give them a lot of credit for that. And then offensively, they had the quarterback [Will Rogers] that I thought played outstanding. He’s gotten better and better and you watch all the games, and you see him progress.

You see K.J. Costello in there then you see this young kid. Talking to Coach Leach after the game, he played so much better than they had been playing and gave us fits. I want to thank our crowd. I think they impacted the game when we needed most. Second half defensively, we were finally able to rise up and get some stops and I was really pleased with how the crowd impacted that. Then, offensively, we were so much more explosive tonight. We’ve got wideouts who can make plays, and when all those guys are healthy and in tune, we’ve got really good pass protection. We couldn’t run the ball very well but when we’ve got good pass protection, we can be explosive. I’ve seen those kinds of plays in practice and even other times when we’ve been able to be explosive and I thought that was the difference in the game.”

On JT Daniels’ preparation leading into Saturday’s game…
“What JT did, he said ‘coach, I want to come down to the scouts and I want to throw, and I want to be part of the game plan.’ And he came down in front of me and went every day against what I think is a pretty good defense and he made plays and moved around the pocket and he started showing us that ‘I can do this thing’ and he took the bull by the horns and he took advantage of it tonight. Mississippi State played us to stop the run too and took a lot of chances and he took advantage of that.”

#18 JT Daniels | R-So. | QB

On why it has taken so long for him to get this opportunity…
“First of all, thank you. But yeah, you said it right there, that is not my decision. I’ve been getting healthy, getting as many reps as I can with the scout team, trying to get with the receivers as much as I can, making sure I know the playbook, and just getting ready. It feels really good. This is the first time I have taken a snap since August 31, 2019. I am now in a whole other part of the country and I couldn’t be happier and more appreciative to Coach Smart, Coach Monken, and this whole team.”

On when he started to feel comfortable…
“That is a great question. First with the knee and confidence, I really haven’t had much struggle with confidence and my knee. To be honest with you, I think some of that comes with playing the quarterback position and us not being asked to do all too much that would put a knee, especially a right knee, my back knee in that much discomfort, or be put in a position that I feel like I would hurt it again. It has just been a progression over time. I am feeling a lot better. I feel really good in terms of knee health and overall body health. In terms of emotions, in the end on the victory formation it started to sink in a little bit. But, it still really hasn’t yet that I have been able to play football again. I just feel a lot of gratitude, for my family, for this team, for this coaching staff, and for everyone helping me get back on my feet.”

#17 Nakobe Dean | So. | ILB

On the defense…
“We had to keep our composure, we told ourselves to stay patient. I feel like we stayed patient very well during the game and listened to our game plan.”

On executing…
“We just need to execute better, that would’ve changed the game. I do put that on the linebackers and leaders of the defense.”

On JT Daniels…
“He had an amazing effect. For the offense to come out and score like that, it makes a tremendous impact on the defense. Seeing how he played through this whole process waiting for his turn, he had a big effect on us and how we see him.”

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