Last week, Georgia’s rushing attack totaled only eight yards against Mississippi State, but on Saturday night against South Carolina, it was a different story.
The Bulldogs racked up a season-high 332 yards on the ground with four rushers over the 75-yard mark in their 45-16 win over the Gamecocks in Williams-Brice Stadium. As a team, Georgia averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, which is another season-high.
Last week, Georgia repeatedly ran into Mississippi State’s loaded box, but against the Gamecocks, the offensive line was able to win the battle in the trenches. The rushing attack on Saturday night was night-and-day compared to last week’s performance. Georgia was able to bully around a weak South Carolina defensive line all night, which is something that didn’t happen last week.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart attributed Georgia’s success on the ground to what South Carolina’s defense gave them.
“Let’s be honest, a lot of it has to do with the other team and what they do,” Smart said in his post-game press conference. “So, we didn’t call a lot of different runs, we didn’t go out and re-invent the wheel to run the ball. We played a team that had three or four guys out, they had some Covid issues, a couple of other injuries that probably hurt their depth.”
Although the Gamecocks dealt with problems within their program, Smart said his team came out swinging from the get-go.
“They are a very beat-up football team and they’re probably not as stout as Mississippi State upfront,” Smart said. “With that said, our guys came out from the very beginning. They knew that South Carolina had some guys out, but they didn’t play down to that level, they played physical, they knocked people off the ball, they ran the ball and I thought our O-line’s second effort and our backs’ second effort was the difference in the game.”
Georgia junior running back James Cook led the team with 104 yards on six carries (17.3 ypc) and two touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore Zamir White followed with 13 attempts for 84 yards (6.5 ypc) and two scores. Those two are the first pair of Georgia running backs to each have two rushing scores in the same game since Nick Chubb and Sony Michel did it in the 2018 Rose Bowl against win over Oklahoma.
Sophomore Kenny McIntosh had some impressive plays as he rushed for 79 yards on nine attempts (8.8 ypc). Freshman Daijun Edwards carried the ball 14 times for a total of 77 yards (5.5 ypc) and defensive back Prather Hudson had one rush for seven yards.
Georgia had 202 yards in the first half alone as South Carolina couldn’t find an answer to stop them. The Bulldogs had eight plays of 10-plus yards or more on the ground. The longest was for 44 yards by Cook in the first quarter followed by McIntosh’s 32-yard gain a few minutes later. Cook had another chunk gain in the second quarter on a 29-yard rush.
Smart gave credit to offensive coordinator Todd Monken for calling a very balanced game.
“I definitely think that because I think he’s a really good play-caller,” Smart said. “He does a good job of being aggressive. I think he’s been playing with a partial deck some of the games because of the injuries and the youth. We knew there was going to be youth and we were going to invest in that youth and it was going to grow and get better..”
Smart felt that the offensive line played particularly well after a disappointing performance last week.
“You take what they give you, right?” Smart said when asked about South Carolina’s defense. “It’s an opportunity to run the ball and win the game. That’s our ultimate goal is to win the game. That’s what we wanted to do. We weren’t going to throw it just to throw it. We took some shots. We took some first-and-10 shots. We had one to Jermaine (Burton) on the sideline we missed. We had one that he threw the ball away. I think he made a good decision, on a shot play. He ended up throwing it away because a guy wasn’t there. It wasn’t like we came out and said we’re just going to run it, we’re (not) going to throw it. We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to be successful.”
Cook also praised the big guys in front of him for his success.
“My O-line gave me a lane to run in,” Cook said. “They laid it on, and I ran with physicality. They did a great job.”
Cook, who ran for a career-high on Saturday night, felt confident when only given six carries.
“Every opportunity I get, I just try to take advantage of, it” Cook said.
Here is the video from Smart’s post-game press conference: