ATHENS – Kirby Smart said it was a matter of JT Daniels taking what the Mississippi state provided, something he knew the USC transfer was capable of doing.
Smart’s No. 13 ranked Bulldogs (5-2) scored a 31-24 victory over coach Mike Leach’s Maroon Bulldogs (2-5) Saturday night at Sanford Stadium behind Daniels’ 401-yard pass and 4 TD throws.
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“The way they played us was to stop every (running) game and force him to make games down the field, and that̵
”(Daniels) gets the ball vertically, giving guys a one-on-one chance. We had our complete wide receiver corps out there, (and it) makes it harder to defend you when you have these weapons.
“And he was right,” Smart said. “The one thing we said we had to be in that position was accurate.”
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Daniels walked into Smart’s office the day after the Florida loss and told the head coach he could make a difference for the team.
“He was very confident that he was sure on his knee, that he was ready to go, that he could take the plunge and make the decision and do all the things that were not done in terms of accuracy,” Smart said.
“He has extreme confidence in himself, which is what you want in that position, because if you do not and you doubt yourself, it is really difficult. He did a great job of receiving the recipients and made them believe that he would also give them the ball and make games and revive the group that is really important. ”
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Smart was spiced up with questions about why he did not pass the offense to Daniel earlier this year, and he said he could understand why.
“Absolutely,” Smart said. “But maybe the question should be, ‘Man, are they not happy that they have JT here when no one thought they might need him.’ “
The fact is, Smart rated Daniels with the starters back in August, as he was still wearing a heavy knee brace and was not as mobile or as sharp on his throws.
The Daniels have improved as the season progressed, but Smart noted that Stetson Bennett did well in the Arkansas game through victories over Auburn, Tennessee and the first half of Alabama.
“Decisions were made about who we felt gave us the best chance of winning, and much of it had to do with mobility and Stetson’s game,” Smart said. “The kid played pretty well against Florida without George Pickens until he took the shot.”
Bennett directed a 6-game, 61-yard TD drive that gave UGA a 14-0 lead against the Gators, but was injured on his scoring throw.
“Then it kind of went downhill,” Smart said. “When Stet struggled, we had to look for other options.”
Smart said the real story is how Daniels handled things when he was referred to the third string behind Bennett and D’Wan Mathis the first six games of the season.
“Let’s take the discussion of how well JT handled it in a world where no one handles things very well when they are not getting what they want,” Smart said. “What he did is he said, ‘Coach, I want to go down to the scouts, and I want to throw, and I want to be part of the game plan.’
“And he came down with me and went every day against what I think is a pretty good defense … he made games, he moved around in his pocket and he started showing us that ‘hey, I can do this thing.’ He took the bull by the horns, and he exploited it tonight. ”
Good thing, because the Georgia driving game only generated 8 yards on 23 passes, hindered by Daniels, who was fired three times for minus 21 yards.
Still, Zamir White got just 21 yards on 11 carries.
“They kicked our ass, that’s the bottom line,” Smart said. “Hey, we pass protected better than they pass hurried, and they run stopped better than we ran.”
Kirby Smart speaks after Georgia’s football victory over the state of Mississippi