ATHENS – Kirby Smart said it’s about JT Daniels taking what Mississippi gives, something he knows the USC transfer is capable of doing.
The 13th-ranked Smart Bulldogs (5-2) won 31-24 over coach Mike Leach’s Maroon Bulldogs (2-5) on Saturday night at Sanford Stadium behind a 401-yard pass from Daniels and 4 throws of TD.
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“The way they played us was to stop every game (run) and force him to play on the field, and that’s what he̵
“(Daniels) gets the ball vertically, gives the boys a chance one on one. We had our full wide receiver, (and that) makes it harder to protect you when you have these weapons.
“And he was right,” Smart said. “The only thing we said we had to be in that position was right.”
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Daniels entered Smart’s office the day after the loss in Florida and told the head coach that he could 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 throws and make decisions and do all the things that are not achieved in terms of accuracy,” Smart said.
“He has a lot of confidence in himself, which is what you want in this position, because if you don’t do it and you doubt yourself, it’s really difficult. He did a good job with the receivers, making them believe that he would take the ball from them, play and give energy. this group that is really important. “
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Smart was bombarded with questions about why he hadn’t passed the offense on to Daniels earlier this year and said he could understand why.
“Absolutely,” Smart said. “But maybe the question should be, ‘Man, aren’t they glad to have JT here when no one thinks they might need it?’ “
The fact is that Smart appreciated Daniels with the starters back in August, when he was still wearing a heavy knee brace and was not as agile or so sharp in his throws.
Daniels improved as the season progressed, but Smart noted that Stetson Bennett performed well in the Arkansas game with victories over Auburn, Tennessee and the first half in Alabama.
“Decisions were made about who we thought gave us the best chance to win, and many of them were related to Stetson’s mobility and gameplay,” Smart said. “The kid played pretty well against Florida without George Pickens until he hit.”
Bennett staged a directed 6-game, 61-yard TD drive that gave UGA a 14-0 lead over the Gators, but was injured in his throw.
“Then everything went downhill,” Smart said. “While Stet was struggling, we had to look for other possibilities.”
Smart said the real story is how Daniels handled things when he was relegated to third place after Bennett and D’Uan Mathis in the first six games of the season.
“Let’s have a discussion about how well JT does in a world where no one does very well when they don’t get what they want,” Smart said. “What he did was say, ‘Coach, I want to go down to the scouts, I want to throw and I want to be part of the game plan.’
“And he came down with me and every day he opposed something that I think is a pretty good defense … he played, moved in his pocket and started showing us that ‘hey, I can do this.’ He took the bull by the horns and took advantage of it tonight. ”
Good, because the game in Georgia, generated only 8 yards in 23 runs, hampered by the dismissal of Daniels three times for minus-21 yards.
Still, Zamir White won just 21 yards on 11 runs.
“They kicked our ass, that’s the bottom line,” Smart said. “Hey, we pass protected better than they rushed in and they ran away, stopped better than us.”
Kirby Smart speaks after Georgia’s football victory over the Mississippi