In the buildup to Georgia’s clash with South Carolina Saturday night in Columbia, Georgia players reiterated that they weren’t out to get revenge on the Gamecocks, who derailed the Dawgs’ season last year with a devastating upset in Athens. They were out to secure redemption.
It’s an important distinction. Revenge is all about the pain and harm you can inflict on an opponent in return for the pain and harm they inflicted on you. Redemption is about self-improvement and righting the wrongs you’ve committed.
In a 45-16 win over the Gamecocks, the Dawgs redeemed themselves on many levels. The victory put Georgia back in the catbird seat in this series after last year’s upset, which is where we should be based on the state of these two programs. The running game and defense also got a bit of redemption for their weakness against Mississippi State. Most importantly, with a lopsided victory, the team got some redemption for a string of poor performances over the last two months.
Despite all the positives from the win against Mississippi State the week before (see: Daniels, JT), the utter failure of Georgia’s run game, which accumulated only eight rushing yards, left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. None more so than Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who went into the Carolina game with a plan to jump-start the running game.
Against the listless Gamecocks, that plan worked. The Dawgs ran the ball early and often to great effect. Georgia finished the night with 332 yards rushing at a clip of 7.2 yards per carry. James Cook looked effortless, finishing the game with 104 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. Three other Georgia tailbacks eclipsed 75 yards—Zamir White (84 and two touchdowns), Kenny McIntosh (79) and freshman Daijun Edwards (77).
The improvement in the run game meant we didn’t get to see as many fireworks from Daniels in the second start of his Georgia career. But the sophomore signal-caller was still solid when he was called into action. Daniels passed for 139 yards and two touchdowns and made a handful of NFL-caliber throws in the process. He also recorded the first interception of his UGA career, but it came off a nice pass to Kearis Jackson late in the first half that Jackson bobbled, allowing South Carolina’s Jammie Robinson to come in for an impressive diving pick. His place as starter is locked up at this point, so much so that D’Wan Mathis didn’t travel with the team to Columbia and is reportedly planning to transfer.
The defense also returned to some semblance of what we expect. South Carolina’s run game was nullified as the Gamecocks rushed for 83 yards. Through the air, they had more success, in the same way Will Rogers of Mississippi State had success last week. Quarterback Luke Doty took what the defense gave him and dinked and dunked his way to 190 yards while completing 81% of his passes. It’s in those short passes where the Georgia defense misses Richard LeCounte rushing in from the secondary to bust heads.
The defense was much more adept at getting to the quarterback than it had been against Mississippi State. The team finished with four sacks and 10 tackles for loss against the Gamecocks, compared to two and four against State. Cornerback Tyson Campbell also snagged the first interception of his career and capped it off with a nice 40-yard return.
It was a gratifying victory, the first one we’ve had since beating Tennessee 44-21 in early October, which seems like a lifetime ago. Since then, we’ve had the losses to Alabama and Florida, which put the kibosh on any ambitions we had to win something meaningful this season. Meanwhile, wins over Kentucky and Mississippi State were far closer than they had any right to be based on the talent gap.
For Georgia, there’s nothing left to play for this season except pride and enjoyment. We shouldn’t be playing football right now, but if we’re going to, I want to enjoy the games. And for the last two months, I haven’t. We finish the regular season with games against Vanderbilt and Missouri. Thumping them like we thumped the Gamecocks ain’t an SEC Championship, and it sure as hell ain’t a national championship. But after the season we’ve had, and the year we’ve had, I’ll take it.
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