Georgia football returned to the win column Saturday night with a 31-24 win over Mississippi State.
Quarterback JT Daniels impressed in his debut game and the defense dominated the second half. On the other hand, Georgia's running game struggled and Mississippi State picked apart the defense in the first half. Here are the grades Georgia's units earned Saturday:
What a debut for Daniels. The USC transfer completed 28-of-38 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns.
Daniels gave viewers the first real glimpse of what the Todd Monken offensive style looks like. He completed passes to eight different receivers and converted eight third downs. His biggest conversion was a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kearis Jackson on a third-and-20 in the fourth quarter.
True freshman receiver Jermaine Burton also had a spectacular game, catching eight passes for 197 yards with two touchdowns. He clearly benefited from having a more accurate quarterback throwing to him. The return of wide receiver George Pickens also helped Burton as he caught several deep passes in single coverage without any safety help.
Pickens looked great in his return, ending his night with eight grabs for 87 yards with one score. He was never wide open like Burton, but Daniels was accurate enough to place the ball in areas only Pickens could get to.
Jackson and Demetris Robertson were excellent complementary receivers, combining for 100 yards on seven catches. Georgia's passing game obviously looked much better with Daniels. The receivers played with more confidence and energy, while Daniels looked every bit like the five-star prospect he was coming out of high school.
Georgia is docked points because of the total absence of the running game. The Bulldogs had just eight yards on 23 carries. It was an uncharacteristic night for Georgia. Part of that is because Mississippi State, which has a great run defense, loaded the box and hoped Daniels struggled in a one-dimensional offense. But the offensive line deserver plenty of blame.
Saturday was rough for Georgia's defense. The unit did not look comfortable in zone coverage, allowing Will Rogers to pick them apart for 336 yards with one score. he completed 41 of 52 passes. Running back Dillon Johnson added the other two touchdowns. Mississippi State completed a bunch of 6-to-8-yard passes to open up deeper passes downfield which Rogers tended to complete.
However, the defense hunkered down when it needed to, forcing stops on Mississippi State's last four possessions. In those four drives, defenders got to the ball quicker, breaking up some passes while making the short passes go for even shorter gains.
The pass rush also got to Rogers. The first of the four drives ended with an incompletion after the defense forced Rogers to the sideline. The last two possessions ended with sacks by Jermaine Johnson and Azeez Ojulari.
Special teams: A
One bad punt by Jake Camarda was the only blemish on special teams, and that was a small one considering Georgia's defense forced a three-and-out afterward. Camarda made up for the error with a pair of 50-plus-yard punts later in the game.
Jack Podlesny nailed his only field goal and was perfect on extra points. Kearis Jackson had one solid kickoff return for 30 yards before Georgia's touchdown drive at the end of the first half.