It was lesson learned for the younger members of the Georgia football team, but Kirby Smart said there are plenty of tests still ahead.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs routed No. 24 South Carolina on Saturday, sending half the fans to the exits by the end of the third quarter in a 41-17 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We had a lot of young guys who haven’t had an opportunity to come into this type of environment, and we talked to them about trust your training, trust the fact you worked out all summer in the heat,” Smart said. “Trust the fact that we make it very demanding in practice so the game is easier.
“There will be highs and lows in the games, and ebbs and flows, but we’re just going to keep on chopping.”
Georgia jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game and never appeared in jeopardy of losing, despite all the hype some national media attempted to create in a supposed “trendy upset” game.
Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm was 6-for-6 passing for 115 yards in the third quarter.
The Gamecocks defense appeared overwhelmed, unable to stretch wide enough to contain the speed on the perimeter while minding Georgia’s run game between the tackles.
“We thought that if we were able to run the ball earlier it would find a way to take it’s toll in the second half, and I think that showed through,” Smart said, referencing the Bulldogs’ conservative approach in the first half. “At the end of the day, they just wore down.”
Smart has pushed his players through a sweltering Athens August, practicing in the afternoon and rarely working inside the climate-controlled indoor facility.
Temperatures at field level at South Carolina reached the 100 degree area.
“We preached all week, we didn’t say it publicly, but we certainly felt the hotter it was, the better off we’d be,” Smart said. “We practice at 3:30 every day, 4 o’clock, it’s hot. We don’t run from it. The hotter it is, the deeper we are, the more guys we play, it takes a toll.”
Georgia, however, was not without its faults.
Smart knows better than anyone a trip to pass-happy Missouri looms just two weeks away, and the Tigers now become the biggest roadblock to a return trip to the SEC Championship Game.
Missouri accumulated 601 yards of total offense in a 40-13 win over Wyoming, 398 of it through the air.
“We got loose today in some of our coverage, and they made some plays, we’ve got to get better in our pass coverage, and we’ve got to get better in our pass rush,” Smart said, alluding to Jake Bentley’s 269 yards on 30-of-47 passing, and South Carolina allowing just one sack.
“We’ve got a long way to go, I know you guys are going to write this is a great win, it is a great win, but at the end of the day, we have to get better,” Smart said. “We made too many bonehead mistakes, so that when we play a better team, we will struggle so that’s the goal for us, to get better.”