In the end, Mississippi State wasn’t able to come back and score, but the lack of success on the ground late in the game emphasized the difficulty Georgia had running the ball throughout the night. Georgia running backs gained 33 yards on 18 carries. The final stats showed Georgia with eight net rushing yards on 23 carries (including three sacks for minus-21 yards and four yards lost when Daniels took a knee on the last two plays of the game). The Bulldogs entered Saturday’s game averaging just under 175 rushing yards per game.
“On film, we’ve been such a great run team,” Daniels said. “I think we had to prove ourselves in the passing game a little bit, so they came out and they played a little more cover-zero, no safeties. They played a little more man. Really, I think it was their emphasis to try and stop (White) and (James) Cook from taking it up on them.”
Both Smart and Daniels emphasized the physicality of Mississippi State’s defense and its commitment to stopping the run. Daniels finished with 401 passing yards in his first start — the first Georgia quarterback to pass for more than 400 yards since 2013. He took full advantage of the passing opportunities presented by the Maroon Bulldogs’ emphasis on stopping the run game.
But for a program that’s called itself ‘Running Back U’ in recent years, Saturday’s performance on the ground was a far cry from what’s become a calling card of Georgia football.
“We pass-(protected) better than they pass-rushed, and they run-stopped better than we ran,” Smart said. “I’d reserve judgement until I watch it to see totally what it was, but it wasn’t good enough.”