That’s what the Georgia Bulldogs were saying after Saturday’s 24-14 win over South Carolina at Sanford Stadium. Absent through the first games due to a sprained knee suffered late in preseason camp, Edwards came back against the Gamecocks and Georgia would not win without number 30 being suited up to play.
The 5-foot-10, 201-pound senior finished with a career high 118 yards on a career-high 20 carries and scored the Bulldogs’ first touchdown as Georgia mounted a second-half comeback from a 14-3 deficit. Edwards’ presence transformed a rushing attack that had been missing the first two weeks of the season. The Bulldogs finished with 189 yards and knocked out 29 first downs on the way to possessing the football for more than 37 minutes.
“He just wants it,” Georgia quarterback Carson Beck said of Edwards. “Obviously, he’s been out and he’s been wanting to get back on the field. But he’s just a dog. That’s what we do. He wants it more than some guys. He’s going to make guys miss. He’s going to run hard. He’s going to get extra yards after contact. I’m just super proud of the way he played.”
Edwards carried the ball on 53% of the rushing attempts by running backs on Saturday, including 12 of 20 in the final two quarters. Kendall Milton (7 carries for 25 yards), Dillon Bell (7-for-23), Cash Jones (2-for-20) and Roderick Robinson (1-for-1) also got carries as Georgia had to mount a second-half comeback. The Bulldogs out-gained South Carolina 197 yards to 32 in the third quarter.
Edwards’ mere presence in practice this week and in the starting lineup Saturday seemed to change the tone of Georgia’s offense.
“It’s huge,” coach Kirby Smart said of having the Colquitt County product back on the field. “He makes people miss in the hole. He gets yards after contact. He’s very confident, an experienced player who’s tough. He’s a traditional Georgia high school football player. He’s a really good player from a really tough area and an effective runner.”
Georgia’s second-leading rusher with 797 yards and seven touchdowns last year, Edwards was expected to be the starting running back this season. But he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee two weeks before the season opener.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Initially, it was uncertain when Edwards might return. He did not dress out for the opener, dressed out and warmed up for the second game and didn’t play, then was a full go Saturday. He played with a brace on his right knee.
“He did an amazing job fighting and rehabbing, getting back for us,” center Sedrick Van Pran said. “I think he did a tremendous job. Today he showed off all his hard work. It was huge.”
Georgia’s offensive line did a tremendous job as well, especially considering the circumstances that befell it. The Bulldogs lost starting right tackle Amarius Mims to an ankle injury with 8:06 remaining in the second quarter when Tate Ratledge pancaked his defender into Mims’ feet. With Mims’ regular backup Austin Blaske sidelined with a leg injury, Georgia moved left guard Xavier Truss to right tackle and brought in sophomore Dylan Fairchild to play Truss’s spot.
The Bulldogs’ seemed to play even better from that point on. Beck said the whole line deserved the game ball.
“They got push, our running backs ran behind them, they made plays and made them miss,” Beck said. “When you can do that, be physical up front and just dominate, it makes my job super easy. It opens up the passing game, it opens everything up.”
The Bulldogs finished with 458 yards total offense, with Beck throwing for 269.
But it was Edwards everybody was talking about in the locker room.
“Daijun is Daijun,” said Bell, who remains a primarily a wideout. “He did all of this on one knee. What’re you gonna expect when he’s well? He did a phenomenal job and we were really proud of him. He was really relentless today and that’s what it was all about.”
Beck felt like it might’ve changed the complexion of Georgia’s offense going forward.
“I think today we established that we’re going to be a physical team,” Beck said. “We’re going to be composed, we’re going to have resilience and if anything stands in our way we’re going to fight through it and we’re going to have the same mindset no matter what.”