ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — JT Daniels made quite a debut between the hedges, throwing for 401 yards and four touchdowns as No. 13 Georgia held on for a 31-24 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night.
Playing for the first time since the 2019 opener with Southern Cal, Daniels became the third quarterback to start for the Bulldogs (5-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) this season.
It looks like they’ve finally found their guy.
The transfer from USC delivered one big play after another, capped by a 40-yard touchdown pass to Kearis Jackson that broke a 24-24 tie with 9:50 remaining. What made it more impressive: Jackson and George Pickens had dropped potential TD passes on back-to-back plays, and a holding penalty left Georgia with third-and-20 .
But Jackson slipped behind the secondary in the middle of the field, and Daniels spotted him to finally finish off pesky Mississippi State (2-5, 2-5).
Daniels became the first Georgia quarterback to pass for more than 400 yards since Aaron Murray against Auburn in 2013.
Freshman Jermaine Burton was Daniels’ favorite receiver, hauling in eight passes for 197 yards — including TD catches of 18 and 48 yards, no to mention another grab of 49 yards.
Burton had just 130 yards receiving through the first six games of the season as Georgia struggled to get its passing game going while Daniels watched from the bench.
As Daniels took a knee to close out this game, the limited crowd of about 20,000 at Sanford Stadium chanted “JT! JT! JT!”
Pickens also hauled in a 4-yard scoring pass and finished with eight receptions for 87 yards.
Daniels had to do it all through the air because Georgia’s running game was totally stifled, finishing with just 8 yards.
Mississippi State, which had lost four of five games since a shocking upset of defending national champion LSU in the season opener, went toe-to-toe with Georgia most of the night behind freshman quarterback Will Rogers, making his second straight start.
Spreading the ball around to 10 receivers in the “Air Raid” offense, Rogers completed 41 of 52 passes for 336 yards, including Jaden Walley hauling in a pass and turning the corner for a 51-yard touchdown. Dillon Johnson added two rushing TDs for Mississippi State.
One of the nation’s top high school prospects in 2018, Daniels earned Southern Cal’s starting job as a freshman. But he tore up a knee in the opener of his sophomore season, missing the rest of the year.
With the Trojans planning to go in a different direction at quarterback, Daniels transferred to Georgia and was granted immediate eligibility in the battle to replace three-year starter Jake Fromm.
The newcomer didn’t take a snap until the seventh game of the season, after both Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis got a crack at the job.
It will be hard to get Daniels off the field now.
Mississippi State: After leading a victory over Vanderbilt, Rogers turned in another solid performance against Georgia. The freshman seems to have a stranglehold on the quarterback job after senior K.J. Costello started the first five games.
Georgia: Daniels’ stunning performance will surely leave Bulldog fans wondering why it took so long for Kirby Smart to put him in an quarterback. Georgia has only a slim chance of getting back to the SEC championship game, but it might have been different if Smart had made the call to Daniels sooner in the season.
Mississippi State: Makes the short trip to Oxford to face state rival Ole Miss next Saturday in the Egg Bowl. The Bulldogs will be seeking their third straight win over the Rebels.
Georgia: Travels to Columbia to face South Carolina in the Thanksgiving week slot that was usually reserved for the Dawgs’ rivalry game against Georgia Tech. The teams aren’t meeting this season with the SEC playing a league-only schedule.
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