Five takeaways from No. 2 Georgia's blowout win over South Carolina in SEC opener

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South Carolina on Saturday night returned to the scene where it pulled off a major upset two years ago and this time things went in more orderly fashion for Georgia.

The No. 2 Bulldogs won in Sanford Stadium for the 24th time in the last 25 games with that double-overtime upset in 2019 the only home blemish since the start of the 2017 season.

This time, Georgia fended off some tight moments in the first half and rolled to a 40-13 victory as JT Daniels returned as starting quarterback and the defense kept the Gamecocks out of the end zone until the game was out of reach.

Here are five takeaways from the 3-0 Bulldogs’ SEC opener:

A triumphant return for JT Daniels

Quarterback JT Daniels showed he was ready to be back in action after missing the UAB rout last week with an oblique injury.

Stetson Bennett’s record-tying five touchdown passes last week in the 56-7 blowout earned him first half playing time but Daniels resumed his starting role.

He sliced up the Gamecocks secondary, completing 23 of 31 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns with an interception late in the third quarter.

Daniels found the explosive plays that were missing in the opener against Clemson when he took a shot on the first time he dropped back to throw.

This time he connected with Jermaine Burton for a 43-yard touchdown — Burton’s second long TD catch in as many weeks — and then found Adonai Mitchell on a 38-yard touchdown.

Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99), outside linebacker Nolan Smith (left) and inside linebacker Quay Walker (7) take down South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty for a safety during the first half at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99), outside linebacker Nolan Smith (left) and inside linebacker Quay Walker (7) take down South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty for a safety during the first half at Sanford Stadium.

Daniels was 8 of 9 for 119 yards in first two series, but like last week Kirby Smart went to the No. 2 quarterback on the third series. Last week it was Carson Beck. This time it was Bennett who promptly overthrew Brock Bowers on his first attempt for an interception.

Daniels played the rest of the first half and he was deadly on third down, going 4-for-4 for 44 yards. On one drive, he completed third-down passes to Kearis Jackson for 8 yards and Mitchell for 17 and 8 to move the chains.

Mitchell not just a spring sensation

Adonai Mitchell ran into the netting behind the west end zone goal post after hauling in his first collegiate touchdown.

Mitchell got behind the Gamecocks defense and hauled in the pass from Daniels for a 38-yard touchdown catch.

He had four catches for 77 yards — all in the first half.

On Georgia’s third scoring drive — an 11 play, 80-yard march — Mitchell had receptions of 17 and 8 for third down conversions and then Daniels found him downfield for the score.

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The early enrolled created buzz with his seven catches for 105 yards and a TD in the G-Day spring game and had two catches for 42 yards in the first two games but drew a couple of pass interferences against Clemson.

Defense hunkers down yet again

Georgia’s defense made South Carolina QB Zeb Noland’s homecoming game in Sanford Stadium a short one. Noland left on the Gamecocks’ first offensive possession with a right hand injury and did not return.

The Bulldogs held the Gamecocks (2-1, 0-1 SEC) to 310 total yards, a season-high against them, but much of it came with the game long decided.

Georgia’s defense had not allowed a touchdown all season until Josh Vann beat Ameer Speed down the left sideline for a 36-yard touchdown from QB Luke Doty with 10:55 left in the game.

The Gamecocks were limited to a pair of Parker White field goals before then of 37 and 27 yards.

The defense has now tied its opponents offenses 16-16.

Coordinator Dan Lanning’s group accounted for more scoring for a third straight game.

After getting a pick-six in each of the first two games, this time Georgia registered a safety with 24 seconds left in the first half to make it 23-6.

Big Jordan Davis and Nolan Smith combined to corral Doty on the play. The Bulldogs had three sacks on the night to give them 13 in two games.

Noland, Doty and Jason Brown combined to go 14 of 29 for 214 yards.

Georgia entered the game leading the nation in total defense at 177 yards per game and tied for the lead in scoring defense at 5.0

Nolan Smith all over Gamecocks

Azeez Ojulari is making plays in the NFL now, but the Bulldogs are getting production by his buddies he left behind.

Nolan Smith tied his career-high with 1½ sacks against the Gamecocks and set a new personal Bulldog best with eight tackles, including five solo.

Smith forced a third-quarter fumble that Quay Walker recovered.

The Savannah native who played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., had the type of game expected of a player rated the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the 2019 class.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound outside linebacker tag-teamed on the safety of Doty to give Georgia’s defense two points.

Smith has 2 ½ sacks on the season. That matches his total from both 2019 and 2020.

Muschamp's Georgia special teams get job done

Will Muschamp, who stepped in to oversee Georgia’s special teams this summer, saw the Bulldogs' kicking units come up big against his former team.

Speed downed a punt at the 1-yard line in the final minutes of the first half, setting up the Bulldogs for a safety.

Kenny McIntosh had a 28-yard return on the free kick to help set up a 36-yard Jack Podlesny field goal.

The Bulldogs Peach Bowl hero started the season 1 of 3 on the season with misses from 36 and 32, but booted this one to give Georgia a 26-6 halftime lead.

Before the game on the field, Muschamp talked to White and tapped punter Kai Kroeger on the helmet and greeted and hugged multiple Gamecock staffers.

Muschamp was fired after a 2-5 start last season in his fifth season in Columbia.

First-year Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer had a role in recruiting Camarda and John FitzPatrick to Georgia when he was special teams coordinator and tight ends coach under Smart in 2016 and 2017.

Camarda averaged 51.7 yards on 3 punts Saturday with two inside the 20.

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Georgia defeats South Carolina: What we learned from Bulldogs' win