ATHENS, Ga. — From some of the marquee players on the Georgia football roster to those who contribute on special teams, the Bulldogs made the most of having to play a college football game at South Carolina on an NFL Sunday due to Hurricane Matthew.
“I’ve always dreamt of playing on Sunday’s,” senior Ryne Rankin tweeted out in a gameday morning tweet.
Now about what came Monday after Georgia’s 28-14 victory against the Gamecocks.
“In the league you don’t have class the next day, here you do,” senior offensive tackle Greg Pyke, who had a 9:30 a.m. class, said following the game.
Georgia (4-2, 2-2 SEC) now is already into a condensed game week for Saturday’s noon home SEC game against Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3). That meant changing some things up.
Coach Kirby Smart’s weekly Monday news conference was moved to today because coaches usually use the Sunday player off day to review film and begin game planning for the next opponent.
“The staff will be fine,” Smart said. “It’s the recovery of the players that concerns me.”
The Bulldogs were slated to have a lighter than usual “stretch and stride” practice on Monday afternoon and begin going over Vanderbilt.
“Yeah, so we’ll have class and practice (Monday) so no days off,” Pyke said.
Georgia has held physical practices, often with ones against ones on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s harder to do that when you’ve got a shortened week,” Smart said. “So we’ve got to be smart about what we do.”
Sony Michel wasn’t looking for down time. The morning after leading Georgia with a season-high 133 yards on 21 carries, he was the first player in to the weight room Monday at 7 a.m. from what strength coach Scott Sinclair posted on his Twitter account.
Georgia produced its second most rushing yards in an SEC game since 1996 with 326 yards, according to the SEC Network. The only one that topped it was going for 328 against Ole Miss in 2007.
Nick Chubb ran for 121 on 16 carries with two touchdowns to give Georgia two 100-yard rushers for the first time in a game since Chubb had 144 and Todd Gurley 138 against Auburn in 2014. Chubb’s 7.6 yards per carry Sunday was his best of the season.
The offensive line was underperforming earlier in the season but now followed up a 181-yard rushing output against Tennessee (with Chubb having just one carry) with an even better showing .
“We really dominated those guys up front,” Pyke said. “We enforced our will on them. We had good double teams across the board.”
Georgia utilized more pro-style running sets to help a rushing offense that now ranks fifth in the SEC at 215.7 yards per game.
“It’s who sets their jaw right and knocks them back and believes they’re going to be able to run it,” Smart said. “Having Nick, that suits Nick a lot better. I thought Sony had one one of the best runs I’ve ever seen. They had two guys unblocked and he makes them miss and almost scores.”
On the flip side, Georgia’s 29 passing yards tied for the fifth fewest in a game by an FBS team this year behind Rutgers, UNLV, Army, Tulane and tied with Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs ran the ball on 50 of 67 plays. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason was 5 of 17 for 29 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“They threw it 17 times that was probably 17 too many,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said referring to Georgia gashing the Gamecocks on the ground.
Eason is completing 51.2 percent of his passes this season for 1,020 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Georgia ranks 11th in the SEC in passing at 184.2 yards per game.
South Carolina had 12-play touchdown drives of 90 and 74 yards in the second half, but outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said the defense took a step forward because he said the Bulldogs “relaxed a little bit” a week earlier when Tennessee came back to win last week.
“When you’ve got the foot on their throat, you’ve got to step on it,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy had one a half sacks for a Georgia defense that racked up five, but Smart downplayed that because three came in the final minutes. The Bulldogs had just six sacks in their first five games.
Georgia avoided its first three-game losing streak since 2010 after getting bludgeoned at Ole Miss and having Tennessee win on its miraculous touchdown pass.
“I was interested to see how they were going to respond during the week of practice,” Smart said. “They really practiced well. …Spirited, getting after it, challenging each other.”
Smart said he was just about taken aback when for the first time he noticed sophomores in practice being more vocal, including telling teammates to run off the field between sets.
“I really think at this point of the season kind if near midway, some teams get better and some teams get worse,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure that we’re in that upper half of getting better.”