ATHENS, Ga. • Georgia quarterback JT Daniels and receiver Jermaine Burton were too much to handle for Mississippi State’s undermanned secondary on Saturday night.
Daniels, making his first start at Georgia after transferring from Southern Cal, led No. 13-ranked Georgia to a 31-24 win over Mississippi State.
Daniels finished the game 28 for 38 passing for 401 yards and four touchdowns. Burton, a true freshman, had eight catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns. He was eight yards shy of the Georgia single-game school record.
Mississippi State’s secondary was more than depleted entering the game. Only four cornerbacks traveled to Athens while all three starting safeties (Collin Duncan, Londyn Craft and Shawn Preston Jr.) were backups entering the season.
“Coming in, you knew Georgia is a physical team and wants to establish the run game,” senior linebacker Erroll Thompson said. “We knew that we had to stop that to have a chance but also, they might have taken a step back running the ball so they got their passing game going. Going forward, we have to limit big plays and stuff like that in the passing game.”
Mississippi State (2-5) played its best offensive game since the season-opening victory at LSU. The visiting Bulldogs received the opening kickoff and drove straight down the field before settling for a Brandon Ruiz field goal.
The teams then traded touchdowns as Daniels hit George Pickens for a four-yard touchdown pass and MSU freshman running back Dillon Johnson punched in a four-yard touchdown run to put Mississippi State up 10-7.
After Burton caught a 49-yard pass, Georgia tied the game 10-10 with a 41-yard field goal.
Three plays later, Mississippi State took its last lead of the game. Freshman quarterback Will Rogers hit freshman receiver Jaden Walley on a 51-yard touchdown pass down the right side of the field to put Mississippi State up 17-10.
Mississippi State scored on each of its first four drives of the game and had 241 yards of offense at halftime. Rogers had 210 passing yards at the half.
“I think he’s gotten better and I think our offensive line took a step forward this week,” head coach Mike Leach said of Rogers and the offense. “Which I think was important. I think Will did too. I think we played improved and we played together better.”
On Georgia’s last drive of the first half, Daniels and Burton connected for a 46 yard pass to get into Mississippi State territory, then the two connected on a 18-yard touchdown pass to tie the game 17-17.
Georgia received the second half kickoff and Burton scorched Mississippi State’s secondary again with a 48-yard touchdown, his second of the night. Mississippi State tied the game up on its first drive of the second half with Johnson’s second rushing touchdown of the night.
Daniels also connected with Kearis Jackson for a 40-yard touchdown pass to put Georgia up for good, 31-24, with 9:50 left in the game.
The MSU offense then fell flat and was held scoreless for the rest of the game. Mississippi State’s last four offensive drives resulted in 60 total yards, three punts, and a turnover on downs.
After not allowing a sack for the entirety of the game, Georgia sacked Rogers on each of Mississippi State’s last two drives, the final sack on fourth down with just over a minute left in the game.
Next Saturday, MSU is scheduled to visit Ole Miss for the annual Egg Bowl at 3 p.m.