Georgia came away Saturday with all it needed: a solid home win against unranked South Carolina in which it never trailed.
But that doesn’t mean the Gamecocks didn’t leave their mark on the Bulldogs.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who called his own team’s performance “workmanlike,” certainly seemed impressed with USC after the 24-10 game, singling out quarterback Jake Bentley and predicting big things for his opponents in the future.
“If it was not for (Georgia running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb), they outplayed us,” Smart said. “We just had better players. That’s why I respect South Carolina, they did a really good job attacking us ... they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”
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Smart and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp have a long history together, playing on the same team at Georgia, coaching together at LSU and facing each other at Florida, Auburn and Alabama before landing at their current locations.
That friendship between the two made Saturday’s matchup difficult on a personal level, Smart said, but he had nothing but good things to say about the job Muschamp has done in Columbia.
“South Carolina is a really good football team,” Smart said. “They’re physical ... they’ve got big wideouts that are tough to match up with. Up front, defensively, they’ve done a great job of improving their front. They’ve got really good size. They challenged us.”
Smart also said he had a personal relationship with Bentley, who completed 21 passes on 35 attempts for 227 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Smart said. “ I know his dad (South Carolina running backs coach Bobby Bentley), I’ve known him for a long time, I respect him as a competitor and he’s hard to tackle.
Bentley “is a really good player who’s going to be around for a while,” Smart continued.
Smart’s admiration for South Carolina’s program extended to his players, who also expressed respect for USC on both sides of the ball.
“They’re probably one of the best defensive lines we’ve faced all year,” running back Nick Chubb said.
“We knew they were going to be able to pass the ball, we were prepared for that” safety J.R. Reed said. “They’re going to make plays because they have a great quarterback, a great tight end, so with a team like that ... it’s just all about how you respond.”