ATHENS — It seemed as if Georgia’s offensive line was about to go from bad to worse on Saturday.
After giving up an early sack and several missed blocks in the run game, Georgia saw left tackle Amarius Mims go down with a left ankle injury. Kirby Smart didn’t know the extent of Mims’ injury after the game, but it’s never a good sign for your starting right tackle to spend the second half on crutches.
So Georgia adapted. It moved Xavier Truss to right tackle and brought redshirt sophomore Dylan Fairchild into the game at left guard.
“They didn’t seem like, they were getting pressure. They did a good job,” Smart said of South Carolina’s front. “You have to win quickly, you have to get the ball out. You got to have a good plan. You have to make them pay. Their pressure was effective early and we made them pay for some of it. We got our running game going and that was the difference.”
Georgia ended the game rushing for a season-best 210 yards. Daijun Edwards rolled up a career-best 118 yards and all three Georgia touchdowns on Saturday came on the ground. The Georgia front five also didn’t give up a sack in the second half either, after allowing 2.0 in the first.
That Georgia’s offensive line was able to come together as it did is made all the more impressive that they did it without their most talented offensive lineman in Mims.
“I mean, they played hard. Obviously, he’s a big part of our offensive line,” quarterback Carson Beck said. I mean, right tackle, 6-8, however big he is. I mean, he’s a great player, but we’ve got guys that are two deep at the offensive line. I truly think that we have two starting offensive lines — like, SEC starting lines. Ten guys, 12 guys that can all go in there, play and start. I’m super proud of them, the way that they played. I mean, we run behind them, and they lead our team.”
Truss has previous experience at right tackle, as he started the 2020 Peach Bowl win against Cincinnati at the position. And Georgia had been working Fairchild in at guard with the first team offense in wins over UT-Martin and Ball State. So in some sense, this group was ready for this specific situation.
As Smart mentioned, Geogria’s ablitiy to run the football made the difference on Saturday. South Carolina had only 53 rushing yards on the afternoon, with Spencer Rattler being the team’s leading rusher thanks to quarterback scrambles.
For Georgia, it leaned on Truss, Tate Ratledge, Sedrick Van Pran, Fairchild and Earnest Greene in the second half to put the game away. The Bulldogs finally converted in the red zone, as Edwards scored a touchdown on Georgia’s first drive of the second half and Dillon Bell followed it up with a rushing touchdown on the next drive.
The Bell score made it 17-14 Georgia, and the Bulldogs were able to wrestle control of the game away from the Gamecocks.
“I think this is what you dream about as an offensive lineman as a kid. Rainy, wet games, slippery,” Van Pran said. “Can’t really get your foot in the ground. You just got to go and push guys around. I think we did a really good job of establishing the run game.”
Georgia ran for only 99 yards in the win over Ball State. The running game, specifically the lack thereof, was a major discussion point in each of Georgia’s first two wins. On Saturday, it was why Georgia was able to move to 3-0 on the season and picked up its first SEC win of the season.
Moving forward, all eyes will be on Mims and his left ankle. Georgia was already without offensive tackle Austin Blaske, as he continues to deal with an MCL sprain that has now forced him to miss the last two games.
On Saturday though, Georgia’s offensive line had the answers and aced the test when it needed it to. And the members of the Georgia football team are very thankful for that.
“They played their butts off, I’m not going to lie. We had 200 yards rushing all thanks to them, you know,” Bell said. “We really owe them a dinner, but, yeah, they did their thing out there tonight.”