UGA Football

Kirby Smart explains onside kick call: ‘I want to hunt’

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart yells on the sideline during Saturday’s win over South Carolina.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart yells on the sideline during Saturday’s win over South Carolina. AP

If South Carolina lined up for the opening kickoff a certain way, Georgia was going to attempt an onside kick.

Point blank.

Head coach Kirby Smart, with his Georgia program the No. 1 team in the nation in the College Football Playoff poll, wanted to be aggressive at the start of Saturday’s 24-10 win over South Carolina. So with South Carolina lining up in the manner Georgia scouted, place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship attempted the onside kick.

South Carolina, however, was able to pounce on the ball at midfield.

Smart said he wanted to an early jolt from the jump against a formidable South Carolina opponent.

“It was there,” Smart said. “I want to be aggressive at the University of Georgia. I don’t want to be hunted. I want to hunt.”

Blankenship said South Carolina’s kickoff return formation showed a weakness for an onside kick as far back as last year’s meeting between the two teams. And at first, Blankenship said he thought Georgia recovered the ball.

While the play didn’t work out the way Georgia had hoped, both Blankenship and Smart said it was a good call since the opportunity to seize an extra possession was there on the opening kickoff.

“When you win games and get attention in the media you can expect to get everyone’s best they have to offer when they line up against you,” Blankenship said. “We just wanted to go out and stay aggressive, and just show we weren’t going to be the hunted. We were going to be the hunters.”

While Georgia was unable to recover the onside kick, the defense held South Carolina to zero points on a short field. The Gamecocks did pick up a first down but ultimately had to settle for a 46-yard field goal try.

South Carolina place-kicker Parker White’s attempt missed wide to the right.

“We believe in what we do. Football is an aggressive game,” Smart said. “We’re not going to sit back on our heels and say we’ll take your best shot. We’re going to give you our best shot. That’s the way I think the game should be played.”