Kirby Smart Talks James Cook Targeting Penalty, Suspension

Kirby Smart Talks James Cook Targeting Penalty, Suspension

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Kirby Smart Talks James Cook Targeting Penalty, Suspension


Though it was an all-around solid performance for Georgia in its first game against Austin Peay, there was, however, one sliver of bad.

In the fourth quarter, on a seemingly meaningless Georgia punt, freshman running back James Cook was called for a punt-catch-interference and a targeting penalty after laying out the helpless Austin Peay returner.

Prior to the penalty, Cook had an impressive debut, rushing 6 times for 66 yards.

The targeting penalty was confirmed in a matter of seconds, and the result was an ejection for Cook, along with a first half suspension for Georgia’s week 2 game at South Carolina.

After the game, head coach Kirby Smart was asked about the penalty and the accompanied suspension.

“Just a poor decision,” Smart said. “The kid’s playing tough, a lot of effort. We were actually subbing out. Mecole was in that spot and we took him out late in the game to give James his first punt reps and he didn’t see the fair catch, so it wasn’t like there was an intent to harm.”

Unfortunately for Cook, though he did not intend any harm on the the returner, it was a pretty obvious targeting call.

“Just not a good decision, a rookie mistake and it’s really unfortunate because he’s a really good player and he’ll be missed in the first half next week,” said Smart.

With Cook out for the first half next week, backs D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien will carry the load. Cook provides a different element of speed and elusiveness than the other backs, so Georgia will likely miss the 5-star early on.

In addition to Cook missing the first half next week, receivers Terry Godwin, Kearis Jackson and Jayson Stanley are still considered questionable to play.

Smart discussed the need for those receivers to be able to play, especially now that Cook will miss the first half.

“We really need those three wideouts back, they all give us something different, especially with James [Cook] out now,” Smart said. “We’ve got to have these three fast wideouts to help us.”

Georgia takes on South Carolina in Columbia this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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