Georgia football: Grading the Bulldogs after win over Murray State
It’s almost a shame that games like Saturday’s matchup between No. 3 Georgia and FCS school Murray State have to be played. The disparity in talent in huge. Too huge. That was evident in the Bulldogs’ 63-17 win as the Bulldogs moved to 2-0 on the season.
“You go into these games knowing you want to score every play, and you think you should score every play and that you should hold them to zero yards,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They have good players, too, so give them some credit. Our kids kept playing, and that’s kind of what our mantra is, we’re going to keep playing and try to break the other team’s will.”
Georgia did exactly that in the easy win that was spiced up by a 5-touchdown blitzkrieg in the 2nd quarter, and the rout was on.
Here’s what I liked — and what I didn’t like — about the home-opening win over Murray State:
What I liked
Defense finally brings the heat
Murray State likes the spread out to its offense and throw the ball around, and they had a touch of success with that Saturday, with quarterback Preston Rice completing 20-of-25 passes of 216 yards. But what was really impressive for Georgia on defense was how defensive coordinator Dan Lanning chose to get after Rice, and that led to 6 sacks.
That was a sight for sore eyes because getting to the quarterback has been an issue for Georgia for a couple of years. And 2 players brought in during the offseason to fix this problem — freshman Nolan Smith and JUCO transfer Jermaine Johnson — both had huge days.
Smith, the top-ranked-ranked player in the 2019 signing class, recorded 1.5 sacks. Johnson, the No. 1-ranked JUCO prospect a year ago, got his first sack in a Georgia uniform. Pushing that frantic pace led to turnovers as well, forcing an interception and a fumble.
“Defensively, I don’t know that we got to improve a lot because I don’t know the caliber of team we went against,” Smart said. “It was just another opportunity to force turnovers, try to create havoc.”
Jake Fromm was excellent again
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm only needed a half of work to put up some impressive numbers and then call it a day. He was 10-of-11 passing for 166 yards and a touchdown and left late in the 2nd quarter with Georgia ahead 35-7.
Fromm was accurate throughout his brief stint. His best pass was a deep ball that freshman receiver George Pickens caught for a 43-yard gain. Sure, it’s been just Vanderbilt and Murray State the first 2 weeks, but Fromm has been very impressive. He’s finding guys, but more important, he’s been a tremendous leader in getting this relatively new receiving corps acclimated.
Pickens shows what he’s got
Freshman sensation George Pickens had his first big day after having a scintillating fall camp. He was silent in the opener against Vanderbilt, but had a big day Saturday against Murray State, leading the team with 4 catches for 79 yards and his first college touchdown.
“He brings explosiveness (to the offense),” Fromm said. “He’s a big-time guy, and he’s a really good player and a really good kid. He needs to clean up some of the little things, and we’ll talk to him about that, but he’s got tremendous potential and he’ll get better every week.”
Smart was more impressed with Pickens’ blocking on a long run by D’Andre Swift, further proof that he’s growing as a complete — yet still very immature — wide receiver .
“He’s starting to become an overall player,” Smart said. “Probably the most impressive thing he did today was block on D’Andre Swift’s long run. When you can do that as a freshman, that’s more impressive to me than diving and catching the ball.”
Still, diving and catching the ball was pretty cool. It’s worth watching over and over.
OH MY, GEORGE PICKENS 😱 pic.twitter.com/N4qo9X4HB4
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 7, 2019
What I didn’t like
A bad pick-6 from Stetson Bennett
Georgia has only one huge worry this season, and that’s if Fromm gets hurt and Stetson Bennett gets pressed into action in a game that really mattered. Bennett came in Saturday after the Bulldogs had roared out to a 35-7 lead. And though he was mostly good, he had an ugly pick-6 that just can’t happen.
Bennett was 9-for-13 passing for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns, which was nice. He found Demetris Robertson for a 15-yard score and later hit freshman wide receiver Dominick Blaylock on a 25-yard strike.
He did some good things, but there’s still going to be that concern about whether the Bulldogs can win if Bennett has to play. He’s not worried about it.
“I’m completely confident in myself. That’s why I walked on here in the first place,” Bennett said. “I didn’t come here to be a frat star and be on the football team. I came here to play ball.”
Still a few too many missed tackles
Georgia still isn’t where it wants to be in making clean tackles for 60 minutes. It’s something they still need to work on and clean up.
Georgia linebacker Adam Anderson missed an open-field tackle on Murray State’s first drive, which allowed them to keep a drive going, and defensive back Mark Webb missed a tackle on Murray State wide receiver DaQuon Green on a slant route, which led to a 60-yard score for Murray State.
The poor tackling had no impact on Saturday’s game, but it might be the difference between winning and losing down the road. It needs to be better.