Georgia football: Grading the Bulldogs after win over Vanderbilt
Because we have been waiting for football for so long — so very long — it’s easy to overreact to what happens in the first week of the college football season. But since I have been covering football for going on five decades now, I have learned to pump the brakes pretty well. I’m a smart man not prone to overreaction.
“Everything will be exaggerated great or everything will be exaggerated horrible. That’s just the way it is,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Saturday night after the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs dispatched Vanderbilt 30-6 in Nashville. That’s true.
He’s a smart man, too, no pun intended.
But the job description says that I have to grade each Bulldogs’ performance during this 15-game season — you like the way I’m thinking? — and so we’ll do just that this morning. But if you’re looking for hyperbole on whether this win means that Georgia can — or can’t — beat Alabama in 3 months, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Game 1 is just a piece to the puzzle, people. Is it important? Of course it is, especially when it’s a conference road win to open the season. So let’s go forward. Here’s what I liked — and what I didn’t like — about the season-opening win over the Commodores.
What I liked
D’Andre Swift is still a stud
If it looked to you that D’Andre Swift’s 147 yards rushing on just 16 carries came almost effortlessly Saturday night, you’re not alone. Even Swift was shocked he rolled up so many yards. That’s just how good he is.
“I don’t know how it was 150 yards rushing, but hat’s off to our offensive line,” Swift said after the game. “I think we did a good job tonight. We got the win tonight, so we’re happy. We’re not satisfied at all. We know there’s a lot we can get better on. But we’re always happy about winning.”
The Bulldogs rushed for 325 yards against a Vanderbilt defense that is supposed to be pretty good. That’s domination. What was most impressive about Swift, though, was that he was consistent with every run. Of his 16 runs, 12 were for 7 yards or more. That’s wild production. And even the few that weren’t were either in goal-line or 4th-down situations, and one involved a penalty. That’s a good night’s work. Which is why I still think he’s going to blow past 1,500 yards rushing this season, even with a crowded running back room loaded with studs.
The Bulldogs are going to be just fine at receiver
Georgia’s passing game didn’t put up huge numbers Saturday, but they didn’t really have to because the running game was so good. Jake Fromm was 15-of-23 passing for 156 yards, but what was nice was that he spread the ball around really well. He found 8 receivers.
This wide receiver group has been our biggest — our only? — concern about this Georgia offense all of fall camp, and we’ve been wanting to see people step up. That’s been happening, and we got our first taste of that Saturday. It’s early, yes, but I’m not too concerned anymore. There’s talent there. Demetris Robertson led the way with 3 catches, including a TD, but his best was one that didn’t count, a long ball from Fromm that was called back by penalty. Georgia needs Robertson to be the leader of this group. He had 50 catchers as a freshman at California but did nothing last year after transferring. This year, he’s ready for some big numbers. Saturday was the beginning.
“He’s able to get opportunities now, and he’s taking full advantage of those,” Smart said of Robertson.
I still think he’ll be a 60-catch guy by the time this season ends in January.
Pressure on the QB seems to be improved already
The stat sheet says Georgia had only 2 sacks, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. They had Vanderbilt quarterback Riley Neal running for his life on just about every pass drop. Neal threw 25 passes but only gained 84 yards on 14 completions. He never had time to look downfield and was forced to constantly dump balls off.
Azeez Ojulari shared a sack with Channing Tindall, and you could tell by the reaction on the field that it meant a lot. To everyone.
“First sack felt great,” Ojulari said. “That’s what we come in and work for every week. “That’s why we run those pass-rush drills and do everything we do every day. It felt great.”
What I didn’t like
No touchdowns in the final 38 minutes?
Georgia scored 3 touchdowns on its first 3 drives, the last coming with 8 minutes left in the second quarter. Three TDs in 22 minutes is great. But zero touchdowns in the final 38 minutes was not a good look.
Two good drives ended with Rodrigo Blankenship field goals, which can be fine at times. But there was too much sputtering after the early outbursts. Maybe it was about being too comfortable protecting a lead, but the Bulldogs can certainly be better, and more explosive. One drive, for instance, they could have taken 3 more points but opted to go for it and didn’t get the first down. It didn’t matter against Vandy, but it might down the road.
Stupid penalties need to get cleaned up
Georgia had 10 penalties for 117 yards, which is a lot of yardage to give away. They also had 3 ridiculous personal foul penalties, which is unacceptable and doesn’t need to happen.
“We need to stay off people’s facemasks because we basically gave them 45 yards and two field goals on undisciplined penalties,” Smart said.
The good thing about that, I suppose, is that it will provide for good teaching moments all week in practice to get that cleaned up. Teaching and winning together, that’s a good thing.