Rapid Reaction: Georgia overcomes sleepy start to drop Arkansas
For at least one half of football, Arkansas fans were dreaming of a Week 1 upset, while Georgia fans feared an awful start to the 2020 season.
But after trailing 7-5 at the break after a slow offensive performance, the Bulldogs stormed out of the locker room, using a 22-point 3rd quarter to beat the Razorbacks 37-10 in Fayetteville.
The big question for Georgia was who would start behind center, with redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis receiving the call as JT Daniels was dressed but apparently not yet cleared to play.
But it found itself behind the 8-ball on Arkansas’ 2nd drive. Florida transfer Feleipe Franks put the Razorbacks on the board first, dropping one into the hands of Treylon Burks from 49 yards out to make it 7-0 just over 6 minutes into the contest.
Meanwhile, Georgia got on the board 30 seconds into the 2nd quarter via a safety, as its defense pounced on an Arkansas trick play from the Razorbacks’ own 14 that went out of the back of the end zone to make it 7-2.
Both offenses struggled to get momentum throughout the 1st half as they combined for 337 yards—just 78 of those coming on the ground—and a 3-for-20 mark on 3rd down. Stetson Bennett IV replaced Mathis 5 minutes into the 2nd quarter, but that didn’t do much to ignite Georgia until the final drive of the half, where he engineered a last-gasp drive that ended with a 38-yard Jack Podlesny field goal to cut it to 7-5.
Naturally, Podlesny’s make came after he hit the upright with his 1st attempt, but a Sam Pittman timeout gave the redshirt sophomore another chance that he capitalized on in his first collegiate appearance.
Georgia looked as if it would sustain a nice drive coming out of the locker room, but James Cook coughed the ball up at midfield after appearing to convert a 3rd and 4 to give the Razorbacks possession. The Dawgs’ defense, though, held up just enough to keep Arkansas out of the end zone, and A.J. Reed’s 25-yard field goal sailed through to up the lead to 10-5 with 6-and-a-half minutes played in the 3rd.
On Georgia’s ensuing drive, it finally found the end zone. With 6 minutes left in the quarter, Bennett notched his first career touchdown pass, a 19-yard grab by George Pickens to make it 13-10 after a successful 2-point conversion.
After that, the breaks appeared to begin to go the Dawgs’ way.
Zamir White, held in check out of the backfield for most of the 1st half, came up with a big punt block to give Georgia the ball at the Arkansas 24. Four plays later, Bennett found John FitzPatrick for a 7-yard touchdown to stretch the score to 20-10.
Then the Dawgs’ defense opened up the margin even more on a pick-6 by Eric Stokes, Franks’ 2nd interception of the game, to make it 27-10 with 3 minutes left in the 3rd.
The rout was on from that point, as White punched it in from 6 yards out on the Dawgs’ next drive to make it 34-10 early in the 4th. Podlesny’s 38-yarder with under 90 seconds remaining set the final margin.
Bennett was solid, going 20-of-29 for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns while running 5 times for 20 yards. White shook off a tough 1st half and finished with 13 carries, 71 yards and a touchdown.
At the end of the day, Georgia will come away knowing that it was far from its best despite the win. The biggest question for next week’s Top 10 matchup against No. 8 Auburn will remain the decision at quarterback, especially if Daniels is deemed finally ready to play.