Rapid Reaction: Start to finish, Georgia too much for Mississippi State to handle
Who’s the offensive guru?
On Georgia’s first play, behind a double tight end set, Jake Fromm handed off to Nick Chubb. Zero surprise there. Mississippi State expected as much; it loaded up to stop the run and crashed the line.
What came next surprised everybody in a packed Sanford Stadium.
Chubb took two steps, turned and pitched back to Fromm, who hit a streaking Terry Godwin for a 59-yard touchdown. Just like that, 7-0.
At halftime, Kirby Smart told ESPN he had a hunch that play might work against Mississippi State’s aggressive front.
“We thought we might get some eye violators,” Smart said.
No. 11 Georgia’s first punch didn’t knock out No. 17 Mississippi State, but the creative play-call set the tone Saturday night for a 31-3 victory that gave hope that maybe, just maybe, the SEC East might have something for its December date with (ahem, Alabama) in Atlanta.
— Elijah (@BECEB8911) September 23, 2017
Fromm, starting again in place of the injured Jacob Eason, was perfect early and sensational throughout. He completed three more passes on Georgia’s next drive, which ended with a more traditional touchdown — a 7-yard run from Chubb.
The 14-0 deficit didn’t force Dan Mullen and Mississippi State to abandon its run game, but it did necessitate more passing from Nick Fitzgerald. While he’s made strides in that area, such tactics generally benefit the opponent.
MSU’s first four possessions ended in punts. Fitzgerald threw third-down incompletions on three of them.
Georgia’s offense cooled off after the hot start, and the game quickly turned into the physical slugfest many expected it to be.
That’s when Georgia went back to its creative offensive well.
Up 14-3 and driving on its opening possession of the third quarter, Georgia lined up Chubb in its “Wild Dawg” formation. He took the direct snap and race around the left end 28 yards, untouched, into the end zone.
Georgia made the 21-3 cushion seem insurmountable. Flying to the football, Georgia twice tackled Mississippi State receivers almost immediately after the catch to force another three-and-out.
It then intercepted Fitzgerald on the next possession, Georgia’s first this season.
Three plays later, on 3rd-and-inches with another double tight end set, Georgia mashed the gas. Fromm faked a pitch to Sony Michel and hit Isaac Nauta on a seam route, the 41-yard touchdown making it 28-3.
Credit Jim Chaney with the formation and call. The Georgia OC was one step ahead all night, which allowed his Bulldogs to get one step behind Mississippi State’s defense.
Fitzgerald’s next pass bounced off his receiver’s hands and into Dominick Sanders’. After going three games without a pick, the Dawgs had two in back-to-back possessions. Fitzgerald finished with 83 passing yards and 47 rushing yards, his long-shot Heisman bid all but finished.
It was a dominant effort, on both sides of the ball, the type typically found in Tuscaloosa.
Georgia spent just one week in the top 10 last season. Saturday’s victory likely will push the Bulldogs back into the top 10 on Sunday, and the fashion in which they delivered it likely will keep them there for some time.
Given what lies ahead, it’s not difficult to imagine Georgia improving to 7-0 for the first time since 2005.
And it’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Fromm leading that charge.
Georgia didn’t enter the season necessarily looking for a quarterback, but it certainly appears to have one. Fromm was near perfect, but this wasn’t a function of checking down. This was check, mate.
Mississippi State, meanwhile, was looking for a signature road victory to cement its candidacy as the best threat to challenge Alabama. Given the parity in the West, it still might be, but Saturday didn’t provide much reason to believe the outcome will be any different.
We might have to wait until Atlanta for that.