Bulldogs beat Bucs with an eye on Tech

Georgia probably could’ve beaten Charleston Southern with one arm tied behind its proverbial back Saturday. As it was, the Bulldogs won 55-9 with one eye on Georgia Tech.

Coach Mark Richt praised his team for focusing on the task at hand against an overmatched FCS opponent. But the Bulldogs attacked their well-paid guests with the idea of gleaning whatever they could that might help them when their state rivals come to Sanford Stadium next week.

“We can take a lot of things out of this game (into Tech),” senior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “The offense (Charleston Southern) ran is similar to Tech. Some of the DBs and some of the younger guys know what it’s like to get cut (blocked) and they can expect it next week. It was a great experience from the standpoint of you’ve got to keep your eyes on your keys.”

Said Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason: “I know Georgia Tech was watching, and they’re going to have to honor our pass game and our run game. This gives me and our guys confidence. We’ve been throwing the ball a lot better in the second half of the season than we were in the first half of the season. It’s good to feel like you’re playing your best ball this late in the season.”

Conversely, the No. 18 Yellow Jackets (9-2) weren’t able to gather a lot more data on Georgia’s front-line players because they weren’t in the game very long. The Bulldogs were ahead 14-0 before Lee Greenwood could get back to his seat after performing the national anthem.

Georgia scored two touchdowns on their first three offensive plays. Mason connected with receiver Chris Conley for a 35-yard touchdown on the team’s first snap from scrimmage. The eight-second drive — one of two of that length in the game — came after cornerback Damian Swann caused a fumble and Ramik Wilson recovered it on the Buccaneers’ third offensive play. It was the first time since 2007 against Oklahoma State that Georgia scored on its first offensive play.

On Georgia’s second offensive possession, freshman tailback Nick Chubb went off tackle for an 83-yard touchdown run. It was the longest touchdown run by a Georgia back since Tim Worley set a school record with an 89-yard score against Florida in 1985 and eighth-longest rushing touchdown in UGA history.

The Bulldogs resisted the temptation to sequester Chubb to the sideline then and there. He returned to make seven more carries — including an 8-yard touchdown run — and called it a day with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter. He finished with 113 yards, two touchdowns and a 12.6 yards per carry average.

“Obviously I wasn’t needed anymore,” said Chubb, who had his sixth consecutive 100-yard game. “The game was under control. Everybody got a chance to play and I’m proud of that.”

The Bulldogs didn’t even need much from Chubb’s backup. Fellow freshman Sony Michel played briefly in the first half after missing the Auburn game with an ankle injury and finished with 21 yards on five carries.

Georgia went up 38-0 on its second eight-second drive of the game. Following an interception and 13-yard return by Quincy Mauger, Mason connected with Conley on a 23-yard touchdown. It was the 19th touchdown catch of Conley’s career, which ties for fifth in school history.

It was another efficient day for Mason. The fifth-year senior was 10-of-12 passing for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Jonathon Rumph led the Bulldogs with five receptions for 67 yards, including the first touchdown catch of his career.

Georgia came out of the game with one injury concern. Freshman Dominick Sanders, the only defensive back to start every game this season, left the game midway through the first quarter with a lower-leg injury and did not return. Afterward, coach Mark Richt said it was a bruised shin, but Sanders’ status for the Tech game is uncertain.

Meanwhile, 190 of the Buccaneers’ 210 total yards came via the rush (though 135 of that was after halftime). But overall, Georgia’s head coach was pleased.

“You don’t want to have a sloppy performance,” Richt said. “Even after the score got out of hand in the first half, the second half could have gotten sloppy. They did score a touchdown in the second half, but I thought we were still playing hard and fighting. I just think we came out there with a really good edge, with the right mindset, and had very good execution. I thought we played well.”