Georgia went with the future, and the future looks bright.
Missing a half-dozen starters and several other players for various reasons against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl, the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs simply turned to all those star-studded players they’ve recruited the last few years and turned them loose in the Superdome.
The No. 7-ranked Bears couldn't match the talent level, and Georgia got a much-needed postseason win, 26-14.
Freshmen Zamir “Zeus” White (running back), Warren Ericson (center) and Lewis Cine (safety), all got their first career starts, and freshman receiver George Pickens was the star of the game for the Bulldogs. With 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown, the 6-foot-4 wideout from Hoover, Ala., was named the bowl’s outstanding player after hauling in the most passes by a UGA receiver since Hines Ward also had 12 in the 1998 Outback Bowl and the most yards since Tavarres King had 188 against Kentucky in 2012.
White had a career-best 92 yards on 18 carries as star running back D’Andre Swift once again filled a decoy role. On defense, freshmen Nolan Smith and Azeez Ojulari each had sacks, first-year transfer D.J. Daniel led the Bulldogs with eight tackles and Cine had six.
“The future is bright at Georgia if those guys continue to work,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
It was all new guys. Junior safety Richard LeCounte had two interceptions. and once again, it was steady junior quarterback Jake Fromm who kept it all together for the Bulldogs. After a big first half, he finished with 250 yards on 20-of-30 passing and two touchdowns.
Whether it was the last college game of Fromm’s career remains unknown. He has a decision to make, but he's not in a hurry to make it.
“We’ll talk about that later,” Fromm said as he walked back to the Georgia locker room following the postgame news conference. “I want to enjoy this win a little while.”
The 2019 Bulldogs (12-2) became the fifth UGA team to win 12 games in a season and the seniors tied the 2005 team for most wins over a four-year span with 44.
Georgia led 19-0 at halftime, a lead Baylor quickly bit into. The Bears flew down the field to open the third quarter, converting two third downs along the way to set up a first down at the 12. They got on the scoreboard with a pass to star receiver Denzel Mims, who beat UGA cornerback Eric Stokes on fade route, which was the first TD pass allowed by Stokes this season. The scoring drive took just 2:46 to cover 75 yards.
The game was won for Georgia on Baylor’s next possession. The Bears reached the Bulldogs’ 46 and faced fourth-and-4. After a timeout, coach Matt Rhule chose to go for it.
Ojulari was able to penetrate Baylor’s pass protection and sacked quarterback Charlie Brewer, who fumbled. Freshman Travon Walker recovered at the Bears’ 47-yard line.
That was the 10:02 mark of the third quarter. Georgia faced a similar fourth-down situation minutes later. It appeared the Bulldogs were going to settle for a 36-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship. Instead, holder Jake Camarda took the snap and ran six yards to the 13 for a first down.
On the next play, White went around right end for a touchdown and a 26-7 lead with 7:16 remaining in the third quarter.
It ended up being a very important score as the Bears would get on the board again in the third quarter. Helped by a couple of questionable calls – a roughing penalty on Malik Herring and an interference foul against Mark Webb – Baylor completed an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a rushing touchdown of less than a yard by Brewer. It was just the second rushing TD allowed by Georgia’s defense all season and made it 26-14 with 4:10 still remaining in the third quarter.
But the Bulldogs were able to keep it there, keeping the Bears out of the end zone the rest of the way. Baylor’s cause was not helped when Brewer was knocked out of the game on an out-of-bounds tackle midway through the fourth quarter. He finished with 211 yards on 24-of-41 passing. Jacob Zeno finished the game for the Bears.
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