“We think he’ll be fine,” Smart said.
Things would get worse for Georgia’s offense two possessions later. Pickens, who did not play in the first half Saturday for unknown reasons, was ejected with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter for fighting. The star freshman from Hoover, Ala., threw several punches in a row at Tech defensive back Tre Swilling after they had locked up on a touchdown pass play to Dominick Blaylock on the opposite side of the field. Swilling was not ejected on the play.
By rule, the ejection will sideline Pickens for the first half against LSU. The Bulldogs’ leading active receiver finished with one catch, which went for a 41-yard touchdown.
“It’s just silly, it’s selfish, it’s undisciplined,” Smart ranted.
VIDEO: UGA's Kirby Smart gives updates on injured D'Andre Swift and George Pickens, who was ejected. Video by Chip Towers.
All of it made for another lively chapter in Georgia’s 126-year-old rivalry known as “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate.” It was the Bulldogs’ third win in a row in the series, which they lead 68-39-5, and was the largest margin of victory for Georgia.
“I mean, this is just another bump in the road for us, this adversity,” said Bulldogs senior running back Brian Herrien, who had 46 yards on eight carries. “It builds character, so we’ve just got to learn to go with it. George, Swift, Cager, we have more players than just them. It’s time for them to step up. They’re on scholarship as well.”
Tech ends its first season under coach Geoff Collins at 3-9.
As for Saturday’s SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Bulldogs already knew they were going to play without leading receiver Lawrence Cager. The graduate transfer from Miami suffered a broken ankle in practice Wednesday. He had missed all or part of the past five games because of chronic shoulder separations.
“For us, it’s a next-guy-up mentality,” said Fromm, who tied his career high with four touchdown passes. “We’re going to miss Cager, a great football player, a great teammate. But guys understand how football works sometimes, so it’s the next guy up.”
With the win, Georgia records 11 or more victories in three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs’ defense also continues to play healthy and inspired.
VIDEO: Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm speaks about the offensive attrition, inconsistency Saturday. Video by Chip Towers.
Besides a second-quarter touchdown allowed on a 17-yard field after a turnover, Georgia suffocated an extremely over-matched Tech defense. The Jackets finished with 106 yards of offense.
“We knew they had a productive quarterback, some good playmakers,” said linebacker Monty Rice, who led the Bulldogs with eight tackles. “But we just went out and executed our game plan the best we could.”
Fromm continued to struggle passing, however. While he finished with 254 yards, his 14-of-29 throwing performance represented the fourth consecutive game in which he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they got on track in the second half after a less than stellar first one. After limping out of the first half with a 17-7 lead, they scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions in the third quarter. The 21-0 quarter made the score 38-7 and sent a lot of the Georgia starters to the sideline for the day.
That was a good response after what had been on display the first half. After playing an almost flawless first quarter and staking themselves to a 17-0 lead, Georgia followed by playing its worst quarter of the season in the second. The Bulldogs muffed a punt, allowed an onside kick, fumbled, gave up a touchdown and missed a field-goal attempt.
Remarkably, they never lost the lead. But they definitely lost momentum as the Yellow Jackets celebrated wildly on the way to the locker room trailing 17-7.
The contrast was incredible from the opening period, when Tech managed only 22 yards on 14 plays, and the Bulldogs scored 17 consecutive points. It was trending for a blowout when UGA scored its second TD of the day with 4:52 remaining in the first quarter. It came on a 20-yard pass from Fromm to tight end Charlie Woerner. That represented the first career TD for Woerner, coming 12 games into his senior season.
“That was pretty special for my last regular-season game,” said Woerner, who had no other catches on the day.
But things quickly devolved from there for Georgia. It appeared the Bulldogs were trying to force feed their passing game, which has been poor the last third of the season and subpar for most of the day. On their first possession of the second quarter, like their first of the game, the Dogs were three-and-out on consecutive incompletions.
Tech obliged with its sixth consecutive three-and-out. But Dominick Blaylock mishandled the subsequent punt, and Tech recovered at the Georgia 17. The Jackets would score four plays later on a 6-yard pass to tight end Tyler Davis. That was at the 10:58 mark of the second quarter.
The Jackets were successful on an onside kick, recovered by Jaylon King at the Georgia 47. But the Bulldogs’ defense held strong.
Tech would get one more shot to get on the scoreboard after Swift’s first fumble of the day gave them possession at Georgia’s 42. But after the drive stalled at the 10, Tech’s Brenton King missed a 27-yard field-goal attempt wide right.