There were a few takeaways from Georgia’s 63-17 win over Murray State on Saturday, but not a lot that will be remembered a few weeks from now.
One, would be that the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs do, in fact, have to focus and concentrate if they want to be dominant.
It wasn’t really until after Murray State had showed it had the ability hit back – see first quarter sack of Georgia’s Jake Fromm followed by a 60-yard TD pass for the Racers – did the Bulldogs realize they were going to have to exert effort. Once that was established, it was a blitzkrieg.
Georgia scored its second-most points ever in the second quarter – 35 points – and cruised home from there. In the meantime, 86 Bulldogs got a chance to play between the hedges in a place that will be known from now on as Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium.
Following are some of those takeaways:
QB camp continues
The Bulldogs got a look at what life might be like without Fromm and the immediate feedback was – uncertain.
Redshirt sophomore Stetson Bennett lived out a lifelong dream by getting some extensive play under center for the Bulldogs and scoring his first career touchdown. But he got off to a shaky start, throwing an interception that Murray State returned for a 35-yard touchdown and counting himself fortunate not to have had another picked off. But he finished 9 of 13 passing for 124 yards with two TDs with a 25-yarder to freshman George Pickens and a 15-yarder to Demetris Robertson.
“It was incredible just getting out there and sharing that moment with the guys,” Bennett said.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was disappointed not to get Bennett in the Vanderbilt game. He knows sooner or later the Bulldogs might need Bennett in a tight spot.
"He needs to get all the playing experience he can," Smart said of Bennett. "You can take every rep in practice you want, you can do every scrimmage you want, but getting the opportunity to go out in games and play is really important for his confidence.”
Freshman walk-on Nathan Priestley also got into the game for two series and completed his only pass.
Here’s your havoc
A week after a disappointing showing against Vanderbilt in terms of havoc rate the Bulldogs were wreaking it all over the place on Saturday. Of course, it would have been extremely disappointing had that not been the case. The opponent was, after all, coming up from FCS for a play-for-pay game.
But the Georgia defense made the Racers pay more than a few times. The Bulldogs recorded six sacks. Unofficially, the also had 11 tackles for loss, a fumble-return touchdown, an interception and at least one pass break-up.
“It’s just hustling to the ball; that’s all it is; good things happen when people hustle to the ball,” said senior safety J.R. Reed, who scooped up the Mark Webb-caused fumble and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown. “It’s a great feeling anytime a defensive player scores.”
How ‘bout that balance?
Georgia’s offensive output was as balanced as we’ve seen in a while, but still tilted toward the run game. The Bulldogs ran 65 offensive players, 40 runs and 25 passes. But a week after rushing for 323 yards against Vanderbilt, they actually had more passing yards against Murray State, 292 to 269.
“I love the balance part,” Smart said. “I love the fact we were able to throw and catch the ball well today. We’ve got to do it against a bigger and better opponent. But you can only do it against who you’re scheduled to do it against. Our kids went out and competed today and did a nice job.”
With 67 yards on just six carries Saturday, D’Andre Swift raised his per-carry average this season to 9.73 yards. He has 221 in the first two games with 2 TDs.
Living up to billing
The best news, certainly for fans, was seeing some of the Bulldogs highest-profile freshmen come through in a big way. Five-star wide receivers Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens both scored their first career touchdowns, as did former No. 1-rated running back Zamir White, who was also the Bulldogs’ leading rusher on the day with 72 yards on eight carries.
Particularly spectacular was Pickens. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound true freshman from Hoover, Ala., had highlight-reel catches on three of his four receptions, including a 43-yard grab on a sideline route in which he had to totally layout in a dive to secure the reception.
“George has stepped up and is starting to become an overall player,” Smart said. “Probably the most impressive thing he did today was the block on D’Andre Swift’s long run. He did a great job of going after the safety and that was able to spring Swift. When you can do that as a freshman, that’s more impressive to me than diving and catching the ball.”
Pickens still has some growing to do, however. After getting shoved out of bounds on his last reception, Pickens flung the ball at the defender. That drew a flag and a personal-foul penalty.
“He’s got to learn to control his emotions a little bit,” Smart said. “He’s very emotional. He’s a passionate player. I don’t ever want to take that away from him because I think that makes him who he is. But he’s got to be smart, play within our system and understand that just because you make a play you can’t talk to the opponent.”
DB makes good on mistake
Georgia defensive back Mark Webb made no bones about it. The 60-yard touchdown pass by Murray State was “totally my fault,” the junior from Philadelphia said. “He’s my man there. I’ve got to cover him.”
Webb actually was right there, but he missed the ball coming to receiver DaQuon Green and then made the devastating mistake of not keeping his feet. After the play, Smart was in Webb’s face for nearly a full minute.
But Smart stuck with Webb and Webb made good on the very next possession. His hit on a Murray State running back catching the ball in the flat knocked the ball loose. That was the one on which Reed scooped and scored.
“Bad things happen when you don’t do your job, and that’s what Coach Smart was just letting me know that’s not the standard that we play to, we don’t allow that here at Georgia,” Webb said. “I came back the way Coach Smart knows I can and I made something happen.”
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