Auburn up next as No. 2 Georgia stays on script

Credit: UGA

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Georgia coach Kirby Smart addresses the play of the defense after it held No. 8 Arkansas to zero points in Athens.

Credit: UGA

ATHENS — All Kirby Smart has to do these days is ask. Or so it seems.

Handed a less-than-ideal noon start for No. 2 Georgia’s matchup vs. No. 8 Arkansas on Saturday, Smart simply asked UGA fans to show up early and loud. They did, and then the Bulldogs took care of the rest on the way to a scintillating 37-0 victory.

With the win, Georgia improves to 5-0 (2-0 SEC) for the fourth time in the last five years. The Bulldogs are now 12-6 against Top 10 foes under Smart and 4-0 at home.

Afterward, Smart thanked “an incredible fan base.”

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Georgia fans fill the stadium for a top-10 showdown with Arkansas Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Athens. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Georgia fans fill the stadium for a top-10 showdown with Arkansas Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Athens. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Georgia fans fill the stadium for a top-10 showdown with Arkansas Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Athens. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

“I think all you guys will admit they were elite and we noticed it,” Smart said of the fans. “To come out of the tunnel and to look up there and see every seat filled for a noon kick is special. It’s special to be at Georgia and they impacted the game.”

Indeed, the Razorbacks (4-1, 1-1) had two false start penalties on their opening possession, and the game devolved for them from there. It was the continuation of a near-perfect season’s script for the Bulldogs, which next heads back on the road to No. 16 Auburn.

A full five hours after Georgia had dispatched Arkansas and left Sanford Stadium to enjoy a Saturday night in Athens, the Tigers still awaited its kickoff against LSU in Baton Rouge. Auburn (4-1, 1-0) registered a 24-19 win, its first at Tiger Stadium since 1999.

Now the Bulldogs will be looking for their fifth win in a row over Auburn. At the very least, Georgia should have a few more hours rest.

Here are a few other things we learned Saturday:

Mailman keeps delivering

Considering the preseason hype over quarterback JT Daniels, a Stetson Bennett offseason transfer might’ve been met with a “meh” by a goodly portion of Georgia fans. Thus same fans might shudder at the thought of it now.

The fifth-year senior from Blackshear got his second start of the season as Daniels continues to battle back muscle issues and, once again, delivered the Bulldogs to victory. And while he didn’t put up any grandiose numbers while doing so, he continues to gain the respect and admiration of his coaches and teammates for simply always being ready to go.

“I know this: The men in the locker room have confidence in whoever we put out there,” Smart said. “… And Stetson Bennett is a really good quarterback. I keep saying that, and people don’t believe us. But he’s a really good quarterback.”

Bennett didn’t toe the company line that Daniels’ availability was a “game-time decision,” as Smart had spouted all week. Bennett said he knew on Monday he was going to start.

Georgia 37, Arkansas 0

Bennett looked like a quarterback that knew the game plan well when he led the Bulldogs on back-to-back scoring drives totaling 19 plays to open the game. Then Georgia blocked a punt for another touchdown and a 21-0 first-quarter lead and

“It’s hard not to feel comfortable when you start like that,” Bennett said.

With the win, Georgia improves to 6-2 when Bennett is the primary quarterback. He started five games last season after coming on in relief to lead the Bulldogs to a come-from-behind win over Arkansas in Fayetteville last season.

And, yes, with no promise of playing time at Georgia this year, Bennett came oh-so-close to finishing his college career elsewhere.

“Obviously, you don’t play football forever and you’d like to play football while you can play football, right?” Bennett said Saturday. “So, I had a tough decision, probably one of the hardest that I’ve ever made. At the end, I broke it down and I decided to stay.”

For that the Bulldogs are truly thankful.

Daniels remains questionable

Smart said folks can go ahead and dispel the notion that Daniels is soft and can’t play through a minor injury. He said the redshirt junior desperately wants to get back under center for the Bulldogs.

“JT is frustrated,” Smart said. “He wants to play quarterback and he doesn’t get to when he has an injury.”

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Georgia quarterback JT Daniels, who did not play in the game, helps from the sidelines against Arkansas during the first half Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Athens. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels, who did not play in the game, helps from the sidelines against Arkansas during the first half Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Athens. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Georgia quarterback JT Daniels, who did not play in the game, helps from the sidelines against Arkansas during the first half Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Athens. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Daniels is now dealing with a “grade 1 sprain” of the latissimus dorsi muscle, according to Smart. That’s the mildest on a scale to three. The “lat,” as its commonly called, is the largest muscle in the body and stretches across the back. Injuries are common among throwing athletes. Previously, Daniels was dealing with an oblique strain, which is also in the back, but lower, toward the hip. Smart said UGA is not sure whether they’re related. But, in both cases, rest is the best treatment.

Therefore, it’s the dreaded “week-to-week” proposition.

“Dak Prescott went through this injury,” Smart said of the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback. “Dak’s was more extreme, we think, than JT’s is. … We think we’ll be able to get JT back, but we don’t know when.”

Yet another goose egg

Georgia’s defense is piling up goose eggs like they want to scramble them for breakfast. The Bulldogs’ 37-0 shutout of Arkansas on Saturday represented:

Only the third shutout of a Top 10 team since 1976 by Georgia. The Bulldogs, then ranked No. 6, shut out No. 10 Alabama 21-0 that year.

It was the first time since 1980 that the Bulldogs posted back-to-back shutouts of SEC opponents. Georgia beat Vanderbilt 62-0 on Sept. 25. Georgia blanked Vanderbilt (41-0) and Kentucky (27-0) in the way to the national title 41 years ago.

It was seventh shutout in the Kirby Smart era at Georgia and the fifth in an SEC game. For perspective, consider that you have to go back to 1982 to count up five SEC shutouts before Smart’s arrival.

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Block that kick!: Georgia's Dan Jackson blocks a punt attempt by Arkansas kicker Reid Bauer during the first quarter of Saturday's Georgia-Arkansas game in Athens. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Block that kick!: Georgia's Dan Jackson blocks a punt attempt by Arkansas kicker Reid Bauer during the first quarter of Saturday's Georgia-Arkansas game in Athens. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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Block that kick!: Georgia's Dan Jackson blocks a punt attempt by Arkansas kicker Reid Bauer during the first quarter of Saturday's Georgia-Arkansas game in Athens. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

For the 2021 Bulldogs, this is “the standard.”

“Every time we get on the field, we’re pushing for a three-and-out,” junior linebacker Nakobe Dean said. “That’s just the standard. If they don’t score, they can’t win. So we just do our job, get them off the field and give our offense the ball.”

Running the rock

It’s just what had to be done.

Effectively, that was the Bulldogs’ answer to the many questions they were fielding after the game Saturday about the dedication to and success with running the football on Saturday. Georgia tallied 345 yards offense, 273 of which came on the ground. The Bulldogs rushed the ball a season-high 57 times, the ever under Smart.

“It’s called scheme,” Smart said. “It’s not reinvigorated run game; it’s take what they give us. We felt it was important to play the game patient, but aggressive. I definitely thought there would be 53 runs, 57 runs, whatever there was, because that was the game plan we needed to approach it with. You know what? It might be different next week.”

Coming into the game, Georgia had run the ball on 56% of its offensive plays. Saturday, the Bulldogs called runs on 84% of their 67 offensive plays. They averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

James Cook led ground attack with 87 yards on 12 carries. Zamir White scored two touchdowns on a team-high 16 carries and finished with 68 yards. Bennett attempted only 11 passes, completing 7 for 72 yards.

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Georgia tailback Zamir White (right) celebrates his touchdown run with tight end John Fitzpatrick as the Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. (Curtis Compton/Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Georgia football-Auburn-game time-tv network

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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Georgia tailback Zamir White (right) celebrates his touchdown run with tight end John Fitzpatrick as the Bulldogs took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. (Curtis Compton/Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

“I think it was great,” Bennett said. “It reminded me of old-time Georgia when we ran the ball a lot.”

Said Smart: “The best teams I’ve ever been around can take on the personality of what they need to take on. I’m really proud of the offensive line proud of the offensive coaching staff, who did a helluva job game-planning against a very good defense.”

Scholarship coming for Dan Jackson

If you enjoy watching Smart be passionate about something, bring up Dan Jackson.

Jackson, a third-year walkon from Gainesville, had arguably the biggest play in Saturday’s game when he blocked an Arkansas punt in the first quarter. Georgia’s White recovered the ball in the end zone to give the Bulldogs a 21-0 lead with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter.

Jackson probably had earned a scholarship already, but that play solidified it.

“Daniel Jackson is the most untold story on our team,” Smart said, lighting up when asked about him. “The guy came from I don’t know where, walkon. He runs a 4.5 his freshman year and I’m like, ‘where did we get this guy from? He’s a good football player.’ Doesn’t play, but he’s out there. Then spring rolls around and we have a mass exodus of DBs, eight to be exact. So, he went from 16th (on the depth chart) to eighth in one semester. And then he worked his way from 8th to 6th. And then he worked his way to fifth and then he goes and blocks a punt.

“All he does is give everything he’s got every single day. I love the kid, he’s done a great job, the kid deserves a dang scholarship and soon as we can get one from him, we’re going to try and do that.”