Breakdown: No. 1 Georgia 39, Kent State 22

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ATHENS – For the first time this season, No. 1 Georgia seemingly sleepwalked through the first half of one of these noon-kickoff games. The Bulldogs led only 12-10 midway through the second quarter and had to play the starters through the fourth quarter to get the win. But depth and talent prevailed as Georgia won 39-22 to improve to 4-0 for Saturday’s trip to Missouri.

ExploreNo. 1 Georgia grinds out win over Kent State

Here’s how it broke down:

Game ball

For the second week in a row, it goes to tight end Brock Bowers. On the second play of the game, Georgia handed the ball to Bowers on a counter run around right end. Bowers’ speed took over from there. Bowers outran the only defensive back with an angle on him and scampered down the right sideline 75 yards for a touchdown. That was the second TD run of the season for Bowers, and it wouldn’t be his last. He would score on the same play from two yards out with 8:15 remaining in the first half. That gives Bowers three touchdowns on three rushing attempts this season. He scored from five yards out on a similar play against South Carolina. Bowers also had 60 yards on five receptions Saturday against Kent State.

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Key stat

Three turnovers. That’s how many the Bulldogs had in the first half after coming into the fourth game of the season with none. Two of the flubs were committed by normally sure-handed flanker Ladd McConkey, who muffed a first-quarter punt and fumbled at the end of a catch early in the second quarter. The other turnover came on Georgia’s second offensive possession of the game quarterback Stetson Bennett’s first interception of the season on an underthrown deep ball for wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. The Golden flashes scored 10 points off those turnovers on a 56-yard pass and a 45-yard field goal. Georgia coach Kirby Smart said he counts as a turnover the fake punt that Kent State executed for a 14-yard gain on the last play of the fourth quarter. The Golden Flashes eventually scored on that drive.

ExplorePHOTOS: Bulldogs defeat Kent State

Key play

There really were two key plays on Georgia’s final touchdown drive of the day. On third-and-6 at the Georgia 29, Bennett found Dominick Blaylock open over the middle for a 13-yard gain and a very important first down. And finally, on the 13th play of that same possession, Georgia was facing fourth-and-goal at the 1 when junior running back Kendall Milton took a handoff on a lead play at left guard and managed to bull his way into the end zone for a touchdown that would put the Bulldogs safely ahead 39-22.

What we learned

Maybe Georgia isn’t as good as we thought. Or perhaps the Golden Flashes are better than they’re given credit for. Either way, the Bulldogs were due to play somewhere south of imperfectly, and they definitely did. Not only did Georgia have the turnovers, but Bennett was slightly off-target much of the day, the Bulldogs didn’t run the football with much authority outside of Bowers’ long run off a counter, and Smart is not going to get much sleep this week after seeing the defense give up a 56-yard TD pass and a handful of other explosive plays to the visitors. Also, Kent State has a very good place-kicker. His name is Andrew Glass, and he made a pair of 45-yard field goals in the first half that had plenty of room to spare.

They said it

“I love you. I was more upset with the punt, not the fumble, those things happen. The punt was more of a decision; the fumble was something else. But there’s nobody that feels worse than Ladd, right? But we need Ladd. We need Ladd if we want to get where we want to go. Ladd’s a big part of our offense, he’s a big weapon for us.” – Smart when asked what he said to McConkey about his miscues

“I think this game was really good for us. I mean, they’re a good team, and they were executing and making plays everywhere. So, they’re a good team. I’m kind of glad we had to pull it out in the fourth quarter to experience that.” – Bowers

“I don’t know if we were awake to start. It was a noon kick. I thought we had a great week of practice; I thought we had a good walk-through before the game. But for one reason or another – and give them credit; they have a bunch of seniors and are a good football team – an interception, a fumble, a dropped punt, you just can’t have those.” – Bennett

“I’m really pleased with the way that our kids fought. I’m really pleased with the way they battled and went about their business. I’m not happy with the results … but I was very pleased with the process and the way that our kids played against a really talented ballclub.” – Kent State coach Sean Lewis

“I’m aggravated a little bit. I know we definitely could have played better. But, to me, a win’s a win. I don’t care if we win by 1 or 100, a win’s a win.” – Georgia offensive lineman Tate Ratledge

What’s next?

Georgia: The Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 ) return to SEC play with a long road trip to Columbia, Mo., to play the Missouri Tigers (7:30 p.m., SEC Network). The Tigers (2-2, 0-1) missed a short field goal against Auburn that would have won the game in regulation, then saw Auburn make a kick in overtime to win 17-14.

Kent State: After playing three Power 5 powers in their first four games, the Golden Flashes (1-3) finally enter MAC play, where they’re picked to win the conference. They play host to Ohio on Saturday.