ATHENS — Todd Monken met pregame for a lengthy conversation with Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom. Georgia’s play-caller laughed and smiled, and Odom could’ve asked who the Bulldogs would start at quarterback after another week of drama at the position.
If the question came, Monken probably deferred. Georgia wouldn’t give away any secrets, but Monken could’ve spilled it all. There were no secrets once the Bulldogs received the opening kickoff. Georgia went vintage and predictable.
A lot of running. A 60-minute display of smothering defense. That’s what Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) does best, and it allowed for a cruising 37-0 victory over a top-10 Arkansas team that became the sport’s darling over recent weeks.
Georgia has posted consecutive shutouts and has won seven consecutive home games against top-10 opponents.
“Our crowd answered the call, and we noticed it,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They impacted the game. I give our crowd at least 10 points, and that’s big. We were patient, but aggressive. It’s hard to be that in football.”
The Bulldogs jumped all over the Razorbacks with 21 first-quarter points and the help of a raucous Sanford Stadium crowd despite a noon kickoff. Over 93,000 fans erupted at a volume that might’ve broken a decibel scale. Arkansas committed false-start penalties on the first two plays of its first possession of the game, and the Razorbacks didn’t get past the 10-yard line on their first two drives.
“I love that formula,” Smart said. “Do you think we can keep that up? I don’t know that’s going to always happen. If I could write that script, I’d be all over that.”
To cap off the early dramatics, Georgia walk-on safety Dan Jackson blocked a punt in Arkansas’ end zone. Running back Zamir White recovered it for a touchdown.
Georgia has proved that its identity rests in its experienced defense that has barely allowed an opponent to budge rather than its offense that has been up-and-down through the season’s first five games. Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson and Treylon Burks, the team’s stars that have the rest of the SEC on high alert, were no match for the Bulldogs’ havoc-driven defenders.
Arkansas had two successful drives Saturday, but a missed field-goal attempt by Cam Little and a slew of third-quarter penalties ended the Razorbacks’ hopes of making its trip to Athens a contest. Georgia’s defensive starters have yet to allow a touchdown through five games.
“I was proud of the defense, because that quarterback is one of the toughest human beings I’ve ever seen,” Smart said.
Georgia neared its season scoring average on offense, but doing so in a vastly different manner than in the previous four weeks. Smart saw his team’s passing game ahead of its rushing attack, but a quarterback change flipped those perceptions.
Stetson Bennett started at quarterback after usual starter JT Daniels sat out of Saturday’s game with what was ruled as a “Grade 1 lat strain,” according to Smart in an interview with ESPN. Georgia didn’t put much pressure on Bennett, but instead went all-in on a rushing attack.
“The tight ends and receivers knew that their job was to run the ball,” Bennett said. “That’s what we did. They were basically asking us to run it. They said we couldn’t, and we said we could.”
A number of instances raised concerns about Georgia’s run game and whether the offensive line could get enough push. Arkansas opened the game with a 3-man front rather than keying in on the Bulldogs’ run game, and Georgia took advantage while putting those questions to sleep. It recorded 273 yards on 56 carries. Bennett, meanwhile, needed only 11 pass attempts.
Along with his score on the punt block, White led Georgia’s rushing attack with two touchdowns and 68 yards on 16 carries. Three of the Bulldogs’ running backs recorded double-digit touches.
“It’s pretty well known that we’re pretty good at running the ball,” running back Kendall Milton said. “With our line we have, it’s great to see a front like that to run against.”
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