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090322 Atlanta: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart shared a message with Oregon coach Dan Lanning at the end of the game after Georgia defeated Oregon 49-3 in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis Compton@ajc.com

Watch: Oregon coach Dan Lanning shares Kirby Smart message, breaks down loss to Georgia

ATHENS — Kirby Smart offered Dan Lanning some much-needed wisdom after Georgia plucked the Oregon Ducks by a 49-3 count last Saturday.

“Talking to Coach Smart after the game he reminded me of his first season, when he was down 31-0 at halftime to Ole Miss at an away game,” said Lanning, who didn’t join the UGA staff until 2018. “That’s a part of it.”

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Indeed, Smart’s 2016 Bulldogs also suffered home losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech as Smart worked to put his fingerprints on the program.

Five years later Smart had built a national champion, and last Saturday’s win over Oregon indicates there has been little drop-off.

“Georgia is a complete team,” Lanning said. “They’re certainly clicking on all cylinders.”

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During the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game against Oregon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh, Dawgnation

Lanning shared how quarterback Stetson Bennett was on top of his game with his pre-snap reads on Saturday.

“He operated that system really, really well — he knew where he was going with the ball,” Lanning said. “But a lot of those completions were early and then they won on the edge and we didn’t.

“I think yards after contact were a huge piece, which means we got to do a better job of tackling, we got to do a better job fundamentally and that’s where a lot of it starts.”

No play exemplified that more than on UGA’s second drive when Bennett hit Darnell Washington on the edge on a second-and-7 from the Bulldogs’ 11, and the jumbo tight end ran through a tackle immediately after catching the ball and hurdled another would-be tackler.

Instead of third-and-4 from the 14, where the defender made contact, Washington raced 25 yards to spark the second touchdown drive in what was a 7-0 game.

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Lanning’s game plan was solid enough when one considers:

• Oregon out-rushed Georgia

• The Ducks didn’t have a three-and-out until the fourth quarter

• Oregon held Georgia without a sack

• Georgia didn’t have a play longer than 40 yards

• Brock Bowers was held to just two catches

“There’s a lot more than just a call here or there that affected that game,” Lanning said, answering how he could have done different.

“We said Game 1 was going to be decided based on takeaways, penalties and tackling. I think if you look at that game we had two takeaways, I think we were more penalized and I know we missed more tackles.

“We missed a lot of tackles and we didn’t break tackles as much on the other side of the ball. I think that’s the result of that game.”

Lanning, who lost his starting nose tackle to a foot injury the week before the game, praised UGA offensive coordinator Todd Monken for creating the matchups.

“In football you’re kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul at times …. if you take it out of the back end, that means you’re loading up a little bit more in the front,” he said.

“The move-the-pocket plays they had, the perimeter plays they had are going to create some of those one-on-one tackles and sometimes you have to make them and win.”

Lanning indicated Oregon quarterback Bo Nix was guilt of pressing a bit.

“You don’t have to create any plays that aren’t there for you to make, you just have to take the ones that are sitting in front of you,” Lanning said, sounding much like Smart after some of Bennett’s games last season.

“When he did that we were effective at times on offense. When you operated outside the system, it’s going to struggle at times. I think that would be for anybody.”

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