Georgia football-Kent State instant observations as Bulldogs play with their food in sloppy effort

Georgia football-kent state-Instant observation
Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) runs for a first down against Kent State Golden Flashes linebacker Marvin Pierre (33) during the first half of a NCAA football game at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, September 24, 2022, in Athens, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

ATHENS — For the first time all season, quarterback Stetson Bennett had to take a snap in the fourth quarter. The defense needed to make a stop. The offense had to convert on a fourth down in the red zone.

All of those things happened on Saturday because the Bulldogs were less than stellar in the first three quarters of the 39-22 win over Kent State. The Bulldogs move to 4-0 on the season, while Kent State drops to 1-3.

This was a Kent State team that wasn’t going to be overwhelmed having already played Oklahoma and Washington. The Golden Flashes hung around in the game far longer than many expected at the start of the day.

Georgia was a big reason for that, with some sloppy play in the opening half, coupled with some real offensive success for Kent State. Losing the turnover battle will make any game closer than it should be, even with a massive talent gap between the two sides.

RELATED: Kirby Smart : ‘Our team needed this’

The Bulldogs have now been less than their perfect selves in their first two home games of the season. Maybe it’s a good thing Georgia goes on the road next week as it takes on Missouri. The Bulldogs also won’t have another non-conference game until the final game of the season, as their next seven games come against SEC foes.

With the step-up in the competition coming, Georgia will need to be much, much sharper than it was on Saturday.

Turnovers come in bunches for the Bulldogs

As soon as a media member brought up after South Carolina that the Bulldogs hadn’t turned the ball over in the 2022 season, Kirby Smart knew the Bulldogs were jinxed. That played out on Saturday, as Georgia turned the ball over three times in the first half.

Bowers then scored again via the ground to give himself a second-straight multi-touchdown game. On the season, Bowers has three carries. All three of them have resulted in touchdowns.

Bowers also put in work with his day job, as he hauled in five passes for 60 yards for Georgia. Only McConkey had a more productive day amongst Georgia pass catchers, finishing with six reception and 65 yards.

Many in the college football world were once again in awe of what Bowers did on Saturday. On the one hand, it’s hard not to be seeing a 6-foot-4 tight end glide and sky the way Bowers does.

On the other, it’s becoming a habit for Bowers to take over a game. He had three touchdowns a week ago and added two more on Saturday.

The sophomore tight end may not get the chance to post the statistical numbers to be a factor in the Heisman Trophy race. But it’s extremely obvious Bowers is one of, if not the, best players in the country.

Defense gets pressure but finally gives up big plays

Georgia had just one sack in its first three games. It had, conversely, done an excellent job of preventing big plays.

Neither of those trends continued on Saturday. Georgia finished the day with 3.0 sacks, finally getting home against the Kent State front. Jamon Dumas-Johnson easily had his best game as a Bulldog, notching six tackles. Three of them were for a loss and he grabbed 2.0 sacks as well.

But the Georgia defense also gave up its share of plays for really the first time all season. Kent State scored the first first-half touchdown of the season against the Bulldogs as Devontez Walker raced down the sideline untouched on a 56-yard score. It was the longest play an opposing offense had hit on the Bulldogs so far this season.

While Kent State was gifted three points thanks to one of McConkey’s fumbles, it had three other scoring drives on the afternoon. The Golden Flashes finally punched it in in the red zone with 12:13 in the fourth quarter, making it a 32-22 game. Senior safety Christopher Smith came up with an interception on the ensuing Kent State to force the lone Kent State turnover on the afternoon and salt away the game in the process.

Much like the offense, this defense didn’t quite play up to the Georgia standard on Saturday. The Bulldogs were still talented enough to win but it was far from an elite day for the defensive unit.

Georgia football-Kent State player news and notes

Georgia once again used Jalen Carter in a limited capacity, sprinkling him in even less than last week. Carter was used only situationally, appearing as a fullback in a goal line package and on the field goal block unit. Carter has been dealing with an ankle injury.

In pre-game, Arian Smith, Adonai Mitchell and Arik Gilbert were all working out with Georgia strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair. Gilbert and Smith dressed out, while Mitchell did not. That all three were working out there would seem to indicate they’re getting closer to returning to the field for Georgia, which would provide them with some improved depth among pass catchers.

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